As our thoughts turn to the holiday season, many of us think of going home or having family and friends come to our house. This time of the year, numerous activities center around the home.

Sometimes we turn to memories of Christmas from our childhood and incorporate these activities into what we do today with our children and grandchildren. Often they can't believe that Mom/Nanny actually lived during those times, but they enjoy sharing the memories at holiday time.

Christmas in the Country

Since I grew up on a farm, our Christmas in the country focused on family activities that didn't require much money. However, these events are etched in memory.

Snow drifts piling at the door, children giggling over secrets, spicy aromas wafting from the kitchen, mistletoe and holly hanging over doorways...these meant it was Christmas on the farm.

Stirring Up Holiday Goodies

Mother and the girls bustled around the kitchen. From our mixing bowls into the oven went spicy ginger cookies, fruit and nut bars, brownies, and other age-old Christmas recipes. One sister stirred up a batch of fudge, another spread multi-colored icing on tempting sugar cookies, while Mother fried doughnuts in the old iron pot.

When Christmas Eve arrived, Father always wanted oyster stew...one delicacy we fitted into the budget. After attending Christmas Eve service, we came home to pop corn, stir up a special punch from cranberry juice and gingerale. If anyone was very chilled, there was cocoa (not from an instant packet but made in a pan on the stove) to accompany the cookies and holiday cakes.

Christmas Dinner

For dinner on Christmas Day, after the gifts were opened, we might have other family visiting or it could be just the six of us. However, we had such a feast.

If we could afford it, there was roast turkey on the menu. However some years, Mother prepared a large roasting hen. Along with this were mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed peas, baked squash, cabbage slaw, cranberry sauce, homemade bread, and pickles preserved last summer.

If anyone had room, there were fruit cake, mince, pumpkin, and apple pies for dessert.

Christmas Recipes

SCULPTURED GINGERBREAD - If you want a variation from cutting cookies with a cutter, try this idea. Use your usual gingerbread recipe for cut-out cookies.

Form the cookies by rolling the dough into ropes between your hands. Then on a greased cookie sheet, place pinched off pieces of dough and press together to form cookies of various shapes.

You also can add pieces of rolled dough to cut-out cookies for decoration and give them a more molded effect.

Bake sculptured cookies for about 10 minutes (or the time given on your recipe) at 350 degrees F. Don't let them brown so that they are overbaked.

(c) 2001 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen has been writing cooking columns for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. Some of her recipes and story excerpts have been included in a recently released e-cookbook, "Cooking By the Book," Visit her web site for more cooking articles: http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea; e-mail: [email protected]. The free e-cookbook is available at: http://www.katywalls.com.)