Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Memories & Giveaway Winner

In our last post, we offered a giveaway of 2 lbs of coffee from Carolina Coffee Roasting, and a delicious tin of cookies from Simply Scrumptious. And now, we announce our winner... chosen by a random number generator...  Chris Ferguson, Art Director at Pace Communications! Congratulations!
Thank you to everyone who entered! We enjoyed reading about your holiday traditions & memories so much, we just had to share them with everyone. Here are a few of our favorites.

Happy Holidays & Best Wishes for the New Year!
- Mark

From our winner, Chris Ferguson:
One of my favorite holiday treats is something my wife makes (passed down from her mother): Crème de Menthe bars!

From Banu Valladares:
I don’t drink coffee or eat cookies (I have dairy and gluten allergies) but love the smells of those two, particularly in the holiday season. In Venezuela, we didn’t bake. I was introduced to the joy of holiday cookie eating and later baking after I married Jay. His mom made a fantastic “monkey bread” – carrot bread that she’d bake in a tin can…. It was the most fantastic thing in the world – moist, sweet…. And then, a stay-at-home neighbor who baked and gifted sparked the spirit in me.

In Venezuela, we make a traditional meal starting in early December – hallacas. They’re like tamales, but wrapped in banana tree leaves and stuffed with a stew made with chicken, pork and beef, as well as raisins, almonds, pickled veggies, bacon…. We made hundreds of these that we’d eat throughout the month until the day the kings arrived (Epiphany in January).

Making hallacas was a family affair. The elders took care of the guizo (stew) and making the dough. These required huge bats. I remember my grandma sticking her arm all the way to her elbow in a bat to knead the white corn dough mixed with annatto and oil for these. The youngest kids were responsible for “curing” the banana tree leaves – using the same combination of annatto and oil to clean and soften them so they could be pliable enough to wrap. The grown ups would then add a bit of dough to each cured leaf, flatten it and add the stew. The little ones could then add little bits of all the other ingredients and, as they got older, wrap the hallaca, reinforce it with a faja (a thin strip of leaf  where there might be a tear to keep the stuffing from falling out) and tie them the way you wrap a Christmas gift except crossing over twice. Then, the elders would boil them twice and stuff the bottom shelves of our refrigerator as well as the drawers until they were all gone.

We never tired of eating hallacas, maybe because of the time we spent together making them, maybe because we only ate them in December while the gaitas and aguinaldos played all day and the fireworks lit up the nights.

From Terri Beam:
Every year since I can remember, my family has attended the Moravian Love Feast service in the afternoon around 4:00 on Christmas Eve. We have visited more than one particular Moravian Church over the years. Many times our church selection was driven by friends or family that may help serve and present the unique services of the Love Feast or by those that sing in the choir, as my only surviving Aunt does now. The service is beautiful, touching and invites much congregation involvement.

Regardless of your religious preferences, everyone is invited to attend these worship services all over the city of Winston-Salem, in what seems like every Moravian church (of which there are many.)  Yes, the minister/pastor delivers a sermon, the choir sings Christmas anthems, but the congregation practically guides the service in their participation in sharing and receiving a cup of hot coffee in a hefty mug, a delicious Moravian Love Feast bun (baked by Old Salem, Dewey's or local food artisans) and a lighted candle to be held high in exultation of Jesus Christ's' birth at the very end of the service. There is an adult choir, a hand bell choir and a children's choir, all of which deliver sweet hymns that bring Christmas into my heart every year.  There is something very special about entering that church, sitting with my family, waving to friends, trying to get my aunt to laugh out loud while she sits and faces the entire congregation that brings merriment to my heart.
It is usually tough to stifle a laugh more than once as my Mother and I sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" since we have our own way of raising our voices at offbeat times. When the buns and coffee are received by all the congregation and choir, we must all sit quietly and wait until the minister takes his first bite or sip and then we may begin our Love feast portion of food. Several people choose to balance their bun on top of their coffee mug to keep their coffee warm prior to partaking of the tasty meal.  My boys and I always smile as we wait for buns to topple down the aisle with one sneeze or cough! Miss Mannerly, that my Mother is, usually comments on how one or another person is eating their bun "incorrectly" or started eating prior to the minister's signal to begin.  Oh my gosh, another opportunity for me and my sister to laugh and shake the row of seats in doing so. Mother's will be Mother's but church will never be church without a little bit of laughter from MY family!

I have lived out of state several times, once in Boston and another in Chicago, but I always came home for Christmas and attend the Love Feast service with my family as Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the Moravian Love Feast and I will cherish all my memories there for the rest of my life.

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