Friday, December 24, 2010

A Little Christmas Rant

Grandma Coco has a love/hate relationship with Christmas. She loves the Norman Rockwell version with the Coca Cola Santa Claus. She loves Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. She even likes the movie (with Alistair Simm). She loves the decorations, the lights and the music. She loves the food. She actually loves Christmas.

In theory.

It's just making it all come together that gets her down. All the hustle. All the bustle. It's just so .... pointless. Running here. Running there. There seems to be an unwritten rule that families (who've somehow managed to avoid each other all year) absolutely must get together in spite of the fact that in Canada, it's  pretty dicey weather-wise for travel at this time of year. Who thought that up? You see people crying in airports, for heaven's sake, because a freak storm has grounded all the planes. I repeat: It's December. In Canada. It shouldn't come as such a shock.

Grandma Coco also has a bone to pick with news reporters who must constantly remind us that any disaster is somehow made worse by happening "only days before Christmas!'" As if the death of a child, for instance, would be more easily borne in the carefree days of summer or workers would be better off if their lay-offs occurred in January (when the Mastercard bills start rolling in). Humbug! 

And speaking of credit card bills, there's the absolute orgy of gift-buying and debt. People going into debt to demonstrate their affection for each other does not spell Christmas to me.

Now, lest you worry that Grandma Coco will be visited tonight by a trio of ghosts, I should hasten to point out that she has made her peace with the season. Oh, it's taken a few years but it's true what they say. With age comes wisdom. Here's her strategy: Take the best. Forget the rest. From the smorgasbord of Christmas offerings, choose those things that resonate with you and....quite simply....ignore the rest.

For example, chez Coco, we don't decorate. It's so much easier to get those pine needles out of the carpet without a tree. This year we're cooking the Christmas dinner and we're really looking forward to hosting our family at our own table. (See how cleverly Grandma and Mr. Coco have figured out how to avoid that Canadian travel issue?) We'll make a pretty simple meal and other family members will bring dishes to add to it. There won't be any Martha-esque decorations. In fact, the plates won't all match but all the guests will be very welcome. There will be warmth and peace in our home. And music.....but no Little Drummer Boy, please. That's just lame.

When Grandma Coco was a child, her mother, a typical 1950's stay-at-home mother, would bake her heart out every year. Martha Stewart had nothing on the mothers of the '50's. My mother would kick off the season in early November with the first of two different fruitcake recipes. Then there'd be squares and bars and drop cookies and shaped cookies with chopped nuts and jam. But the star of her show...and the one treat my father actually acknowledged she made better than HIS mother...was her Shortbread cookies. She'd take an afternoon to mix them and roll them and cut them out with fancy shaped cookie cutters and decorate them with cut-up cherries and sprinkles. Buttery and rich, those cookies speak of Christmas to me...and of course, they remind me of my mother. So, in honour of the season, and with my very best wishes, here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Grace's Shortbread Cookies
1 cup real butter (no substitutes) softened
1/2 cup fruit sugar (NOT icing sugar. Fine sugar. If necessary whiz some regular sugar in the food processor for a couple of minutes)
2 cups sifted flour

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add 1-3/4 cups of flour, reserving 1/4 cup for rolling out the cookies. Knead the dough on a floured surface. Roll out and cut with cookie cutters. Mom liked them thin, about 1/4 inch thick, and Dad likes them thick, about 1/2 inch thick. Place them on an ungreased pan and bake at 300F for 30 -35 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.

Copyright 2010 Cheryl Coville 

"And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!"
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843


  1. So true! Love your site...and thanks for the recipe. I will definitely try that!

    When you get the time, check out my blogspot too...and I'm following you...waiting for the next post.


  2. oh I just LOVE the joy in this and all your illustrations! They are simply loveable!


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