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-- Destiny Yarbro, College Student
What Does The Holiday Spirit
Feel Like Abroad?
by Nathalie V. Fairbanks
The year-end holidays carry a
particular "flavor" with them, one that affects all senses: traditional holiday
dishes, Christmas carols (in my tradition), decorations, the Christmas tree,
smells of cinnamon and home-baked cookies, and velvety decorations all around.
If there's one thing that I am very attached to, it's Christmas
tradition. I remember the first time I spent Christmas with my husband's family
in the United States--what a culture shock! I thought I was pretty familiar with
American culture after living in New York City for six years. Well, I found
myself completely disoriented and feeling out of place because everything felt
so foreign and "wrong."
So if you are in a foreign country over the holidays, make it
easy on yourself and bring just one little reminder from home, something that
embodies the spirit of the holiday for you. Then dive into what your host
country has to offer!
If you're celebrating at home but would like to get a taste of how your new
country does celebrate the holidays, I'd recommend you do three things:
1. Try a holiday recipe
2. Listen to a holiday CD
3. Participate in a holiday ritual (go to Midnight Mass, light
Hanukkah candles, etc.)
Let's focus on #1 today. I want to share my very favorite kind
of cookie recipe with you.
HaselnuŖplštzchen (Hazelnut cookies)
- 250 g sugar (250 g is about 1 cup, or half a pound)
- 250 g butter
- 250 g ground hazelnuts (filberts)
- 250 g all purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup apricot or raspberry jam
In a mixing bowl, mix together butter and sugar. Add the egg. Then add the
hazelnut meal and the flour. Knead it into a compact dough, then let it cool in
the fridge for 1-2 hours. If the dough isn't cold enough when you cut out the
cookies, they end up melting in the oven, and that's no fun! (Can you tell I've
done that?) So make sure that the dough is nice and cold before you start
rolling it out on your counter.
Cut bite-size round shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake them for 15 minutes at 175
- 195 degrees Celsius (that's 350 - 385 degrees Fahrenheit). They should be dark
brown. The darker they are, the stronger the nutty flavor, but there's a fine
line between dark and burned. Let them cool off on a cooling rack.
Optional: dip one side of each cookie in a plate of sugar while they're still
hot. The sugar will stick to the "outside" of the cookie.
Once they're cooled off, spread a layer of jam on half of the cookies and stick
the other half on to make a little sandwich.
A little cultural side-story: In Germany, we use a lot of hazelnuts and almonds
in our baking. They're as common as peanuts are in the U.S. In fact, I remember
how at one of the first Christmas parties I attended in South Carolina, I
reached for a chocolate-covered cookie that looked enticing. What a shock to my
senses to discover upon my first bite that it had a peanut butter filling! I do
like peanuts, but I had never connected Christmas with peanuts before and it
might take me another twenty years to make that connection. :)
If you're not into baking, you can get some of the German
Christmas cookies online or at specialty stores. Trader Joe's carries my
favorite kind, Lebkuchen, which is a type of ginger cookie covered with
chocolate or sugar glaze. Here are a few pictures for your cookie orientation,
and a few places to get them!
My Mom always made sure that all the cookies were ready by
December 6th, which is "Nikolaustag" or St. Nicholas Day. Typically to celebrate
this, on the evening of December 5th children set their shoes outside the window
or by the door. If they have been good, Nikolaus stops by to fill their shoes
with nuts, oranges and little presents. I don't need to tell you that I was
always very excited on Nikolaustag!
Hopefully, you've been a good girl or boy this year and can
expect some treats in your shoes on the morning of the 6th of December!
© 2008 Nathalie V. Fairbanks
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