Christmas trees everywhere! Or at least it seems like that. Each year, it seems that people start to get ready for Christmas earlier than the previous year. I wonder if that’s true or if it’s just my impression. All I know is that the major shopping centers, malls and department stores here in Oslo have had their Christmas decorations up since mid-November. I can understand the attraction, actually. It’s such a nice time of year, such a warm season in all respects, so why not start to prepare for it already in November? It’s not just about buying gifts; it’s about the experience of preparing for Christmas, and it seems that others feel the same way. It’s fun to go to the mall stores and people-watch; people are busy and preoccupied, but it’s not a stressful feeling. Store salespeople are very friendly and charming; of course they want to sell you something, but I do get the feeling that they are in the spirit as well. ‘Be of good cheer’. It seems that most people are this year. I am as well.
We are putting up our Christmas tree next weekend. In the meantime, I am decorating the house for the holidays, wrapping gifts, making lists and ‘checking them twice’ (actually much more than twice), writing Christmas cards (I still like writing my own cards and mailing them, even though I do send more e-cards now). There’s something about making myself a cup of gløgg, a warm spiced drink with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger to which you can add raisins, slivered almonds, and red wine or strong liquor (it is in fact called mulled wine, although I drink it without the wine), and sitting down to write cards. For those of you who want to know more about gløgg, I refer you to this link that has a recipe for it: http://goscandinavia.about.com/od/restaurantsdining/r/gloggrecipe.htm. I usually buy gløgg ready-made as a concentrate, add water to it and heat it until it is warm.
I will be making and freezing gingerbread dough this week for cookies; making gingerbread cookies (‘pepperkaker’ in Norwegian) is a tradition that my stepdaughter and I try to maintain each year. I also want to make molasses spice cookies this year, and I think it would be fun one year to make a plum pudding, which was one of the Christmas desserts that I grew up with. If I have time this year, I will try it, as I have a good recipe for it. My mother served it each year (it was imported from England and we usually bought it at Macy’s department store) accompanied by a rum-flavored white sauce. We also grew up with panettone, an Italian sweet cake made with candied orange, citron, and lemon zest, as well as raisins; it too was bought at Macy’s. How I used to love shopping there at Christmastime! Here in Oslo, I can find both at the Glasmagasinet department store, as well as at the more high-end delicatessens that import a lot of different goods from other European countries. So yes, I am looking forward to the culinary journeys that await us, the traditions that define Christmas for me (an interesting blend of American, Italian, English, and Norwegian/Scandinavian), and the time to truly enjoy the season. And finally, I recommend checking out an online Advent calendar that is just a treat for children and adults alike—the Edwardian Advent Calendar. You’ll find it here at http://www.jacquielawson.com/gift-shop. Enjoy!