Fully-decorated Gingerbread House!
For millennia, mankind has found reason to celebrate each year in late December – or more precisely, near or shortly after the winter solstice. If nothing else, the period of the solstice in the northern hemisphere was a logical opportunity for ancients to celebrate because it was a time of respite from agricultural chores, and as the daylight hours began to increase again, became the first sign of the warmer months ahead.
In pre-Christian times, several cultures marked the solstice with rituals and celebrations. Romans held a festival called Saturnalia to honor the sun god Saturn. Saturnalia began each year on December 17 and consisted of 8 days of feasting, sacrifices, and gift-giving. On the solstice, Egyptians celebrated the birth of Ra, god of the sun; Celts in the British Isles collected mistletoe; and Scandinavians celebrated the Feast of Juul, from which, Yule is derived. In the 4th century, Christians began celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25, which, since the mid-11th century, has been called Christmas (originally Crīstesmæsse).
As I read about these ancient celebratory events while preparing for this blog, I learned that each of them involved people joining together to enjoy each other, and more significantly for my purposes here, preparing and sharing food! Not surprisingly, little has changed over the centuries. People everywhere still gather with family and friends to celebrate what we now call “holidays” – and always with plenty of food.
I’ve written before about my childhood experiences with holiday feasts, specifically Thanksgiving, but our Christmas table was even more abundant. I’ve also mentioned that Grandma Karen and I, in our own way, have attempted to preserve and continue many of our collective family traditions – thereby creating new traditions for our children and grandchildren.
Our family Christmas celebrations have all been memorable, but typically for different reasons from year to year. The reason this year, however, will be just as memorable as the celebration itself. Our three eldest grandchildren (high school age) “took over”! They planned a multi-course meal and then made major contributions to its preparation. They had help, of course, but they deserve full credit for getting everything to the table on time. Our (almost) two-year old grandson was involved, too. He was always standing on a chair ready to help with stirring and pouring, or any other task fit for tiny hands.
To them I say, "Mille grazie, Kaitlyn, Abigail, Christopher, and Alexander. You helped make our family Celebrazione one of the best ever!"
To everyone: "Felice Anno Nuovo e buon appetito!"
P.S. Grandma Karen has been making gingerbread houses for nearly fifty years. Our daughter and son still are responsible for its final decoration – with plenty of help now from their children and spouses. I think you will enjoy seeing the results of their efforts this year.