I’m the kind of person who is The Grinch for 11 months of the year. For one month a year, I am filled with a kind of Christmas spirit akin to that of someone who just learned they are a bad person from a couple of ghosts. Simply put, I love Christmas.
This month was a marathon of self-imposed cheer. And I loved it. Below I’ve shared some of my new traditions and some other ideas to get you into the Christmas season. Hey, you might need an entire year to prepare for these.
Holiday Traditions Feast
In place of my monthly cookbook club, I hosted a holiday traditions dinner. Everyone was asked to bring a dish that they make during the holidays. What resulted was the most comforting meal I could have imagined.
I made ricotta ravioli (for my Italian traditions) and popovers (for my British traditions). Other dishes included: glögg, green bean casserole, latkes, sauerkraut with bacon, jalapeño poppers, deviled eggs, cranberry apple crisp, and brownies.
I also forced everyone to participate in another one of my traditions: Christmas crackers. This was a new practice for many attendees, but hopefully the absurd jokes, very bad trinkets,and silly paper crowns I added to them will make people want to add this tradition to their own Christmases.
Gingerbread House Making
I am a firm believer that making gingerbread houses is an adult activity. And considering that all of the adults that came to my house for gingerbread house making struggled to keep theirs intact, I would only stress this more.
For this activity, you’ll need:
- Gingerbread cookies cut from a house template
- Royal icing
- A variety of candies and other decorations
If you want to take this activity up a notch, I’d recommend having all of your friends bring champagne and watching some terrible Christmas movies. And no, I don’t think the champagne contributed to the failed construction…
I tested three different construction gingerbread recipes: Bon Appetit, Food52, and Serious Eats. My favorite one was the Bon Appetit one because it had the best sturdiness, fragrance, and flavor (if you were going to eat a stale house that had been sitting out for a few weeks).
Marathon Baking Week
December is an onslaught of cookie and baking recipes if you follow any cooking websites. It’s hard to resist the temptation to spend all of your money on flour, sugar, butter, and eggs.
The perfect Christmas cookie recipe is a combination of ease and impact. Here are some of my favorites:
- Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies: You simply can’t go wrong with these cookies. I dare say they are my all-time favorite cookie—the perfect combination of sweet and salty. This is the kind of cookie that will make people think you’re a good baker. Share the recipe with them if you’re feeling generous. This year I tried the rolled-and-cut version and they were even easier than the original and required less chill time.
- Spicy Gingerbread Cookies: After making gingerbread for days to prepare for the house making, I thought it would be a good idea to make even more gingerbread. But this time I made ones that I would want to eat. This recipe is great if you like a more flavorful
- Almond Crescents: These are a cookie I only ever make during the holidays and they fill me with nostalgia. My ideal Christmas cookies are actually just a box of tiny Italian cookies from a bakery near the south side of Chicago, but these are a good substitute.
I’m not sure why, but I only ever feel compelled to make candy during the holidays. The best part is that they make impressive gifts. All you really need is a good digital thermometer.
Always practice moderation with your candymaking. That’s the advice I could have used that one year I decided to make candy boxes for all of my coworkers with caramels, peanut butter cups, and peppermint patties…in one night.
Here are some my favorite quick candy recipes to get you started:
- DIY Chocolate Bars: Endlessly customizable. Follow the tempering instructions linked here. It’s way less intimidating than it sounds.
- Salted Caramels: David Lebovitz is clearly my to-go for holiday candy. This caramel recipe has yet to fail me.
- Tiny Meringues: I saw Molly Yeh making these tiny meringues on her Instagram and fell in love. Next time I’ll try them with a better gel dye, like AmeriColor.
Get in the Spirit
Here are enough movies to get you through the month:
- All Lifetime and Hallmark original movies
- A Christmas Prince
- Christmas Inheritance (please don’t watch this)
- The Holiday
- A Christmas Story
- Home Alone
- Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
- The Muppet Christmas Carol
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- The Santa Clause
- I’ll Be Home for Christmas
- Love Actually
- White Christmas
These are Christmas movies?
- About a Boy
- Bridget Jones’s Diary