The Magic of Christmas

From Bucks County, Pennsylvania
By Carrie J. Gamble

At Christmastime ever since I can remember I feel the “Magic of Christmas.” I am not sure whether this was something born in me or if it is something learned with experience from my mother and grandmother. Whatever the case, it is “something!” No matter what the circumstances of my life, good or bad, every year this feeling comes back to me. It is difficult to describe ~ and in some ways as unexplainable as the feeling of falling in love. For me I guess it boils down to the feeling as if anything is possible. The feeling as if your wildest, most romantic dreams could come true!

In 1988 when my grandmother was in her late seventies, I asked her to write down some of her thoughts and memories about Christmas. She wrote, “This time of year is so special, there is something mystic in the air. Everyone seems to be filled with a feeling of expectation. Love and joy seem in the air. You think of your loved ones and want to be with them. People smile at you and you feel it too. Not only at Christmas but somehow the whole year through, the joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you!”

The following is a story my grandmother wrote about her childhood memories: “A Christmas Remembered ~ December 25, 1918 ~ 9 years old”

Christmas when I was a little girl was so different than it is now. Not having radio or television everything was pictured in my imagination, which was very vivid. It starts with the last day of school. I went to a one room little stone school house with eight grades and one teacher. We had our Christmas program in the afternoon. Then wonder of wonders, we heard sleigh bells and Santa Claus suddenly came bounding through the door with his big pack! He presented each child with a ½ pound of chocolates which I took home to my brothers with much pride.

When mother put us to bed that night we were so full of delicious anticipation of what tomorrow would bring that it took us a long time to fall asleep. At this time I had three brothers. We all slept in a room above the kitchen, as we had no central heat and it was warm there.

In the morning we crept down the stairs and there was the Christmas tree ~ so beautiful in our eyes. It was a cedar tree that mother had cut down from the woods. It had a silver steeple on top and I particularly remember a beautiful red and gold slipper and a sail boat all covered with gold wire. All of the lit small candles in their holders made it look magical! Beside the tree was a sled, our first “American Flyer.” We had so much fun with it that winter. It seemed we had much more snow in those years.

Then there were all of the special goodies under the tree ~ oranges, nuts, dates, figs, candy ~ all special at Christmastime. Before we went to bed that night, mother would light all of the little candles on the tree. We would stand before it and in German sing, “Silent Night.” “Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . .” My father had a wonderful tenor voice and the feeling of reverence for this special day stayed with me always. Until this day when I smell candle wax I am transported to those childhood Christmas' and the feeling of mystery and expectation we all had.

Below is a family favorite recipe. Nut and Poppyseed Roll is a Hungarian bread my grandmother always made as a special treat for Christmas. It tastes extra delicious with a cup of coffee on Christmas morning as you sit by the Christmas tree! Try making it for your family and let me know what they think!

Nut and Poppyseed Roll

  1. Nut Filling: Take 1 cup ground pecans, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup chopped dates. Put into a saucepan and cook over a low heat until thick. Cool. Fold in one whipped egg white.
  2. Poppyseed Filling: For the poppyseed roll I use a jar of poppyseed filling. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup each chopped raisins and nuts.
  3. Take 1 cup scaled milk, 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 packages yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water and 2 beaten eggs. Mix all ingredients together. Add about 6 cups flour. Mix well. This is a very soft dough. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. The next day divide the dough into two portions. Knead each piece well. Roll each piece into a 9” x 15” sheet. Spread with filling and roll up like a jelly roll. Place on a well greased cookie sheet. Brush the top with a beaten egg yolk mixed with a little milk. Sprinkle with sugar. Let rise in a warm place until double. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.


Carrie J. Gamble is co-author, editor and publisher of Grandmother's Cookbook, a collection of recipes, treasured memories, wildflower watercolors and feelings from the heart.

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