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The Garden Plot

The season of Christmastime is getting closer

The season of Christmas time is drawing very near and Christmas Eve is only a little more than a week away. The approaching days before Christmas are always filled with excitement and expectations as we look forward to all the events that lead up to Christmas. It is our hope that the season of Christmas will always be near and dear to all of you and be filled with memories of love, joy and peace!

Two of winters longest nights of the year

Two of the longest nights of the year will be with us in only a few days from now. On Wednesday, Dec. 21, we will experience the longest night of the year as winter begins. One bright spot of winter’s longest night is that for the next six months after this night, we will enjoy one minute of extra day light each evening. The second of longest nights in the minds of children occurs on the night of Christmas Eve which is Saturday, Dec. 24. To excited children, and also many parents, we can understand why this would be the longest night of the year!

Checking out legend of the Christmas apple

Apples have always been a part of Christmas treats and also of Christmas desserts and decorations. In Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, they decorate mantels, tables, and windows with apples and other fruits. Apples grow in almost every state in America. Their long shelf life paves the way for them to be an important part of many Christmas traditions and customs. One apple tradition says that if you check the apple tree on Christmas Day and the sun shines through it’s branches, the harvest of next season will be abundant.

Red Delicious apples make Santa decorations

Red Delicious apples are as red as Santa’s suit and here is how to make a Red Delicious “Santa” centerpiece for the coffee table or to give to kids and grand kids. For each Santa, you will need one Red Delicious apple, a bag of cotton candy which is available at must supermarkets, a pack of roley poley craft eyes, small Santa hats and orange and red M&M’s. Glue the eyes on the apple, glue a red M&M for the mouth and an orange M&M for the nose. Use cotton candy or real cotton to form a nose, beard and moustache and for around the middle of the apple. Make a hat with a piece of red felt or purchase small Santa hat at a craft shop. Place the Santa in a foil pie pan. Circle it with greenery and several small candy canes and Christmas Hershey’s kisses.

Making a colorful Christmas Waldorf salad

Apples and Waldorf salad go together like peaches and cream. The apples that add tartness to Waldorf salad are McIntosh apples peeled and cubed into half inch cubes stirred into two teaspoons of lemon juice and three teaspoons of sugar. Add one jar of drained red maraschino cherries and one jar of green maraschino cherries, cut the cherries into halves, one can Bartlett pears cut into cubes, one can mixed fruits, one can fruit cocktail, drained. Mix all fruits together and add one three ounce box of Jello instant vanilla pudding mix, one teaspoon vanilla extract, one teaspoon apple pie spices, one tub of Cool Whip and fold into the fruit mixture. Keep refrigerated.

A journey back to the old general store

On the top of the hill from grandma’s Northampton County house, there was a general store that had a post office with a row of mailboxes in it and a fish market that was open all day each Friday. Fish and oysters were delivered fresh from the coast. One person cleaned the fish as they were ordered, wrapped them in sheets of newspapers and placed them in a bag. Collard greens, sweet potatoes and other produce were displayed outside the store. Fresh eggs, country hams, side meat, fatback meat, bacon slabs and fresh cut meats. There were cloth bags of flour and cornmeal in twenty five pound bags. A soda pop cooler featured bottles of soda for a nickel. A candy counter was there with a large selection to choose from. The outside parking in front of the store was not paved or covered with gravel but completely covered with pop bottle caps. We remember the ordeal of walking on them with bare feet in the summer months. This type of store is a vanishing breed but still survives today if you search a bit to discover them. We are fortunate to have some in our area including Main Street Mount Airy, Virginia Produce in Cana, Virginia, Mast General Store on Trade Street in Winston-Salem and Ronnie’s Country Store on Cherry Street in Winston-Salem. John Brown’s Country Store in King. All these vintage stores feature many special Christmas treats at Christmas with old fashioned candies, fruit cakes, hams, special items available to stir up Christmas cravings.

Searching for the spirit of Santa Clause

While growing up in eastern North Carolina in the 1950’s, many events at Christmastime centered around a small Baptist Church. We took part in kids Christmas plays and Sunday School parties and get-togethers. The highlight of the Christmas celebration was on the Sunday night before Christmas when the Adult Christmas pageant was presented. As a “grand finale”, Santa would appear and pass out treat bags of goodies to kids and adults. The Men’s Brotherhood was always responsible for seeing to it that Santa was there. On this event, the would be Santa had the flu. This presented a huge problem for the Men’s Brotherhood and they turned to my father for a solution. Dad pondered the situation, and my mother suggested that he ask uncle Jesse if he would be “Santa” for us. Uncle Jesse consented to be our “Santa”. Uncle Jesse loved kids but he had no kids of his own. Uncle Jesse was not a member of our church. At that time, he was known take a little “toddy for the body.” On the night of the pageant, he was red-faced and jolly so he made a great Santa. The other Baptist down the street was also having their Christmas event. Uncle Jesse dressed in his Santa suit and was driving his 1953 Plymouth down by the other church, windows down and shouting. “Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas.” That congregation thought he was their Santa, but he drove right on by still shouting “Merry Christmas Ho, Ho.” Uncle Jesse (Santa) arrived at the church and walked in with the same “Ho Ho, Ho.” All the kids thought, “Surely he’s the real Santa we’ve never heard that voice before!” If they had gotten a little closer, they would have smelled Christmas “toddy” and a “nip” in the Christmas air. “Santa” passed out treat bags and left the church with several” Ho, Ho, Ho’s.” Uncle Jesse died at Christmas time in 1988. Inside his hospital room was a small decorated Christmas tree placed there by my mother.

Christmas tree memories: The perfect tree

Picking just the right Christmas tree was always an important task each year. As my brothers and I grow up in eastern North Carolina. We romped and fished along the Roanoke River! After Halloween, our thoughts turned toward Christmas. We would search the paths and trails along the river and seek out what we thought was the perfect tree. After a long and exhaustive search, we found a beautiful red-heart cedar. We marked it so we would know its location. When the time came to cut it in mid-December, we cut the tree and brought it home. It was definitely not perfect, because we discovered it had two tops on it. My mother knew just what to do to solve the problem, she took a roll of black tape and rolled it around the twin tops and placed a star in the tree to top it off.

Candles are a huge part of Christmas decor

At grandma’s backwoods home in Northampton County, there was no electricity, no running water or indoor plumbing. At Christmastime the house had the smell of candles, oil lamps and burning wood. The house glowed with light from oil lamps and candles in every room. The Christmas tree glowed, not with lights but but with holly with red berries, mistletoe with white berries, strings of popcorn, popcorn balls, long leaf pine cones, running cedar and paper chains. Candles glowed in the living room, but strangely enough no candles were on the kitchen table. We always thought it was because there would be so many relatives around the table, the lighted candles would always be a hazard. For memories of an old-fashioned Christmas, we like to light a few candles, especially votive candles and enjoy the glow and smell from them.

Making country egg nog at Christmastime

At Christmas, our uncles at grandmas house would always make a bucket of egg nog on Christmas Day. They used fresh eggs from grandmas hen house. The finished product was always golden yellow as a result of the fresh eggs. They had their own special recipe that included two and a half dozen beaten eggs, one and a half gallons of milk, four cups of sugar, three teaspoons of real vanilla, two teaspoons of nutmeg, two teaspoons of cinnamon, one teaspoon of cloves and four teaspoons of rum flavoring. The uncles always used plenty of real rum!

Christmas hard mix triggers childhood memories

One of the great memories of Christmas past and present is the Christmas hard and filled mixes of fruity, spicy and peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen. Each piece tastes like Christmas of long ago. Brach’s still produces this special treat every Christmas. This special mix can be purchased at many country stores and produce markets in our area. It is there and displayed in five gallon wooden kegs that you can scoop out and bag yourself.

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