Posts Tagged ‘Holiday’

Hand it over! – Holiday Traditions

The word Tradition comes from the latin root traditio which mean “handing over or passing on. It was a great song from Fiddler on the Roof. But when it comes to the holidays most of us have many traditions that make the season what it is, whether there are old ones or new ones that we have created over the years.  These traditions give us comfort and bring us together and help us to carry on our cultures.

Being the first generation American of Welsh parents many of our traditions are British.  Though after attending a Jewish preschool, Talmud Torah at the Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, we added lighting of the Menorah for several years too, though we no longer do that.

One of the traditions started when we were children still continues today, the Christmas Nightie.  Yes, my sisters and I all used to get matching nightgowns for Christmas, and now to this day, we get matching pajamas, and it has expanded to include my mother, my sister’s husband & kids, and my other sister’s boyfriend.  If we were all in a room together and had a picture taken it would be quite a sight!  The only rule is no flannels, too cliche’. I think the most funny was the year we got gold lame’ & black ones, hysterical. Sorry, not posting a picture though.

We decorate our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  All the ornaments collected over the 41 years my mother has been in this country come out of the boxes, including the ones each of us get from Santa in our stockings each year, come out and are placed on the tree.  No more room for plain ornaments on the tree. Along with those are the few antique ornaments my mother brought with her from Britain as well as the ones we have made over the year, well the ones that have survived a few basement floods, and cats and dogs toppling the trees.  It is quite a collection and the reminicing is always fun when each ornament is hung.

When we were children we used to put out a plate of cookies & milk for Santa Claus and sit by the fire to read Dylan Thomas’  “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” before bed (wearing our Christmas nighties).  Alas, with no more children in the house here, that tradition is no longer observed. More likely than not I am usually still up wrapping presents until the wee hours instead.

Christmas Morning it was always my little sister that woke everyone up first and we opened stockings first, which of course always had a tangerine in the toe.  The orange in the toe of a stocking is a universal tradition that symbolizes the gold left by St. Nicholas in the toes of the stockings of three girls that either saved them from slavery or gave them a dowry so they could be married, depending on which story you read.  The other must for our stockings is a Toblerone.  All of our stockings are handmade by my mother, petitepoint with our names on them, backed in red velvet.  They are hung on the mantlepiece and look so wonderful there.

Still wearing our Christmas nighties we then open presents, each of us with our own position in front of the tree that we have held for at least 20 years and we take turns opening the gifts from under the tree.  With the roaring fire next to us it is a fantastic tradition as we look out the picture window and watch the neighborhood awaken. Across the street we even get to vicariously watch our neighbors partake in their annual Christmas pinata tradition on the tree outside. After cleaning up any bags and wrapping paper it is time for the Christmas puzzle and breakfast!

SoldiersBecause the greatest traditions of holiday time involve food,  our family is no different. When we are decorating the tree on Christmas Eve we have a lovely steak dinner.  It wouldn’t be Christmas Morning without soft-boiled eggs and soldiers, which for the uninitiated, is toast cut into strips to dip into the gooey egg, and bacon, sauteed mushrooms and fried tomatoes.

For Christmas Day we now go to our family friend’s house for dinner surrounded by all their children grandchildren. They have three boys, we have three girls so it has always been a fun time to have our families get together.  Now with all the extended families and seeing the kiddie table recreated with their children instead of us is very fun.  And now instead of playing Atari or Simon we all are playing Wii after Christmas Dinner which includes Turkey, Green Bean Casserole and yummy pie for dessert!  I usually get called in to the kitchen to help make the gravy.

Boxing Day is the big day for us (the day after Christmas for you Yanks).  That is when we have our own traditional dinner that includes Bread Sauce, boiled carrots, brussel sprouts, mashed buttered parsnips, roast turkey draped with bacon for basting and stuffed with two kinds of stuffing, herb in one end and sausage in the other, roast potatoes. For dessert the Christmas Pudding of course, with brandied white sauce. 

Christmas pudding

When we were younger we used to help my mother start making the puddings in September in big laundry tubs. It is quite an undertaking involving suet, lots of dried fruit and lots and lots of booze including Guinness! We would stir and stir with big wooden spoons but inevitably would give up on that and just dig in with our arms. After several days of mascerating the puddings were ready for their molds and would get steamed so they would be ready for Christmas.  It is definitely an acquired taste, but the pudding contains either silver coins or silver charms, which are believed to bring prosperity in the new year, so getting a child to eat it isn’t that hard because they want to find the coins and, you can smother it in the white sauce too (made with vanilla instead of brandy for the kids).  The pudding is always brought to the table with a piece of holly stuck in the middle and the pudding is ablaze in a bath of brandy.  There have been a few close calls with too much brandy and burned holly, but it is usually quite a sight.

In earlier years my mother also used to make a Christmas cake, which is similar to a fruit cake, but iced in a layer of marzipan and then a layer of hard royal icing, and then a holiday or winter scene decorates the top. I still remember an elaborate skating scene on one that she made that included a mirror for the ice!


Of course no Christmas dinner or Boxing Day dinner in our house would be complete without Christmas Crackersxmas dinner. Not edible ones, but the ones invented by Tom Smith in the 1800s in Britain. He worked in a confectioners shop and reinvented the “bon-bon” he had seen on a trip to Paris. Inspired by the “crackling & pop” of the sound logs make in the fireplace he created the cracker, which is a tube that usually contains a riddle or joke, a toy of some kind, and of course, the paper crown, and when you pull the ends to open them, they “POP”.  All of the photos of our Christmas & Boxing Day dinners growing up show us around the table wearing the paper crowns.

Boxing Day is a big holiday in Britain. The day is usually the day the Alms boxes were opened, hence the name, but also because the aristocracy gave gifts to the less fortunate in a Christmas Box. Because servants and workers did not have Christmas day off Boxing Day became the day they were allowed to celebrate and party, so it is very much “the people’s” holiday.

So between decorating the tree, Christmas nighties, the Christmas puzzle, soft-boiled eggs & soldiers, bread sauce, Christmas pudding, and Christmas Crackers, we have so many wonderful traditions that are continued to this day that were started as a child and I am sure will be continued as long as we celebrate the holiday together.

Wishing everyone a wonderful season of sharing their favorite traditions.

Fiona’s Five – 5 Quick Gift Suggestions

As a former Retail Slave for over 20 years people often ask me for advice for what to give for the holidays. That is a Transfer3 Turner Cooper teesvery tricky question because I am the kind of person who tries to give personalized gifts. I ask several pointed questions about each person then narrow down personalities or hobbies and try to come up with something at would be appropriate for each individual. I have been making gifts for friends and families for several years, including the t-shirts for my nephews and friends that seem to be very popular. Last year’s tees seemed to be a pretty big hit (pictured right).

But inevitably, there are some items each year that I think can be broadly applied as universal gifts for a large number of people so here are my five suggestions in no particular order:

Iphone chargerI.Sound 2 in 1 Back up Battery & Charger for IPhone & IPod They may be the coolest thing amongst a big circle of people but they also suck power like a starving anteater. If you are like me and have a large circle of friends who are addicted to their IPhones you also know how jittery they get when their phones begin to die from too much Tweeting and they have no power source or way to recharge. Friends have even cut evenings short because their IPhones are dying so this charger that retails for $49.99 on the I.Sound website but can be found on other sites for less, is the perfect gift.

Tumi wallet

Tumi Money Clip Card Case When I worked at Dayton’s/Marshall Field’s/Macy’s this was the singular item that we could not keep in stock and the best seller in Men’s Accessories. It holds two cards per slot and upwards of 20 bills in the money clip yet maintains a slim profile in a front pocket. Perfect for the frequent traveler, or any age group, men and women. There is a nylon/leather version available as well as an all-leather version and the Tumi quality is unparalleled. Just remember it is unlucky to give an empty wallet as it means you are wishing poverty on the receiver, so you must put at least a penny inside before it is given away. Available at many department stores, or go see Patrick at the Galleria Tumi Store.

CSACSA Membership – For those who don’t know CSA is Community Supported Agriculture, and when you purchase a membership you receive a share of a Farm’s harvest. There are dozens of Minnesota Farms for which you can purchase shares. Braucher Sunshine Harvest Farms Eggs and Grass-Fed Beef, Chicken & Lamb is a longtime favorite of mine, but many more CSA’s can be found on the Land Stewardship website. Some may not have updated for the new season yet but if you send an email I am certain most farms will be happy to accommodate an early request for 2010 as a holiday present.

I Heart MPLS T-Shirt – Locally made t-shirts in a variety of colors & sizes for Men & Women. What better way to express your Minneapolitan Pride? Full disclosure: these are available at a client’s store but he was a longtime friend and former coworker for 20 years at Dayton’s before he became a client, so I feel comfortable adding this great product to the list. The tees are available at Elsworth Menswear store in the Downtown Minneapolis skyway and should be online soon as well. They are much better than anything you’ll find on Cafepress. The T-shirts are only $20.00 each so are the perfect present for the Minne-apple in your life.

Cutting Boards

Wood From The Hood Cutting Boards – If you’re like me and feel like you’ve been kicked in the stomach every time you see the red band of death go up on one of the beautiful ancient elms in your neighborhood you’ll be happy to know that even though the diseased trees must be felled there is a fantastic company that is using the wood. You can select them by zip codes of neighborhoods from where the trees originally grew. The boards which cost $20-$33 are available at numerous local stores including Mother Earth Gardens, Natural Built Home, Seward Coop and CorAzon. A great gift for the foodie or anyone who has a kitchen!

Just five Quick suggestions; affordable universal presents that are sure to please and ones that should be easy to pick up at the last minute.

25 Days of Holiday Movies

White Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way it is really time to get in the holiday spirit, and there is no better way to do that than watching Christmas movies! As someone who grew up watching every Bing Crosby & Perry Como Christmas special on television, I can spend every weekend watching a holiday movie. 

I know everyone else in America loves the traditional “Miracle of 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”  but neither has ever been a fave of mine, especially after Ted Turner colourized “Miracle“.  There are so many wonderful specials (for the Geeks of the world, did you know there was a Star Wars Holiday special ) and movies from which to choose I just find others to suit my fancy better.

Movifone has their list of the Top 25 Best Christmas movies but there is an even better list from Progressive Boink of the 100 Best Christmas Movies & Specials that includes great recaps and the best moments from each one.  They even included a McDonald’s Christmas Commercial on their list.

For me, nothing comes close to the Rankin/Bass Animated Classics, so much so, they deserve their own category. The songs are still a joy and I can’t help but smile with glee every time I see the movies.

Rankin/Bass Classics snow

Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey
Twas the Night Before Christmas
The Little Drummer Boy
A Year Without a Santa Claus
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town 

Other Holiday Favourites (Netflix Links)

Olive The Other Reindeer
A Child’s Christmas In WalesBing Holiday Inn
The Santa Clause
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Die Hard
Babes in Toyland
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Home Alone

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Christmas in Connecticut
A Christmas Story

The Nutcracker Suite American Ballet Theatre

The Bishop’s Wife
Bells of St. Mary’s

Holiday Inn
Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

White Christmas

ABC’s Family Channel is currently running their 25 Days of Christmas with holiday movies every day from now until Christmas.  Lifetime is also running their annual FaLaLaLaLifetime Holiday Movie marathon. And if that wasn’t enough for you the Hallmark Channel  has their Countdown to Christmas for your viewing pleasure.   The broadcast networks have already aired the annual broadcasts of the Grinch, Charlie Brown and Rudolph, but of course you can always rent the DVDs now or download them from your computer.

And if you are ready to start celebrating Hanukkah there are, unfortunately, skant few Jewish themed movies for this holiday season, but you can check out the Rugrats Hanukkah special or Eight Crazy Nights.

Now that is is finally winter in the Twin Cities, what better way to spend the evenings curled up with a hot cocoa or egg nog and a holiday movie ?  What is your favourite?

You do the Math, Party Math!

With many folks planning holiday get togethers, cocktail parties, family dinners, office events and any manner of holiday celebrations the Party Math Wheel has been created to make all kinds of complicated calculations more simple. Like, how many bags of ice you will need depending on how many people you have expected, or how many hors d’oeuvres to beer and wine calculations, even how many limes & lemons you’ll need for drink garnish.


The handy wheel you can print out for free from your own computer “does the math” for you, so no need to tax your pretty little party head when you are already busy trying to plan a menu or deciding whether to seat Aunt Millie next to Cousin Fred or debathing whether your new little black dress is too little for the office party.   The Party Wheel was developed by Sebastian Centner the director of Eatertainment Special Events in Toronto and is sure to be the saviour of many a host & hostess.

The same website also has a very useful Five Week Checklist for planning your party. You can certainly condense that now but the checklist is very helpful.

So spin the wheel, how many bottles of sparkling water are you going to need for your big bash? Do the math, the Party Math.

Confessions of a Christmas Music Addict

Christmas Music Savant, that’s what my friends call me. Maybe it was from my mum’s extensive vinyl collection and the fact that we sat around the piano singing every holiday or that I worked 20 years of retail or that I am a fine Welsh lass and my people are well known for our love of singing, but I love, L-O-V-E holiday tunes, all of them. 

Well, maybe not all of them.  No offense, but I would be happy if I never heard “Feliz Navidad“, especially the Jose Feliciano version,ever again.  But that one song aside, I start listening to Christmas music and holiday tunes at the start of November and stop after the twelve days of Christmas are over on January 5th (where do you think “Twelfth Night” came from folks?).

My moniker came from my days working at Dayton’s/Field’s/Macy’s and every time a song came on the Muzak I could name not only the song but singer in just a few notes, Bill Cullen would be proud.

I can tell the difference between Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett and Perry Como singing the exact same song.  Now with all the modern & country singers jumping into the holiday music pool it has become more difficult and my skills have begun to wane, especially since I no longer work retail, but my holiday music collection will still rival many.

Brady Bunch Xmas cover

Combined cassette, vinyl and CD there are over 200 albums in the collection. Perhaps the most prized is the “Merry Christmas with the Brady Bunch” Original Vinyl (we three sisters wore similar robes). You haven’t heard anything until you have heard Cindy Brady sing “Frosty the Snowman” with a lisp.

Fred WaringThen there is the Fred Waring Singers with Frank Sinatra & Bing Crosby 12 Songs of Christmas with my favorites “Go tell it on the Mountain” & a fantastic duet “We wish you the Merriest” with Frank & Bing.  Then there is the Columbia Records “Magic of Christmas” 3- record boxed set which I loved,  and all the Dean Martin Christmas albums, those are mum’s, but we kept the old Soundesign stereo turntable just so we could still play them.  And get this, we even still have a Bing Crosby White Christmas 8-Track somewhere! Christmas LP





As for modern CD’s I think I like the Barenaked Ladies “Bare Naked for the Holidays” (includes some Hanukkah songs) and Harry Connick Jr’s “Harry for the Holidays” or his more recent “”What a Night.”  Brian Setzer Orchestra’s “Boogie Woogie Christmas” or “Dig that Crazy Christmas” are the two I own but he has also released several more including a live two CD set “Christmas Extravaganza.”

Leonard Slatkin Conducted Minnesota Orchestra Nutcracker Suite

Leonard Slatkin Conducted Minnesota Orchestra Nutcracker Suite

No Holidays would be complete without a Nutcracker Suite recording. Mum bought my sisters & me the Leonard Slatkin-conducted Minnesota Orchestra Tchaikovsky classic album when she worked there and it is wonderful (it also includes Swan Lake).

I also like some modern rock Christmas tunes like No Doubt’s “Oi to the World” and “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses as well, and they are always part of my circulation.  No Christmas is complete for me without Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town” either.  I always used to use it for my answering machine message the week before Christmas and can help but smile whenever I hear it!

I don’t think November is too early for Christmas or holiday music. You only get an opportunity to listen to it for such a short period of time and sing along like a freak for less than two months a year, so why not enjoy the spirit while you can?

And for those that don’t appreciate the “Christian” message of the Christmas music there are plenty of options.  The Barenaked Ladies have a few wonderful Hanukkah tunes on their CD and Minnesota’s own Peter Himmelman helped with a multi-performer CD called “Festival of Light” In addition songs like “Let it Snow” “Winter Wonderland” “Sleigh Ride” “Baby its Cold Outside” and even “Jingle Bells” have nothing to do with a religious saviour or holiday but rather the gloriousness of the winter season.

Maybe I like Christmas and holiday music so much because I enjoy winter and snow so much. Or maybe it is because I’m a geek and I like singing along with all the songs like I did when I was a child before I knew what all the words meant and Political Correctness had taken over the world.  But chances are when I’m in the house between November and January or at my desk, I’m cranking Dean, or Bing or Perry or anyone singing of the Holiday spirit and I’m singing along too (or in my head if I’m in an office).  Yes, My name is Fiona and I’m a Christmas Music Addict (or savant).

Fiona’s Holiday Favourites:

White Christmas – Bing Crosby
Let it Snow – Dean Martin
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas- Judy Garland
Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
Frosty the Snowman – Burl Ives
Winter Wonderland – Peggy Lee or Dean Martin
I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Bing Crosby
Blue Christmas – Elvis
The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
Christmas Walz – The Carpenters
Jingle Bells – Perry Como
Don’t Forget to Feed the Reindeer – Peggy Lee
Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth – Bing Crosby/David Bowie
Sleigh Ride – Ella Fitzgerald
Baby Its Cold Outside – Dean Martin
12 Days of Christmas – Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians
Here We Come a Caroling – Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians
The Holly & The Ivy – Westminster Boys Choir
Modern Pop/Rock
Santa Claus is Comin to Town – Bruce Springsteen
Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah- Barenaked Ladies
Dredyl Song – Another Man Down
Hanukkah Rocks – The LeeVees
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Merry Christmas I dont Want to Fight – The Ramones
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – The Smithereens
Big Bad VooDoo Daddy – Mr. HeatMiser
Jingle Bells – Barenaked Ladies
Deck the Halls – Peter Cetera/Allison Krause or Twisted Sister
Jinga Bell Rock/Christmas Time – BoDeans
It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas – Pet Shop Boys
Last Christmas – Wham
Little Drummer Boy – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Red over White – Siouxie & the Banshees
Winter Wonderland – Cocteau Twins
Please Come Home for Christmas – Bon Jovi
Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You – SR-71
Santa Claus is Back in Town – Johnny Lang
Father Christmas – The Kinks
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Sarah McLachlan
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel – Enya
We Three Kings – Fuel
Christmas Dont Be Late – Powder
Oi to the World – No Doubt
2000 Miles – The Pretenders
I Saw Three Ships – Sting
12 Days of Christmas – Relient K
All that I Want – The Weepies
Silent Night – LifeHouse
Peace on Earth – The Automatics
Sleigh Ride – Harry Connick, Jr
Zat You Santa Claus? – Brian Setzer Orchestra
Grown up Christmas List – Michael Bublé
What are you Doing New Year’s Eve – Vonda Shephard
[Edit]12 Days of Christmas – The Muppets & John Denver

Recommended website for pop/rock Holiday music is Mistletunes, an encyclopedia of anything and everything there is to know about modern holiday releases. 

If you want to listen to Holiday tunes at work but your collection pales in comparison to mine, AccuRadio’s AccuHolidays has multiple channels to please everyone’s tastes including a channel of just songs about Santa & his elves, Channel O’ (Oh Holy Night, O Tannenbaum, O Come All Ye Faithful, etc) and a channel called Chestnuts, just different versions of “The Christmas Song”; you can even customize your own channel. Great way to stream the holidays, and it is all FREE!  If you have Comcast Digital cable you can also tune to channel 832,which is Sounds of the Season. 

To prove what a holiday music nut I am, I will send a holiday CD to the first person who enters in the comments below the name of the horse in the winter classic “Jingle Bells”?  Yes,  the horse has a name.  Go ahead, sing it, it will come to you!


Amazon is offering 25 free MP3 Downloads of Holiday Music, one a day until Christmas!

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