Thursday, December 9, 2010

This Time of the Year Is Spent in Good Cheer

(From “Drive the Cold Winter Away,” as sung by the Baltimore Consort, among others.)

It will probably give anyone who doesn’t know me in real life a false impression to say that most holiday gatherings I’ve attended with pleasure centered on family or church. Onkel Hankie Pants’ parents and his uncle and aunt alternated for many years hosting a New Year’s Eve gathering which centered on a festive soup with dumplings (could not locate a recipe or picture) and was more fun than almost any New Year’s Eve party I’ve attended, except perhaps the Y2K party we had at church at the end of the millennium. Another yearly event I looked forward to was the Caroling Party – we would meet at church and divide into two or three groups to go caroling to our shut-ins, reconvening for a potluck supper. In early years the entrée of Sloppy Joes was furnished, and I still add a little bit of brown sugar to my Sloppy Joes as the church lady who made them taught me.

When we joined our church in City of Lakes, there was a core group of “church ladies” who were about the age I am now. They were very welcoming to us younger women who were beginning to join, and I especially remember my first Christmas Tea – an annual event which at that time was held in one of the nicer homes nearer the lake. It featured musical entertainment, delicious treats, a silver tea service (and coffee too of course), and beautiful decorations, and was held on a weekday afternoon. I was able to attend because I was going to night school at the U and OHP was temporarily unemployed. Over the years the tea was simplified and began to be held in the church lounge. Then came the Christmas that the “church ladies” realized that, in their late 70s and 80s, they really didn’t have the energy to do this any more. A few years before, I had begun reading a story as part of the tea entertainment, and I didn’t like to see it go. A few friends and I decided to continue the tradition, with a few changes – it became an Epiphany tea held on the Sunday afternoon nearest Epiphany. One friend with a Martha Stewart eye decorated the tables, and for as long as she could, a long-time member who was nearly a recluse the rest of the year came and played the piano for our carol singing – her playing was much better than our singing even though the singing wasn’t bad. Later my sister-in-law took over the piano. I always enjoyed the tea, but it describes my personality pretty well to say that my favorite part was the day before, when two or three friends and I would gather to make the cream-cheese frosted sandwich loaf which was the traditional main dish for the tea. (Here’s a photo of one that looks a lot like ours: sandwich loaf

(Since my grandnephew, an expert garnisher at age 10, was nowhere near, we did not have the radish roses, which I have to say look a little Hallowe’eny to me; and we had only three layers, one of egg salad, one of tuna salad, and one of cream cheese mixed with cucumbers.) After our labors we enjoyed the leftovers and scraps along with whatever other goodies were available, and tea out of a Peter Rabbit teaset like this;peter rabbit

Three or four good friends is a fine party in my opinion.

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