I think I may have been a little too relaxed about Christmas this year.
Mid-way through present opening on Christmas morning, I realized that I’d failed to wrap and place under the tree my favorite and most personal gift for my husband. I ran into the bedroom to retrieve it from its hiding spot and handed him the cardboard flat that the artist had tied simply with a strand of orange yarn. He’s used to my lack of sentimentality; this wasn’t the first unwrapped gift he’s received from me.
Two days after Christmas, while cleaning house, I came upon a gift I’d purchased for my oldest daughter – intended to be a stocking stuffer. I unceremoniously handed her the shipping box with an apology. She seemed a little taken aback; this gift would have been appreciated more had she pulled it out of her stocking on Christmas morning.
Four days after Christmas, I remembered that I’d planned to make Fruitcake Bars to send to my parents for the holidays. Last year when my parents joined us for Christmas, I tried a new recipe – Fruitcake Bars from David Lebovitz’ blog. Like me, my mother is a nut junkie and between us we polished off the entire pan in just a couple of days! All fall I was excited about surprising my mom with a box of Fruitcake Bars in the mail, but my casual approach to the holidays got the best of me.
In the United States, the Christmas season begins around Halloween and ends on December 25. In our neighborhood, so beautifully decorated in the days before Christmas, there were only half as many homes lit up on December 26 as there had been the night before. On a walk this morning, I saw half a dozen naked Christmas trees curbside, waiting to be picked up by the garbage collectors.
The traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas have been largely forgotten in the United States, where the public generally tends to equate the Christmas season with the Christmas shopping season and its attendant commercial marketing campaigns….The first day of Christmas actually terminates the Christmas marketing season for merchants, as shown by the number of “after-Christmas sales” that launch on 26 December. The commercial calendar has encouraged an erroneous assumption that the Twelve Days end on Christmas Day and must therefore begin on 14 December.
My younger daughters have been (very comically) trying to sing The Twelve Days of Christmas for the past two weeks (it’s hard to keep track of all of those lords and ladies and maids and fowl). In Christian tradition, however, the twelve days of Christmas begin on December 25.
This means that my post-Christmas gift giving, baking, and card writing is legitimately within the Christmas season. No more guilt about what I haven’t done, because in writing personal notes on the back of my holiday cards and carefully packing up cookies to be mailed, I’m extending the love and joy of the season!
If you’d like to celebrate the real twelve days of Christmas and surprise and delight your friends and family with a treat, I suggest you try this recipe that I’ve renamed Fruitcake for People Who Hate Fruitcake. It exceptionally easy, just follow my steps below. You’ll find the complete recipe, along with David Lebovitz’ delightful narrative, here.
First, lightly toast and coarsely chop a couple cups of nuts. I prefer a mix of walnuts, almonds, and pecans.
Next coarsely chop dates and other dried fruit. I used dried cherries.
Mix the nuts and fruit with the dry ingredients (flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) until coated.
In a separate bowl beat an egg and vanilla. These are the only wet ingredients – there is no butter or oil – and it doesn’t look like much for all of the nuts and fruit, but it will come together in a most delicious batter!
Stir everything together until the mixture is glistening.
Pour into an ungreased, foil-lined pan and pat flat with wet hands.
Bake, cool, and cut into bars that are so delicious you’ll have to stop yourself from snacking so that you can share. (Or double the recipe like I did!)