Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rhys's 12 Days of Christmas, Day 11

. Greetings from very soggy California. It's funny but when I look  back at the Christmasses of my childhood I never remember rain. It was always crisp and frosty and occasionally snowy as we walked down the hill to midnight mass. Our voices echoed in the still frigid air and our breath came out like dragon's fire. And the church was almost as cold as the outside, inspite of heaters--especially when I went to visit my grandmother and we went to midnight service at Bath Abbey. There was no way to heat that massive building and we huddled together, hands in gloves, stuck into pockets. But when the choirboys processed in, their angel voices soaring to the vaulted ceiling as they sang, "Yeah Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning" and at the same moment we heard the bells above chiming midnight, which meant it really was Christmas day, then frozen fingers and toes were forgotten. I remember trying to stay awake, dozing off to hear distant voices really sounding like an angel choir, and then walking home to be greeted by ginger wine and hot mince pies before falling into bed.

Have you dragged home your yule log yet? It should be ready and drying out for Christmas Eve. I'm glad we don't have a fireplace big enough at my house because I don't think there is a stick of dry wood in California right now. But the tradition was to go out into the forest and drag home a huge log. It would be lit on Christmas Eve and would continue to burn throughout the holiday, thus ensuring prosperity for the coming year.

You need an awfully big fireplace, however . My sister-in-law at her 14th century manor house in Cornwall has a fireplace big enough to roast an ox and burn a yule log, but she's the only person I know. So that tradition has vanished for most of us.

The French, as always, do things sensibly and make their yule log, the buche de noel, into a delicious cake that they eat when they return home from midnight mass.

I've already made the first batch of mince pies. More to follow... and sausage rolls. How are your preparations going? What do you bake?

1 comment:

  1. Rys, I've enjoyed your reminiscences, as well as your book "The Twelve Clues of Christmas" (I saved it to read after Christmas--I was too busy to read it beforehand!).

    I love to bake quick breads that are loaded with dried fruit and nuts for the holidays. One is Applesauce-Raisin-Nut, with Fruit Bits as well as golden raisins. I also try to bake Cranberry-Orange Nut Bread. Both are "last minute" variations on Fruit Cake.

    I also love to bake several kinds of Christmas cookies to give as gifts. Three I almost always bake include Magic Cookie bars, loaded with chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut (the recipe is found on condensed milk labels); Walnut Horns, made from ground walnuts, a LOT of butter and shortening (sigh), and just a little sugar, and Thumbprint Cookies. I filled my Thumbprints this year with home-canned chocolate-raspberry conserve--and I have a feeling I've just started a new tradition! Cheers! Hope 2013 is successful and peaceful (now that we know we can ignore the Mayan calendar for many centuries). Janet