Countdown to Christmas

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Tomorrow ushers in the month of December. While Christmas may be old news in many stores by this point in time, years ago Christmas festivities began with the turning of the calendar. When I was growing up, Christmas was a big deal in our house. After supper we’d light the candles of the Advent wreath for devotion, and then one of us would get to pick from “the angel” (the four of us took turns between picking and snuffing candles). “The angel” was a needlepoint picture Mom had done of an angel with 25 pockets in her dress, each one holding a small piece of paper on which was something related to Christmas. December 1st’s paper was always “Christmas garland”. Consisting of old-school plastic pine boughs (not nearly as realistic as today’s garlands) and colored lights, the garland went up in the dining room doorway or the living room window. That was the first real glimpse of Christmas, at least in my young mind. (I still absolutely love Christmas lights!) Every day after that brought something new — usually a Christmas decoration to put up, sometimes a small surprise or activity such as driving around to look at Christmas lights. It made the season even more fun for us as we added Christmas to our house bit by bit.

Christmas also meant special food and treats. We didn’t really do Christmas cookies; perhaps that’s because for as long as she could, my grandma would send a box of her creations. And, as teachers, my parents often were bestowed with gifts of baked goods from students. But there was always Chex Mix and seasoned oyster crackers. There was almond bark, and there was English toffee. English toffee. Whoever thought to boil sugar and butter together and smother it with chocolate was a genius. The funny thing is that it was my grandma’s recipe, which meant it was in the box of goodies, but Mom always made it. I guess she liked it that much! Can’t say that I blame her!

So now it’s my turn to bring some Christmas touches to my house. The Advent wreath is on our dining room table, and every evening we sit with our girls for devotion. The Advent calendar whose Christmas tree pattern was chosen by my parents and quilted by my sister has been repaired (the jingle bells meant to secure the pockets kept falling off last year) and will be hung tonight, ready for the first day of December tomorrow. I have approximately 27 hours to come up with 25 different slips of paper to put in the pockets. Good thing I have a batch of English toffee made to add some energy and inspiration to the task!

So, what’s your favorite December memory? What are you doing to celebrate? (Feel free to share in a comment below!) As we begin the countdown to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, I’m looking forward to sharing the season with you. In the days and weeks to come, may your memories of past holiday seasons be pleasant, and may you find a little bit of fun, joy, sparkle, and perhaps a little sugar in every day as you create new memories.

 

English Toffee

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 pound butter, softened
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 12 oz chocolate chips
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

 

Combine sugar, water, and vanilla in heavy 4-quart saucepan (not Teflon). Cook over medium to medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. 

Add butter gradually, stirring constantly.  Keep heat on medium to medium-high.  Cook to 260 degrees on candy thermometer.  Add cup of nuts, if using.  Cook to 300 degrees (my mom did it to 302, but warned to be careful because it burns quickly).

Pour into buttered 9×13 or jelly roll pan.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Spread when melted.  Sprinkle with finely chopped nuts.  Score while hot with large knife pressed into sheet at 1-inch intervals.  Cook and cut.  60 pieces or so.

 

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3 responses »

  1. Do you think toffee would work with a butter substitute like Earth Balance? It’s the only one we can use! Such wonderful Christmastime memories! I remember my Mimi sending us Advent presents from California – one for each day of Advent. We also had the Advent wreath (still do that!) and put out the nativity scene little by little. I’m hoping to do something for Three Kings Day/Epiphany this year too. Do you ever make Three Kings bread? What a special season we have. We are paring back to the minimum this year. I trust Jesus will shine through no matter what we do! Happy Advent to you, Betsy.

  2. And your dad just has the 2′ fiber optic tree and Grandma Dallmann’s cardboard nativity. Although I’m really tempted to get out the blinking bells 🙂

  3. We are doing the Jesse Tree again this year. Doing a reading from the bible everyday with adding an ornament to the Jesse tree..
    David went out yesterday to get a pine branch and set it all up.. so we are ready to start tomorrow. 25 days left…

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