I'm exciting to participate in a community of bloggers who are bringing readers Countdown to Christmas posts all month long. Please check out the other posts over at twitter or Facebook. (#countdown2xmas)
The first time I had an official holiday cooking day, I went to my friend Esther’s. Newly married and living in a town without family.
Esther had a Mexican heritage. She often called me Chica. One of those people who’s spent their life immersed in two cultures. She includes Spanish words in her English sentences with ease.
What a fun day laboring in the kitchen! I brought the ingredients for some of my recipes and Esther shared hers with me.
We made Mexican Wedding Cakes. A new cookie to me. A dense mixture of sugar, flour and pecans rolled in powdered sugar. If you eat one of these fresh out of the oven... well, you won’t eat just one. And you’ll cry for coffee. Milk. Something to wash down the rich goodness.
A few years later, we’d moved to a new town. Es had moved to a new country. Halfway around the world. This particular year, I met up with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her mother-in-law (follow all that?) to do cookies.
I shared with them how excited I was to make this ethnic treat with them. Mexican Wedding Cookies. I told them all the ingredients. And my mother-in-law said,
“Oh, those are Russian Tea Cakes.”
She showed me her recipe card and sure enough, with the exception of a few variations in measurement, we made the same cookie. Different name.
It’s become a running joke in our family during the holidays. This year, will we make Mexican Wedding Cakes or Russian Tea Cakes? Such a hard decision!
This year, I decided to look up the history of this cookie. On wikipedia. Internet master of information. Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes, Italian wedding cookies, butterballs, snowball cookies. All one and the same.
Wikipedia offers a brief history on the cookie:
A reason for the common name "Russian Tea Cake" or any connection to Russian cuisine is unknown.Some have speculated the recipes either derived from other Eastern European shortbread cookies, may have migrated to Mexico with European nuns... By the 20th century, they were a part of wedding and Christmas traditions in the U.S., known by their popular "Russian tea cake" or "Mexican wedding cake" name.
So, there you go. No matter what you call them, they are delicious and will leave you calling for a drink!
And according to “Joy of Cooking,” cookbook master of recipes, here’s how you make them:
Yesterday, the regulars at church gave up their seats. I noticed it as I looked around the room before the service started. Familiar faces in unfamiliar places.
Our kids served as worship leaders. Like they always do one Sunday a year during the holiday season. Dressed in their Sunday best. Nay, more than their Sunday best because our church dresses casual. Wearing their VERY best.
Friends and family come to our church on this special day. Some miss attending their own regular church to see their loved ones in the program. Others don’t normally attend church at all. But for the kids.
We roll out the red carpet. Pray the guests feel welcome. Because this is God’s house. We are the church. And all should feel welcome.
Cameras flashing. Parents sitting momentarily on the floor to get the best shot. Here’s an insider’s take on what to watch for when you’re fortunate enough to sit in on a kid’s Christmas program.
The newest participants.
Our church invites children to start participating in the program when they turn four years old. Whether these kids are yours or not, watch them. This year:
The little diva front row left. I asked her at practice what color her dress would be for the play. She replied, “Pink!” As in duh, what other color would a princess wear? Red and green are totally not my colors.
The boys! Actually, one surprised me this year. He stood still and knew almost all the motions. Then a handful of others did not disappoint. One wore his Happy Birthday Jesus hat on his face. A couple rarely took their hands out of their pockets. And one little boy, there is always at least one, fled off the stage after just a couple songs. His sister quickly rushed after him, until mom and dad assured her he’d be fine.
These youngsters will likely be the restless children as well. Look for them to leave the stage only to come back a few songs later. Or maybe they just need to sit and rest for a song or two...
The oldest participants.
Hats off to them. They’ve been performing this gig a long time. In our church, fourth and fifth graders are rewarded with solos and speaking parts if they want them. Special recognition for all their years of service.
For the most part, the girls embrace this honor. Although a bit nervous (because they are after all just months away from middle school awkwardness) they enjoy the bigger role they’ve waited for all these years.
But again, watch the boys. With only a few exceptions, the boys have either gone missing because they convinced their parents to let them sit this one out or they cannot make themselves do all the motions. They kind of halfway participate.
Also, every year, our church seems to have those few kids who’ve had major growth spurts. Always a child or two who stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Your own participant.
Who are we kidding? After a quick glance over the whole group, we hone in on our own. And you better believe they are looking for you. The very first thing these kids do is scan the crowd for mom and dad. Who, remember, have conceded their regular seat to either 1) get a closer one for photo opps 2) find a row with enough empty seats to accommodate all their guests or 3) show kindness to the parents of younger children who need a spot up front should their little one be the child who makes a run for it.
I recorded one of the songs for my mom who lives out of town. Focused in on our cutie most of the time.
God at work.
These kids sing their heart out. For Jesus. Every year, the church shows itself healthy and full of hope for the future. But we will lose some of them. The world has a mighty voice and it can quickly squelch the quiet whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Pray that some of what we’re teaching these kids helps them develop their own relationship with our Father.
Pray also for those in the crowd who just came for the kids. Many a wandering soul has been touched in a church service. Or by the innocent faith of a child.
I felt led to minister to the young lady sitting behind me who didn’t participate yesterday. She had a solo and several speaking parts in the program. On Saturday at practice she had performed with confidence and dramatic flair. But panic set in. There are a lot of faces in that crowd! I gave her a one-sided hug (she wasn’t sure she was ready to hug back) and told her I’d seen her deliver her best. And He had too!
Finally, a gal in our church stood up at the end of the service to give us a few updates. One of the ladies who’d given up her regular “assigned” seat that particular Sunday. Her kids have graduated from performing in the kids’ program.
She told us about the family in the row in front of her who’d looked for their children on stage. The children also looked for them. She got to witness the moment of connection. And the love shared in that very moment.
This sister of ours, in Christ, shared that she’d never had the opportunity to be in a church Christmas program as a child. They didn’t attend church. Isn’t it just like God to give her the blessing of seeing her church family enjoy these moments together for years to come?
I'm participating in "Five Minute Friday" over at katemotaung.com today. For five minutes, bloggers are encouraged to "free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation."
The writing prompt this week is PREPARE.
I am coming up on my first anniversary as a blogger. As I fully suspected, nothing could have prepared me for this online journey. For me, writing is the thing. I've always hesitated to call myself a writer. But God and I have worked on that in the past year.
Blogging requires so much more than just good writing though. Envision it as a pyramid. Writing sits up there, all mighty and important, on the top.
Below that, though, you see marketing. First, to your friends and family. Then, to strangers turned friends on social networks. Most recently, in blogging network groups. Good for ideas and support.
Consistency sits right there by marketing. Posting on a regular basis. Reading other blogs and commenting on them. Keeping your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts active. #traffic
Below that, you have a dozen other to-dos. Learn to take better pictures (see my attempts at the beginning of this post). Find companies to work with to promote events, causes and products. Keeping in mind your targeted audience. Figure out who actually lands in your target market. Follow the latest trends to see how you can upgrade the look of your blog. Always be on the lookout for great content.
I have enjoyed being a voice in the blogging world. Prepare to see me here for a long while!