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24 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

So this year I'm trying to save polar bears, and have therefore made all my Christmas presents.

Beekeeper mittens for Dad:
A Celestial Dragon for Mum:A Stagecrew Scarf for Jen:
A Bicycle Scarf for my KK:
Knee-warmers for my arthritic Grandma:
And mince pies, honey, honeycomb and gingerbread for many other peoples...

Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all, etc.

17 December 2008

Mince Pies

Another of our family Christmas rituals is making the mince pies. Mum has talked a bit about this on her blog, and here is the recipe, with illustrations.

(makes two dozen)

the mince
100g currants
100g raisins
100g sultanas
50g dates, chopped
50g slivered or flaked almonds
1 ripe banana
4 tsp brandy
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
50g candied peel
juice and rind of 1 lemon

Mix it all together. (complicated, huh?)
Every member of the family has to have a stir:
Well, almost every member:
the pastry
450g self raising flour
225g grated butter
pinch salt
1 large egg
50g soft brown sugar
milk to mix

Mix flour and salt, rub in grated butter, stir in sugar. Make a hollow, and put in the slightly beaten egg with a tbsp of milk. Mix to make a pliable dough, then roll out onto a floured surface to .5cm thickness.

Cut out round circles for the bottom and either lids or stars for the tops, and use the bottom circles to line a greased tart or mini-muffin tray.
Add mince and tops:
Bake at 200 degrees celsius for 13 mins in a fan-forced oven, or 20 mins in a normal oven. Dust with icing sugar when cool:
Om nom nom, etc:

06 December 2008

Believing

(the following post is inspired by this utterly beautiful piece by Libba Bray)

(also, if you're under the age of, say, 10, I wouldn't read on if I were you)

When I was six or seven, I walked in on my Mum in the shower (in, like, March), and demanded that she tell me the truth, once and for all. Was there really a Father Christmas?

Mum said later on that she wasn't going to lie to me. She'd pretend along with me, but she wasn't going to lie. So she told me the truth.

And I was sad, but not particularly shocked. I mean, it's not like it was a particularly plausible thing, and old guy on a sleigh delivering presents.

The next year, Mum was in China over Christmas for her Uni course. I wrote Father Christmas a letter that said that I still believed in him anyway, and that I didn't really want anything for Christmas, but I wanted him to deliver a present to my mum, who was in China where they didn't have Christmas. This may have been the most adorable thing I ever did as a child.

I also remember finding a tooth in a little box in my parents' room. It was my first tooth (here is where I lost it). I confronted my parents, and they confessed.

Then, a while later, I was bragging to my babysitter about how I knew the truth about the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas. She laughed and said "yeah, I remember when I found out about the Easter Bunny.' And I sort of lost my shit. The Easter Bunny was all I had left! Never mind that it was by far the least plausible of the gift-giving trinity of childhood. They took that away from me too.

Mum asked me the other day if I would do the Santa thing with my children, and I replied that of course I would. How could I deny my child the magic and excitement of Christmas? The reindeer, the elves - it's all happening up at the North Pole, and I loved to imagine it. Tolkein's Letters from Father Christmas is one of the most beautiful expressions of parental love I've ever seen.

I know the truth about Father Christmas now, but that doesn't stop me from getting that twinge of excitement at Christmastime. And I look forward to believing it all over again with baby H, and with my own kids one day.

Scrooges Beware

I really like Christmas.

Someone asked recently how I can justify getting my Yule on with so much enthusiasm, when I'm a proud, card-carrying member of the I-don't-believe-in-God Society. And I don't know if I can justify it, but I'm going to try anyway and if you're still confused you can go and ask Walt Whitman to explain.

I quite like the Christian Christmas story. The idea of a poor family denied any kind of welfare and having to give birth in a barn is appealing to a bleeding-heart lefty like me. And the bits about the star, and the wise men - awesome. The stuff good stories are made of. And it is a great story, whether I believe it really happened or not. Also, there are some great Christmas carols about it, and I do love to get a little bit carolly at this time of year.

But Christmas isn't about religion to me. Mum and I went to Midnight Mass one year in Adelaide (just for something to do), but it was really hot and there was standing room only and I fainted just before Communion.

So for me, Christmas is about family, friends, food, glittery things, fairy lights, gifts, and something else that is strange and magical, which I suppose some people call God but I prefer to think of as the entirely non-supernatural spirit of Christmas.
Anyway, I'm going to be blogging about some Christmassy things over the next couple of weeks, so Scrooges should probably go and count their lumps of coal until the 26th, because I'll be unashamedly soppy and full of cheer.