A Christmas Treat for Mack

A Christmas Treat for Mack


Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, Not even a mouse,
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there,
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.




Written in 1823, the Clement Moore classic was firmly established by the Civil War.

The holiday was more secular in the South than the North but was still basically of a spiritual nature.

Celebrated on Christmas Day, not for two months prior, the day would start with Church services. While the women cooked the main meal, the young people would decorate the tree.  Small evergreen trees for a table top were the norm in most homes, adorned with edible gingerbread cookies, bright paper ornaments and perhaps gilded nuts. 

The true highlight of the day was the same thing that dominated every other day; FOOD!  As today, each families celebration was determined by economics.

As the Civil War progressed and food supplies dwindled the lack of sugar, spices and even flour curtailed the holiday feast.  But families would pool their resources with their neighbors, each bringing what was available to them.

There could be wild turkey or a surviving goose might be sacrificed for the occasion.  Most hams had already been confiscated by foragers, either Yankee or Confederate.  But sweet potatoes baked in the ashes of the fire or sweetened with honey and spiced to create a pie or pudding.

Since fresh vegetables weren't available and canning was in it's infancy, there would be thick and hearty soups made from dried beans and vegetables and a variety of pickles.  Pickled beets, cucumbers, okra, cabbage and whole string beans.  There would not be a green bean casserole on the table.

Sweets would be the crowning glory if sugar or honey was available.  Pies and cakes were everyday fare, but candies were reserved for Christmas.

Cream candy made from butter, heavy cream and sugar was often flavored with vanilla or rose water.  Coca was an extravagance reserved for Christmas Fudge.

After dinner the tree would be trimmed and tiny candles placed on the branches.  Walnut shells filled with beeswax containing tiny wicks would be lit. 

Gifts were often simple, handmade and practical.  A pair of warm knitted socks or mittens for a beloved brother; an embroidered handkerchief with a bit of crochet trim for Mother or big sister; an indulgent grandfather might deliver a china doll to a spoiled grandaughter or a hunting knife to a grandson.  An extravagant grandmother might give a cloved apple pomander to scent a girl's wardrobe. 

A young girl learning to knit might receive a Wonderball.  Mother would unravel a ball of wool yarn adding little gifts as it was rewound.  When the yarn was used the girl would discover bits of ribbon or tiny silver bells or other trinkets.

After Dinner and the tree lighting and the small children put to bed, young men were free to call on their best girl.  As they galloped home they fired their pistons with wild abandon.  Erratic firing signified one of two things; he had either broken up with the girl or he was getting married soon. 


More weddings were solemnized in the early part of the year than any other time.  Crops were in and food was put back.  Country folk had more time in the dead winter months, regardless of economic status.

In A Twist of Tobacco eight year old Mack is addicted to Sugarplums and receives a full dozen for his Christmas present.


Sugarplums

3/4 cup chopped nuts 
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped, dried apples
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon pear preserves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup sugar
(May substitute any dried fruits, juices or preserves. Use your imagination and created your own favorites.  I LIKE dates in my sugarplums)

Mix all ingredients, except sugar. Mix will until the mixture begins to clump.  (I mix with my hands so the ingredients really blend together)

Scoop by teaspoonfuls and roll into a firm ball.

Roll the ball in sugar. 

Try not to eat them all before you refrigerate and serve.

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