For me, Christmas is a time of traditions; food, cakes, decorations, things we do – lots of traditions small and not-so-small. I always liked these traditions, and I find that I enjoy passing them on to my kid. There’something about having the same decoration up, or throwing the same party, or making the same cookies, year after year, that feels good. And it’s fun to see how early kids start to recognize this and enjoy it – even (or maybe in particular?) in a household where few things are “by the book”.
One of the traditions that kicks off the season is the advent calendar. They can be really simple – a piece of decorated cardboard with cut-outs you can open and find a picture ore similar each day, or they can be really elaborate. with wrapped presents, one for each of the days 1-24 December.
This year, ours look like this:
As a kid, I had an advent calendar with presents. Small things – a couple of pens, a few Legos, etc – but the excitement from waking up each day and rushing to see what was there was more about the warm feeling of a present each day than what was actually there. I get the same with my kid, even if our presents are more elaborate than what I had then. The advent calendar has grown to be an important item in her Christmas.
Happily, it’s fun to make, and it’s fun to have the little ceremony of opening presens each morning. In not-so-many-years it will be of no interest to her anymore, so I’m going to enjoy as much as I can while I have the chance. Not that the advent calendars ever goes away entirely if I can help it; I one for my wife, too, but with a present for each of the four Sundays of Advent.
Pebernødder (pepper nuts) is a traditional Danish Christmas cookie. It’s a small, crunchy, light cookie, slightly spicy. Like most things traditional, there’s lots of variation, but they usually involve cinnamon, ginger and pepper. Some like to make them hard (like real nuts), mine are more crispy.
In my famlly, pebbernødder is always the first cookie we do. We make a huge batch as the season is getting started, ready for the first seasonal get-together. The batch is made so that pebernødder can be a steady ingredient of family and social life all through December.
(pebernødder piled up for cooling)
Since pebernødder is the first cookie we do for the season, baking them is special. Baking is always fun, and a great way to spend time with kids. Baking Pebernødder involves a lot of simple, repeated tasks, easily done by kids – and the result is quick in coming, and tasty. In Denmark, winter is mostly dark and cold, and so we enjoy cozy, relaxed activities we can do together indoors – “hygge”, we call it. This is probably why we like the xmas season; it’s a chance to do a lot of things we like doing anyway.
Baking pebernødder is traditionally the first xmas thing we do, and it’s certainly fun and relaxed. You get to spend a lot of time together, talking, drinking tea, collaborating. And we get in the mood for all the other traditions coming up for the season. A nice time for the grownups, and kids love it.
(Done: 2 kg pebernødder. Xmas can begin)
(Update: recipe here)