Bell-ringing parties, wreath-making parties, caroling by boat: our
readers celebrate the holidays with some ingenious twists on old
Letters full of Christmas cheer–and good ideas–poured into our
offices last December, after we asked you to tell us about your special
holiday activities, crafts, recipes. We were delighted by the
surprising ways you celebrate, and the lengths you go to to make your
get-togethers unique and memorable.
On these 10 pages, we show but a sampling of traditions you keep
with your families, friends, and neighbors. Other holiday ideas from
your letters are secattered throughout the magazine, and we’ll
report 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 innovative
solutions from our readers. One idea that kept popping up was renting
talent to provide the festive atmosphere, rather than relying on
reluctant guests to sing, play an instrument, or whatever.
A family in Los Angeles enlisted the services of a puppeteer to
entertain the neighborhood children– and their parents–at one
Christmas block party. A woman in Fresno invited her guests to come
hear a local Shakespearean actor do a dramatic reading of A Christmas
Carol. At left you see a group of Dickensian carolers that wandered
through a party in Atherton, California.
Check local schools and colleges; symphony, opera, and theatrical
associations and guilds; talent agencies or music stores; or look in the
yellow pages under Entertainers. You may want to make several
inquiries, since rates vary drastically.
They build parties around traditional steamed puddings
Because they generally improve with some aging, steamed puddings
are the focus of late November and early December activities in many
Western homes. Jennefer Santee of Carmel, California, wrote that four
generations gather at her mother’s home to mix the ingredients for
plum puddings. After a festive lunch, the puddings are taken home to
steam and steep in sherry.
Betty Emery Miner of Corvallis, Oregon, prepares hot steamed
puddings for serving at back-to-back parties along with a sauce and tea
or coffee. “The house is decorated, the serving utensils and china
are down, and I spend the evenings enjoying the guests and
conversation’ –a strong case for this kind of organization. Ripe,
golden persimmons from their own garden remind the Ellenberger family of
Palo Alto, California, that the holidays are at hand. The mellow fruit
is the base of their exceptionally easy and flavorful pudding (recipe on
page 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 up
Ray Fair as he describes his championship chili recipe, winner at
several 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 that
feature a generous and hearty main dish by the host couple, supplemented
by other parts of the menu brought by guests, are a popular trend in the
West. They are a way for all to share in the labor and cost of
entertaining. Busy hosts appreciate the help; guests enjoy
participating in the planning.
At this party for 30, guests arrive with assorted appetizers and
desserts that are set up buffet-fashion. The Fairs serve their steaming
all-meat chili with a pot of pinto beans and a choice of
condiments–cheeses, salsa, and chopped onions–plus coleslaw and
cornbread. Beverages are kept ices in an inflated rubber dinghy adrift
on the kitchen floor.
The evening’s entertainment involves hosts and guests judging
each other’s liberal interpretation of the black-tie dress code,
fancy steps on the dance floor, and showmanship choices in the white
elephant gift exchange.
Photo: “Christmas morning we have “munlies,’ or
little bread men, made from a German recipe from my mother’s
Sandra L. Petsche, Canyon Lake, California
Photo: “Everyone prunes, then we wind prunings into wreaths to
decorate and take home’
Cas Szukalski, Monte Sereno
Photo: “We decorate our boats, tie four abreast, and float
around 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 our
fun–and unusual– ring-and-sing Christmas party’
Yolie Becerril, San Diego
Photo: “Come for chili: it’s black tie.’ Guests
arrive in irreverent attire, bringing appetizers, desserts, and white
Photo: At their annual party, Paula and Ray Fair serve
specialty-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’ culinary
talents. Dancing follows, with absurd gifts opened at breaks
Photo: Served hot from the steamer, persimmon pudding is studded
with chopped nuts