My Adirondack Christmas
I was born and raised in upstate New York, one of five children living with our hard-working, loving parents in a large clapboard house, painted white. Come December each year, our large yard, where we enjoyed Sunday summer picnics with our extended family, would be blanketed in snow. And there’d be a special magic in the air…
Most every house in my childhood Adirondack village decorated for the season, Christmas trees glowing bright through front windows and strands of lights outlining houses—from the farm homes on the country back roads to the houses huddled together in the center of our quaint little town.
An evergreen wreath with a velvet red bow on our front door welcomed friends and family into our home. Our freshly cut tree would be draped with strings of popcorn and cranberries, mounds of silvery tinsel, and treasured ornaments unpacked from brown boxes stored in the attic.
On Christmas morning, my younger brother and I always woke first and would tiptoe downstairs to find our tree overflowing with presents. We’d read the tags and giggle with excitement whenever we found one of our names, but we dared not touch. Against Dad’s rules. We also knew the true meaning of Christmas wasn’t in the gifts inside those wrapped boxes, but all around us in the love we shared and in God’s love for us through his Son sent to save us.
So we quietly emptied our Christmas stockings—those we were allowed to open!—made by our mother. I can still remember mine, knitted in red and white with a green tree shape below my name. Onto the couch spilled oranges, apples, and hard candies. If we’d been extra good that year, a Lifesaver “book” would slide onto each of our piles of goodies as well.
Soon the clan would all gather at the kitchen table, talking and laughing about shared family memories and the anticipation of the day as we dug into our home fries and scrambled eggs and bacon. All seven of us would help clean the dishes before changing into our Sunday best and bundling up to brave the chilly northern air.
Our family’s church was filled to the rafters on Holy Days and especially so on Christmas. Contentment enveloped me as I sat snuggled between my brother and Mom in our family’s cozy pew. We’d smile and nod at aunts, uncles and cousins along with friends and neighbors we’d known our whole lives. When the service began, I’d gaze at the candlelit alter covered in festive red and purple linens and inhaling the spicy incense as I listened to the priest read familiar stories of Christ’s birth. When it came time for the Christmas carols, I’d belt them out loud and clear, my favorites Away in a Manger and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
The rest of our Christmas Day would be a flurry of activity. We’d open presents at our house then travel to my father’s parents’ house a few minutes down the country road, eat an early ham dinner then open more presents. Our older siblings would drift upstairs to chill with the older cousins and my father would go play pinochle with his brothers and dad at the large table in the den while my mother, aunts, and grandmother chatted close by. My little brother and I would hang out with our cousins all close in age in the living room next to the Christmas tree. Oh, how fascinated I was by the bubble ornaments as a child! We’d laugh and play and sneak into the kitchen time and again for treats until well after dark.
Thinking back to all the delicious desserts spread on my grandmother’s kitchen table brings back wonderful memories of my mother. She was an incredible baker. She made fried doughnuts from scratch, all sorts of pies (my favorite was her strawberry rhubarb pie), homemade fudge, oodles of cookies, bon bons, and more. At Christmas, her peanut brittle was my favorite.
Donna’s Peanut Brittle
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
Dash of salt*
1 cup peanuts
Throw butter and sugar in a cast iron skillet and heat until it turns liquid then cook about four minutes, stirring constantly. Add peanuts to the mixture while stirring and cook a few more minutes. Add baking soda, stirring gently until the mixture is light and foamy. Remove from heat and immediately pour mixture onto a buttered cookie sheet. Spread mixture thinly and allow to cool. Break into small pieces and serve.
*dash= 1/8 teaspoon
As you might imagine, Adirondack Christmas memories such as those I shared above did much to inspire my fictional town of Starling in Christmas Light. I wanted to share my take on the spirit of a small town community, the bonds of love and acceptance that allow family members to forge through their differences—wherever they might live—and the beauty of the Adirondack region. And too, that imperfect as we may be, each of us can find the perfect mate for us…if only we’re brave enough to take that leap of faith, ask forgiveness, and believe in the miracle of unconditional love.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
In the spirit of the season and the celebration of reading, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to a random commenter. All you have to do is share one of your Christmas favorites, whether it be a song, a tradition, an ornament, or whatever! I look forward to reading them. oxo Jolyse
Jolyse Barnett may not be able to cook to save her life, but she can whip up a delicious romantic tale. She discovered the joy of playing with words at a young age, filling notebooks with poetry and stacks of pink diaries with her teenage angst and dreams. After she graduated from high school, she developed a more practical side. She earned her degree in Writing (Of course!), fell in love with her best friend (Yes!), and now lives her own happily-ever-after (Yay!). She enjoys a fulfilling day job and explores the world one vacation at a time with her two children and real-life hero. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
pesnut brittle or book….hmm..no contest …book!
Well…you could read the book while you enjoy a snack. Merry Christmas, Amary! :)
My favorite memory is my Greatgrandmothers cookies , New Mexico Bizcochitos , a delicate sugar cookie with anise and cinnamon sugar on top ! I make these now as an adult , and always think of all the memories . Always need Christmas books too to complete the season
Thanks for sharing, Liz. Those cookies sound delicious. I adore cinnamon sugar. Yum! Happy eating and reading. :)
One of my favorite memories of Christmas was when my mom let me be in the kitchen with her (it was rare) and we made Christmas cookies with her when I was a little girl.
Those memories are precious, aren’t they? I enjoyed reflecting on my holiday memories as I wrote the blog post. My mother and grandparents have long since passed, but when I think about those times it eases the ache of missing them. <3
When my brother and I were little, and wouldn’t go to bed on Christmas Eve, our dad would get on top of the house and make clip clop” noises and let out some hearty “Ho Ho Hos” like Santa was on the roof. Then, he’d rush down and come in the house and tell us that, since we weren’t in bed yet, Santa was leaving… But, he’d be back in one hour to check on us again, and we’d better be asleep. I miss that — I miss him.
Hi Tammy! Oh my goodness, your dad must’ve been a character. So full of energy and creative, too. Nice memories to hold close. :)
My mom made Christmas magical for my brother and I. We would do crafts together, decorate the tree, play Christmas albums on our hi-fi, and always had homemade stockings stuffed with toys. It was wonderful.
Wonderful memories, Debbie. Your mom did a great job! :)
I love the yearly holiday family fudge I make for my brothers and sisters. The recipe is the no fail kind printed on the side of the marshmallow fluff containers. Again, the recipe was followed by my mom during the holidays when I was a child. I enjoyed being able to help her create the sweet treats and lick the spoon as my special reward. Merry Christmas!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Cheryl! Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest. You’re making me hungry for a scoop of Fluff. :)
My Mom passed away in 1990 with an enlarged heart, but she kept her sense of humor to the end. She used to liken herself to the original cartoon Grinch because near the end his heart grew three times it’s size…like hers. Now every year when I watch that show I remember my Mom and I smile.
Aw, what a sense of humor she had. I’ll remember this post and your sentiment every time I watch the Grinch cartoon. Merry Christmas, Marcy.
I remember my mothers chocolate no bake cookies that I still make every year, and get choked up thinking of her. I remember Christmas lasted for a week! With 6 older brothers and sisters having Christmas at their own homes, they would come visit at others days, and it seemed like Christmas every time a brother or sister, husbands and wives and loads of nieces and nephews arrived
I imagine that must’ve been quite a holiday with all the visitors. And here I thought I had an extended Christmas with one at my family’s house and then two more at our grandparents. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Debra! :)
I love baking treats to give to friends & family. I always make fudge, chocolate dipped pretzels, haystacks, peppermint bark (white & chocolate), and cookies. When the kids were younger we also made & decorated gingerbread & sugar cookies. I miss having them help in the kitchen.
Yum! I’m always in awe of people who have the cooking/baking gene. I’m thrilled when I don’t burn my toast in the morning. ;) I especially love gingerbread cookies. Did you make them look like gingerbread people?
It’s wonderful when our children grow and become independent, but at the same time we miss those special times together.
I love listening to Jingle Bell Rock while baking sugar cookies with my mother and my sisters.
Jingle Bell Rock always reminds me of my dad. He would sing that in the car whenever it played on the radio. I’ll have to ask him when we see him over the holidays whether it’s actually a favorite of his or just my perspective of him.
Merry Christmas, Catherine!
Church Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve at church is magical. Enjoy!
Love peanut brittle.
I know, right? I love the sweet/salty mix and the crunch of peanut brittle. Happy holidays, Teresa.
like silent night
Thanks for sharing. Silent Night is beautiful. :)
My favorite part of the holidays is giving to those in need, may be alone, in the hospitals, and those less fortunate. I believe everyone deserves to be happy and cared for. Thank you so much!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
I agree, Dawn! The holidays can be especially tough–for many people for many reasons. Giving is a gift that rewards both the recipient and the giver. Merry Christmas to you, too! oxo
My favorite holidays were when my boys were young and the family went skiing. We went to Colorado where there was usually a lot of snow. We would donated to their local animal shelters. It seems everyone gets taken care of at this time of year except the animals.
Nice memories, Joye! You’d be happy to know our church is very active in collecting items and food for needy animals–in addition to collecting for people.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. :)
One favorite food at Christmas time was my grandmother’s cherry pies . She would can cherries earlier in the year and use them all the rest of the year. They were delicious.
Yum, Jackie! Thanks for sharing and happy holidays. :)
My favorite Christmas tradition is one from my childhood and have continued with my children and grandchildren. We bake cookies for Santa (and us), watch the original Miracle on 34th Street, drive through town looking at all the light displays and decorations, open one gift each, and then read Twas the Night Before Christmas before sending the little ones off to bed.
One of my traditions with the kids was driving them through town to see all the lights, too. Happy New Year, Peggy!
Our Christmas tradition is watching our favorite Christmas movie. It’s A Wonderful Life.
I happily watched that one three times this Christmas season, too. Happy New Year, Buddy!
Congrats to Janine! You’re the winner of a $10 Amazon Gift Card from me. Thanks to everyone for playing, and I wish you all a happy, healthy 2016.
Thank you so very much! You just made my day!