I like to think that we all have our own Christmas traditions. And while that may not be true for everyone (indeed, Christmas is not even celebrated by many), Ivan and I certainly grew up with our own. This Christmas, after thirty years of spending the holiday with our families, we spent the day on our own. In the absence of the traditions we fulfilled with our families, we tried to create some of our very own.
We decorated our apartment and lit the tree every night leading up to Christmas. We listened to holiday music and got the dogs winter collars. We created our Christmas cards and visited the trees in Manhattan (Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center). I prepared different cookies* to share with neighbors (and to share with the dogs). On Christmas Eve, I made homemade eggnog for the first time†. Finally, on Christmas Day, Ivan and I had a leisurely breakfast, took care of Ajax and Babe, then sat down to open our presents together.
We were both missing our parents and grandparents and hordes of nieces and nephews. I was missing Christmas at my grandparents’ house where A Christmas Story played in the background and we enjoyed great food and company while watching the grandkids (that is, my niece and nephew) play with their new toys. Ivan was missing Christmas at his mom’s house where we traditionally took turns opening gifts after guessing what each might be, then enjoying a delectable buffet-style meal with his sisters and their families.
Even without the usual comforts of routine and tradition, having each other and being together on Christmas this year made it a wonderful and special occasion.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed your own traditions this year!
*Rum Balls Recipe: Adapted from My Baking Addiction
What you need:
3 cups crushed vanilla wafers (one 11-12 oz. box)
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup spiced rum
What to do:
- Save yourself a truly massive headache and crush the vanilla wafers in a food processor (if you have one). In a large bowl, stir together the crushed vanilla wafers, 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, and nuts. Drizzle in vanilla, corn syrup and rum. The dough should be tacky.
- Scoop and shape into 1 inch balls. I created slightly smaller rounds (roughly ½-¾ inch) because I wanted to share them with more people.
- Roll Rum Balls in additional confectioners’ sugar or cocoa. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days to develop the flavor.
† Eggnog Recipe (Partially Cooked): Adapted from Alton Brown
What you need:
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces rum
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus additional for garnish
4 egg whites
What to do:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine the milk, heavy cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum and set in the refrigerator to chill (at least four hours).
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the mixer running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the chilled mixture into the egg whites. Sprinkle additional nutmeg on each serving (optional).