In lieu of her non-traditional childhood, my mother tortured us every Christmas in the most inhumane way possible: She made us go caroling. A week before the grand event, the oven would be turned on and run for three straight days. We made cookies until we couldn’t stand the sight of them: Sugar cookies, Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, peanut butter with the criss-crosses, lemon bars, and those little powdered-sugared nuggets with crushed almonds. Heavenly, unless you had to bake them all and scrub the mixing bowls after each round.
Do you actually know anyone who goes caroling during the holidays? I don’t mean to imply socializing with a church group or a service activity with the Junior Beta Club. I mean door-to-door knocking and bellowing to complete strangers who stand uncomfortably while you hold out a plate of treats as a bribe. You can almost see the thoughts pass through their minds: Should I invite them in? Do I have enough hot chocolate? Hey! Isn’t that the kid that egged my car on Halloween?
When I a child, I found the whole scenario to be a grand adventure. In my innocence, I sang unabashedly, handed over the treats with reverence, and was certain I’d turned someone’s miserable holiday into a shining memory. Then puberty hit. Along with my five brothers and sisters, the yearly caroling tradition my mother started became primeval torture. We grumbled from the kitchen to our victim’s driveways, we sang at a whisper, shuffled our feet, and stared heavenward so we didn’t have to see the patronizing smiles over the threshhold. None of it mattered though, because my mother sang loud enough for all of us. You couldn’t suck the Noel out of her no matter how hard you tried.
These days, since I have passed through childhood, slogged through puberty, and managed to grapple with the joys of mid-life, I remember caroling as some of the best times we shared as a family. The joy it brought me as a child makes me smile. The humiliation of my teenage years makes me laugh. Tradition, I’ve finally learned, is everything.
So each year as the holidays roll around, the ovens in my house run for a week straight. There are sugar cookies, cookie bars, brownies, and gingerbread. My own children help decorate and lick the bowls, and disappear when it’s clean up time. It isn’t exactly a replica of my childhood memories, but it’s close.
Now I confess, those years of caroling did scar me despite their poignant effects. I do not drag my children door to door and sing at the top of my lungs. Instead, we drop off the treats, ring the doorbell and take off running. I call it our “Secret Santa” tradition. My kids thought it was the best adventure ever when they were young. For now, because of age and hormones, they just think it’s embarrassing.
Danielle, thanks so much for sharing your Christmas memories with us and helping us get even more ready for Christmas. So, I'd love to hear about your Crazy Corn holiday recipe. Please share that with us!
DANIELLE THORNE'S CRAZY CORN
6 cups of microwave-popped Kettle Corn
3 cups of Rice Chex cereal
2 cups of Cheerios cereal
1 cup of cashews piece
1 cup of pecan pieces
1 cup of brown sugar
½ cup of butter
¼ cup of light or dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon of baking soda
Stir together the first five ingredients, making sure to remove any unpopped popcorn seeds. On the stovetop, bring sugar, butter, and corn syrup to a boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. When mixture begins to bubble, boil five minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour over popcorn mixture and gently blend until well coated. Pour into greased roasting pan and bake one hour at 250 degrees, stirring every twenty minutes.
Stores well in covered container and makes a great goody bag.
Danielle Thorne is the author of sweet romantic adventure books, both historical and contemporary. Danielle currently writes from south of Atlanta, Georgia. Besides contract editing and writing full time, she has four sons with her husband, Rob. Together they enjoy travel and the outdoors.
You can connect with Danielle online via email firstname.lastname@example.org and
Danielle, thanks so much for guesting today and sharing your memories of Christmas and your great holiday recipe.
Check out Danielle's booklist below and visit her website for more info.