Christmas bring-togethers Essay

Christmas bring-togethers Bell-ringing parties, wreath-making parties, caroling by boat: ourreaders celebrate the holidays with some ingenious twists on oldtraditions.

Letters full of Christmas cheer–and good ideas–poured into ouroffices last December, after we asked you to tell us about your specialholiday activities, crafts, recipes. We were delighted by thesurprising ways you celebrate, and the lengths you go to to make yourget-togethers unique and memorable. On these 10 pages, we show but a sampling of traditions you keepwith your families, friends, and neighbors. Other holiday ideas fromyour letters are secattered throughout the magazine, and we’llreport on more in future issues. For details on making the wreaths shown opposite, turn to page 84.Directions for the munlies start on page 158.

Readers who entertain with music or Dickens: they enlist talent How to entertain guests brought out a number of innovativesolutions from our readers. One idea that kept popping up was rentingtalent to provide the festive atmosphere, rather than relying onreluctant guests to sing, play an instrument, or whatever. A family in Los Angeles enlisted the services of a puppeteer toentertain the neighborhood children– and their parents–at oneChristmas block party. A woman in Fresno invited her guests to comehear a local Shakespearean actor do a dramatic reading of A ChristmasCarol. At left you see a group of Dickensian carolers that wanderedthrough a party in Atherton, California. Check local schools and colleges; symphony, opera, and theatricalassociations and guilds; talent agencies or music stores; or look in theyellow pages under Entertainers. You may want to make severalinquiries, since rates vary drastically.

They build parties around traditional steamed puddings Because they generally improve with some aging, steamed puddingsare the focus of late November and early December activities in manyWestern homes. Jennefer Santee of Carmel, California, wrote that fourgenerations gather at her mother’s home to mix the ingredients forplum puddings. After a festive lunch, the puddings are taken home tosteam and steep in sherry. Betty Emery Miner of Corvallis, Oregon, prepares hot steamedpuddings for serving at back-to-back parties along with a sauce and teaor coffee.

“The house is decorated, the serving utensils and chinaare down, and I spend the evenings enjoying the guests andconversation’ –a strong case for this kind of organization. Ripe,golden persimmons from their own garden remind the Ellenberger family ofPalo Alto, California, that the holidays are at hand. The mellow fruitis the base of their exceptionally easy and flavorful pudding (recipe onpage 204), shown being served at right. “Come for chili.

It’s black tie’ Ray and Paula Fair, Redmond, Washington “If this seems complex, it’s because it is,’ sums upRay Fair as he describes his championship chili recipe, winner atseveral regional cook-offs. We add that it’s worth the effort;directions are on page 192. Like the Fairs’ tongue-in-cheek black-tie bash, parties thatfeature a generous and hearty main dish by the host couple, supplementedby other parts of the menu brought by guests, are a popular trend in theWest. They are a way for all to share in the labor and cost ofentertaining. Busy hosts appreciate the help; guests enjoyparticipating in the planning. At this party for 30, guests arrive with assorted appetizers anddesserts that are set up buffet-fashion. The Fairs serve their steamingall-meat chili with a pot of pinto beans and a choice ofcondiments–cheeses, salsa, and chopped onions–plus coleslaw andcornbread.

Beverages are kept ices in an inflated rubber dinghy adrifton the kitchen floor. The evening’s entertainment involves hosts and guests judgingeach other’s liberal interpretation of the black-tie dress code,fancy steps on the dance floor, and showmanship choices in the whiteelephant gift exchange. Photo: “Christmas morning we have “munlies,’ orlittle bread men, made from a German recipe from my mother’sfamily’ Sandra L. Petsche, Canyon Lake, California Photo: “Everyone prunes, then we wind prunings into wreaths todecorate and take home’ Cas Szukalski, Monte Sereno Photo: “We decorate our boats, tie four abreast, and floataround our island. It really makes us feel as if Christmas has arrived,seeing children running down to the docks’ Shirley Werner, Westlake Village Photo: “I have two octaves of English handbells for ourfun–and unusual– ring-and-sing Christmas party’ Yolie Becerril, San Diego Photo: “Come for chili: it’s black tie.’ Guestsarrive in irreverent attire, bringing appetizers, desserts, and whiteelephant gifts Photo: At their annual party, Paula and Ray Fair servespecialty-of-the-house chili– meat in sauce and boiled beans Photo: Caroling quarter, members of the San Francisco Opera chorus,entertain guests at Winifred Chrisman’s party Photo: Appetizer and dessert buffets show off guests’ culinarytalents.

Dancing follows, with absurd gifts opened at breaks Photo: Served hot from the steamer, persimmon pudding is studdedwith chopped nuts

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