It’s true I’m not a “winter” person, but there is something magical about having snow, and creating a cozy enchanting sanctuary during the Christmas season. I love the vibes created when making a fire, a pot of your favorite stew, fresh baked bread, some hot cocoa, tea, or spiced apple cider. Nighttime brings your favorite slippers, a hot bath, pajamas, and a good book or Netflix and chill. There is something so therapeutic about this experience.
I love cooking, whether it be winter or not. It doesn’t feel like a chore to me unless I am very tired. Cooking is the only art form that uses all five senses. I’ve always loved trying new recipes, learning how to make my favorite meals, and mastering the art of creating healing foods – broths, soups, stews, teas, juices. One of the only times of the year that I bake is at Christmas. This is when our family makes Christmas cookies, Swiss style. We turn on the Christmas music and get out our fancy cookie cutters called springerle to make beautiful Christmas art.
I’ve explored a variety of cookies over the years. We’ve done simple sugar cookies, butter cookies, chocolate chip, gingerbread, and chocolate shortbread. Then one year I decided to learn the art of springerle. Springerle are Swiss cookie cutter molds. The originals were made with wood and nowadays many are made with a strong resin. There are thousands of designs, all intricately carved scenes that you stamp onto your cookie dough creating a cookie scene vs. a cookie shape. Because my son is half Swiss this has become part of our family tradition. There are many different doughs that are considered traditional springerle dough, all of them are spiced, similar to gingerbread, but much lighter, no molasses is added to the mix.
Other Swiss traditions we keep in our family include following an advent calendar – it’s mostly for the children. They get to open a little window, which usually hides a small piece of chocolate inside. On December 6th, my son gets to put a boot outside the door to see if St. Nicholas is going to bring him some treats or Krampus will bring him coal. He has lucked out so far. Swiss Christmas celebration is practiced on December 24th, our Christmas eve. That is when presents are opened and a big family dinner is held. It is very likely that on December 24th or 25th a meal of raclette might be served with a variety of accoutrement. This is a meal of melted raclette cheese served with boiled potatoes, cut up vegetables and sometimes meat, often bacon. The Swiss will enjoy winter sports during the day such as skiing, snowboarding, iceskating, and sledding. Hiking is popular too. The most magical part of a Swiss Christmas is the tree. Instead of putting a string of lights on the tree, the Swiss have actual candles that are clipped to the tree and lit, as in real fire. It is so beautiful and slightly scary too. Every shop is decorated with beautiful romantic Christmas scenes. Switzerland in December becomes a real life fairy tale.
Wishing everyone wherever you are a wonderful, magical, cozy winter season. Aloha from Maui!