Category Archives: Christmas

He never says you should have.

This poem by John Donne I believe did not start out as a poem. Someone posted it as follows, in poetic lines, but I found the same lines as prose on Bartleby.com, in the middle of a passage in “Sermons Preached on Christmas Day.” Donne evidently did not give the title “In Heaven it is Always Autumn” to anything, but more than one person has more recently used his line to title a poem, as I found in my searching.

Donne uses several vivid words to describe the winter we can experience in our soul at any time of year, showing that he is familiar with that inner dark and coldness. We know that he did suffer terrible grief when his wife died, and it was doubtless not the only occasion when he felt desperate need of God’s presence and mercy.

The first time I posted these words it was autumn, but now I am trying for closer to Christmas, in the spirit of their preacher.

In heaven it is always autumn,
His mercies are ever in their maturity.
We ask our daily bread
And God never says
You should have come yesterday,
He never says
You must again tomorrow,
But today if you will hear His voice,
Today He will hear you.
He brought light out of darkness,
Not out of a lesser light;
He can bring thy summer out of winter
Tho’ thou have no spring,
Though in the ways of fortune or understanding or conscience
Thou have been benighted til now,
Wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed,
Damped and benumbed, smothered and stupefied til now,
Now God comes to thee,
Not as in the dawning of the day,
Not as in the bud of the spring
But as the sun at noon,
As the sheaves in harvest.

– John Donne, 1624

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the archives – 2014

Christmas Peppernuts

The last time I ate our family’s version of peppernuts, it was in a February that seems very long ago now. Mr. Glad and I were at Pippin’s when she pulled a slab of dough out of the freezer, left over from her Christmas baking. My hands weren’t sticky so it was easy to take pictures that I saved to put with the recipe “someday.” Trying to post every day this month along with Pom Pom has prodded me to make good on promises I’ve made in this regard.

This cookie is a version I cobbled together from the assortment that fill the pages of Peppernuts, Plain and Fancy, given to me at least 20 years ago by my Dutch homeschooler friend Anita.  I just now found my little copy, about 5×6″, on a remote shelf and browsed through it for only the second time. When I first received the book, I was looking for the likeliest of the 26 varied recipes to try, but after traveling from front to back and from Paraguay to Russia and back to Kansas, I decided to take ideas and ingredients from several of them.

I had forgotten until tonight that not all of the varieties in the book are even spicy, like true pfeffernusse are. I found a couple of recipes for White Peppernuts, and ingredients as different as ammonia and lemon, peppermint and fresh coconut. As you can seen from the few pages I have shared, these are true Family Recipes, some of which have unusual sources and have been passed down through many generations.

“Original peppernut recipes probably were copied from the Germans, Dutch and West Prussians when Mennonite families moved about Europe in search of religious freedom. Then, when our grandparents left the Ukraine for America in 1874, they brought this lovely tradition with them, baking peppernuts in their ‘grasshopper ovens’ those early Christmases on the Kansas prairies.”

Some years it can be hard to find fruit-flavored jelly candies in the stores; they are a version of gumdrops, not gummy candies, and aren’t spicy, and it seems their availability is subject to trends. I don’t want to use spice drops because there is already plenty of spice in my recipe. The easiest way to dice the candies is to dust frequently with arrowroot or cornstarch. In the photo down below that is what makes the pieces white.

One year I had a much larger batch of dough than this recipe makes, and I was using it from the freezer for many months after. I didn’t always have time to make “nuts,” so I cut bar-shaped cookies and they were good, too!

CHRISTMAS PEPPERNUTS

½ stick butter, 2 oz.
½ c. honey
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
¼ c. milk
½ T. soda in ½ T. hot water
1 tsp. lemon zest
4 c. white flour
6 oz. diced, fruit-flavored jelly candies
2 c. toasted almonds, chopped
2 tsp. ground star anise
½ tsp. cinnamon
2/3 tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. nutmeg

Mix all, form dough into large “pancakes,” and freeze. While still firm, cut into “nuts” or bars. Bake at 350 degrees 8-10 minutes on greased foil on insulated cookie sheets.
Should be golden brown if you don’t want them cake-y.

Be careful now! Remember that “Old German maxim” quoted on the page above:

That which really tastes
oft us trouble makes.

These do really taste. 🙂

I reveal my best Christmas present ever.

My son “Pathfinder” was born very close to Christmas one year.

I don’t seem to have a photo of him on his first Christmas. Probably because he was crying most of the time. I didn’t have the good sense to stay home with a two-week-old baby; never thought twice about making our usual two-hour trip to the grandparents’ house to spend a couple of nights. He cried much through the days of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and his great-grandmother asked me again and again, “Why is he crying?” When I finally fell into the strange bed at night, I cried myself to sleep, too. Through the fault of no one, it was my Worst Christmas in the history of family celebrations.

Just two years later this boy can be seen enjoying the holiday with my father looking on, this time at his other great-grandmother’s house, and without a tear:

How few pictures I have of him as a baby, here on the computer. There was the crying, I suppose, which he did a lot of for six months, and then the fact that his older sister Pearl was still a baby herself, so we took many pictures of the two of them, as babies and always.

As a teen Pathfinder was a cyclist. For a while we let him park his bike right by the front door, I guess because the garage had no good leaning spot…? Anyway, I’m glad we did, because it became part of Christmas Past by being caught in this picture.

I’m sure I wouldn’t have featured him in a blog post if I weren’t thinking about anniversaries in December, like St. Nicholas last week. I don’t usually write about my children because their stories are their own now. But I surely like telling you about the gift of my firstborn son.

raspberry energy

I never would have chosen this cardigan sweater for myself, but it has turned out to be a splendid gift Iris and Pathfinder gave me. Every time I wear it, I feel that some of its extravagant energy radiates into my bones and helps them rejoice. And not Christmas Red, but truly Christmasy. I become my own ornament!

I wore it to church yesterday, when the weather was foggy and chill, making me content to keep my wool sweater on all day. On the way home I stopped to buy a bag of black oil sunflower seeds for my feeder, and impulsively added a (little) live conifer to my cart. It’s not prickly like the one I had a couple of years ago, but rather a soft and drapey Leland Cypress. I’ll keep it outdoors for another week at least, because I’m sure it doesn’t want to be treated like a houseplant.

Then, I’ll add my favorite evergreen-appropriate decor, maybe a couple of birds and a pinecone. (The sweater I’m keeping for myself.)