Holiday Traditions – The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Under the Holiday Tradition theme, I’ve been sharing my favorite things to do during the month of December. Each Sunday of Advent brought memories of the season. From choosing or making an Advent wreath, to decorating the house, to baking cookies to give away.

This week features one of my favorite things to do. Decorating the Christmas tree.

For close to thirty years our Christmas trees have been gifted to us by a family friend. In the early years, he would choose a tree from the woods near where he lived. When he moved away from his home village, he continued to bring us a tree now bought at one of the many markets supplied by Christmas tree farms.

The trees were not always decorated in the same way. Some years only gold or silver was used. Other years color was added. There have been silver with blue and white, silver with purple, all red, and all colors mixed up.

The first lights we bought for our tree were candle-shaped and lasted years. When they finally gave out on us we bought strings of tiny lights which didn’t last as long. Since the days of the candle lights, I always check that the lights work before I put them up.

This year I decorated our tree with the two strings of lights and wasn’t happy with the way they looked. I nearly finished taken down the first string when it died on me. It wasn’t the first time this happened. It’s always aggravating but I try to not let it get to me. I spread out the lights of the remaining string around the front and sides leaving the back of the tree dark. By this time I’d been at it for nearly two hours. I was thinking I should have stuck with Motown instead of Christmas songs.

For the past few years, the tree had been done up in silver and/or white with blue and/or purple balls and icicles. This year I planned on doing it in gold with special touches. I’ve had these artificial poinsettias bushes that haven’t been used in years when decorating the house. I got out the wire cutters and cut them up into individual flowers and stuck them in the tree. I added gold bows and angels. Next came the special heirloom touch.

Years ago Mom gave us four Villeroy et Boch old fashioned multi-colored porcelain Christmas ornaments which I’ve been hanging on doorknobs of furniture. Earlier this month she stopped by with four Hutschenreuther porcelain ornaments from 2018 in the shape of a bell, ball, boot, and egg from the Christmas Pleasures series. I added these eight heirloom ornaments to the tree.

Bows, Angels, Poinsettia, and Heirlooms

May the peace of Advent be with you and your families.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Holiday Traditions – The Third Sunday of Advent

The week between the second and third Sunday of Advent is mostly reserved for baking cookies. It’s become a tradition to bake and share Christmas cookies with family, friends, and acquaintances.

In the December 1996 issue of the Good Housekeeping magazine, my Mom tried out a recipe that became a family favorite and the most-liked by everyone who receives them as a gift. For a while, I wanted to keep the recipe for Chocolate Sambuca Cookies a secret but finally translated it to German and converted the US measures to metric. These cookies are the first to be mixed up as they need to be chilled overnight.

Next, I fix two recipes of Kokosmakronen (Coconut Macaroons), a recipe I received from a Luxembourgish friend many years ago. These are quickly whipped up and need to be watched when baking as they should begin to brown but not be allowed to dry out. The secret ingredient is marzipan which makes them chewy instead of hard like meringue cookies. The half a dozen leftover egg yolks are perfect for making Mom’s recipe for ice cream.

When we married in 1978 my mother-in-law gave me a cookie press. It was only when I tried the recipe for Spritz cookies in my 1976 edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book that I finally began using it each year. I had a “feeling old” moment when I looked up the book on the internet and found it referred to as vintage! 1976 was the year I graduated from high school. The recipe makes a lot of cookie dough for pressing. One year I tried adding a cherry on top of half the cookies. This was a big hit with my husband and I’ve added the cherries to the macaroons too.

A few years ago I tasted these orange-flavored biscuits sold at a well-known coffee shop associated with Mr. Clooney. They were delicious but, I thought, too expensive. I experimented with the Spritz recipe, leaving out the almond extract and adding orange extract and peel. To add more flavor I brushed them with orange glaze and called them Glazed Orange Spritz.

Chili Chocolate Chip Cookies are another favorite in the tins we gift. Several years ago I found a free sample of Vanilla Chili Salt in a German cooking magazine. The recipe for the cookies was on the back of the little packet and the sample was just enough for one recipe. The supermarket we shop at carries the label but didn’t have this particular salt mixture. I ended up mixing my own version of the vanilla chili salt. Later when I was able to buy the flavored salt I had to add more chili as either they had changed their recipe or we had gotten used to the more hot taste of my salt mixture.

After two full days of baking, the cookies were ready to be packed up in the Christmas tins to give away. There were not enough left over to fill the small bags of cookies for our postman and the trash collectors so I’m off to do more baking.

May the peace of Advent be with you and your families.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Holiday Traditions – The Second Sunday of Advent

When our children were small St. Nicholas Day usually fell in the week between the First and Second Sunday of Advent. They would set their shoes by the front door for about a week before the 6th of December. Depending on whether they had been naughty or nice, they would wake up in the morning and find a piece of chocolate or some other treat or a switch if they had been bad.

On the 6th of December, they would find a plate full of candy, nuts, clementines, toys, and a Boxemännchen. These little men are made of sweet brioche dough. A roll snipped here and there to form the arms and legs, and a ball of dough for the head. If you don’t make them yourself, you can buy them at the bakery in all sizes, with or without sugar glaze. I like the plain ones the best.

In 1963 my siblings and I met St. Nicholas for the first time in Echternach. My father took photos of de Kleeschen‘s arrival by boat on the Sauer river and the procession through town to the market place. I shared his pictures in my 2015 post, Happy St. Nicholas Day – de Kleeschen kënnt op Eechternoach.

Since the children are grown and have left home, the week before the Second Sunday of Advent is our time to begin putting up decorations for the holidays. Unlike my cousins in the US, we don’t put up a tree as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers have been cleared away. We’ve never had an artificial tree and wait until the week before Christmas.

I brought the decorations down from the attic on Friday and began with the lighted garland in the hallway.

My husband brought up the ladder from the basement yesterday and put up the outside garland before we worked on the lights and garland in the living room. He then left to do some errands.

My favorite part came next. The finishing touches. I get to do this all by myself – while listening to Motown Soul music. It gets turned up and no one is there to hear me sing or watch me dance while I move things around until I’m satisfied with the way everything looks.

Finally, this morning we lit the second candle on our Advent wreath.

May the peace of Advent be with you and your families.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Holiday Traditions – The First Sunday of Advent

The first of December and the first Sunday of Advent came around faster than expected this year. My followers may have been wondering why it’s been so quiet on my blog. I’m working on a genealogical problem I hope to soon reveal and haven’t had much inclination to write my usual posts on families I research. In the meantime, I’m going to write a few short posts about the holiday traditions we follow in the Meder-Dempsey family.

I’ve shared photos of our Advent wreath on each of the four Sundays of Advent on my Facebook timeline for the past seven years.

The First Sunday of Advent 2012
The First Sunday of Advent 2013
The First Sunday of Advent 2014
The First Sunday of Advent 2015
The First Sunday of Advent 2016
The First Sunday of Advent 2017
The First Sunday of Advent 2018
The First Sunday of Advent 2019

This morning we lit the first candle on the wreath and shared the photo on Facebook. We’ve been choosing wreaths or making them ourselves since we were first married. We added to the tradition when we began posting photos on the four Sundays for our friends who enjoy seeing a quiet reminder of the holiday season.

May the peace of Advent be with you and your families.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Family Tradition: A Bretzel on Bretzelsonndeg

Family traditions in Luxembourg are many a times tied to the predominant religion of the country, Roman Catholicism. Food is often a part of the traditions as seen in another family tradition I wrote about: Berliner and Verwurelter.

Lent is a period of about six weeks of fasting, self-denial and prayer in preparation for the feast of Easter. It comprises forty days, not including Sundays, from Ash Wednesday to the end of Holy Saturday.

bretzel2smOn the fourth Sunday of Lent, the halfway mark, the people of Luxembourg celebrate Bretzelsonndeg or Pretzel Sunday. Men give their girlfriends a Bretzel or cake in the form of a pretzel. The size depends on how much he likes her or maybe can afford to like her. In return the young lady will give her young man a decorated egg on Easter Sunday.

bretzel1smThe tradition isn’t only for singles, married people also follow the tradition. In leap years, the tradition is reversed and the young ladies offer a Bretzel to their beloved. This morning at the bakery, it being a leap year, the women were in the majority buying  Bretzels for their chosen one.

bestwishescathy1

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.