One of my favorite family traditions is singing carols during the holidays. I love the feeling of togetherness that singing brings. This is why I planned for the holiday concert to include audience participation. The brass trio and concert pianist filled the tea room with the sounds of the season, and our guests chimed in!
We sang together carols like, "The First Noel", "Joy to the World", and "Silent Night", and secular songs like "Silver Bells", and "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire". "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was especially fun because different parts of the song were assigned to different groups, and they had to pay attention to make sure they sang at the right time.
Christmas carols have become as much a part of the Christmas celebration as reindeer and fruitcake, but where did this tradition of caroling come from? We can get the answer from a carol itself. The lyrics say, “Oh here we come a wassailing, among the fields so green.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that line meant I was coming for some spicy apple cider, but it turns out wassailing, or what was also called a “luck visit,” is actually the early cousin of Christmas caroling.
This tradition dates back to Europe in the middle ages. Peasant families would visit their rich, and mostly uncharitable, landowners during Christmas time and sing for them in exchange for food and drink. Although it is very similar to the caroling we do now, there was a bit of mischief in early caroling. If the landowner did not fulfill his part, the peasants would play tricks on him, much like the tradition of Halloween.
Here’s the fun twist: we’ve probably all sung a traditional wassailing song. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is a wassailing song. If you’ve ever wondered why you were demanding figgy pudding and promising not to leave until it was received, it’s because the luck visit song consisted of a blessing to the house, a demand, and then a veiled threat. Luckily, the tradition has evolved from demanding food to one where those with musical talent bless us all with the sweet sounds of holiday music.
Our Holiday Dinner Concert didn't have figgy pudding, but it did end with tea and sweets.
A special thank you to all who came. It was a wonderful evening of good food, great music and 'good will towards men.'
Tea & Concert on January 18th ~
January's concert may look familiar. I had to postpone last October's concert with Sharyn Peterson and Matthew Rehfeldt to January. Now is the time to make your reservations as they are going fast. We will be serving English Tea complete with soup, savory tea sandwiches, sweet cream scones and homemade sweets. Sharyn will be playing violin and viola, and Matt will be playing cello and acoustic guitar. The concert will be an hour long and will explore a variety of styles including classical, contemporary, jazz, love songs, and even some movie themes. Click the button below to make your reservation.
It wouldn’t be the holidays without a healthy dose of cinnamon sprinkled in cookies, eggnog, or spiced cider. This zesty spice comes from the inner bark of a tree.
rolled into sticks and dried, it is then ground into the powdered form most of us are used to seeing on grocery store shelves and in grandma’s cupboard. There are many types of cinnamon used around the world, but the darker colored Cassia is the one most commonly sold in the United States and can be found in any supermarket. Cinnamon has been used since Ancient Egypt when it was rare and valuable, regarded as a gift for kings.
I thought I would share with you a favorite family recipe that uses cinnamon. It is a citrus punch that fools everyone into thinking they are having apple cider. Don't believe me? Try it!
Recipe: 1 quart of water 1 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon allspice pinch of cloves Place water, sugar, and spices in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add 1 frozen can of lemonade, reconstituted and 1/2 can of frozen orange juice, reconstituted. Heat until serving temperature.
You can double the spices if you like a bit more 'zip' in your drink, and add a bit of sugar if you like it sweeter.
A Special Christmas Gift ~
Its been a great Christmas visiting with my younger brother Clay and his lovely wife, Kaitlyn. Their son Larson is a year and a half old and has my heart wrapped around his tiny little finger. I brought a special gift for him. My brother is 15 years younger than me, and I have had possession of the sleeping bag he had as a young kid for the past 20-plus years. It went through all of my kids.
I had it dry cleaned. Then I put it in a stuff bag and wrapped it up for Larson. It was fun to watch him unwrap the present and see how jazzed his folks were that I would give him a sleeping bag. You can imagine Clay's surprise when he pulled it out of the stuff bag and recognized his own favorite childhood sleeping bag!
The best part of all was how Larson loved it!
Teacup Time ~
This is typically where I share a special teacup and story, but since it is Christmas day, I want to share the story of a special gift I received last year from my older brother, Wayne.
My brother sent me this silver pitcher that he inherited. It was our great great grandmother’s. Her name is Anna Elizabeth, and she traveled by covered wagon from Missouri to New Mexico in 1880 on doctors’ orders. She had ‘consumption,’ and the high desert air was the best treatment at that time. Restored to health, she ran a hotel in a cattle-shipping town called Engle, New Mexico. Though the crowd she catered to were rough around the edges, she always set a fine table complete with pressed linens and polished silver. Today, thanks to my brother, this pitcher from her cowboy-serving hotel will pour water for tea guests at Willowbrook Manor. Thank you Wayne, for sharing the essence of Anna Elizabeth.
If you have a favorite teacup, (or another piece of serving ware) please share the story and a picture of it with us!