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Quinn on Nutrition: Christmas traditions

December 26, 2016

It will be a holiday in the Heartland this year ó where Nativity scenes outnumber Mickey and Goofy at least three to one. And it will for sure be a white Christmas. I like that.

I get sentimental this time of year. Holidays bring up memories of those no longer here. And at the same time, Iím reminded of the wonder and joy available with each new season. Who would have guessed two years ago, for example, that putting together a simple gingerbread house with my first grandchild would now become a yearly tradition? At age four, Frances now places the candy decorations on her frosting-covered house with amazing accuracy. Logan at age two is still a rookie. But he has figured out that the sweets on his house transfer very easily into his mouth when Grammy isnít looking.

According to my research, gingerbread houses began their tradition in Germany when the Brothers Grimm published a fairy tale about Hansel and Gretel. Lost in the forest, these children came upon a house made of bread and trimmed with sugarÖjust what hungry kids need, right?

Soon after this story emerged, German bakers began to make spiced ginger cakes called lebkuchen into sugar-decorated houses that were particularly popular at Christmas. 

Admittedly, thereís much more sugar in gingerbread than ginger ó an aromatic plant valued for its medicinal powers, according to the National Institutes of Health Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (www.nccih.nih.gov). Scientific studies suggest that ginger may help relieve nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. Researchers also believe ginger ó when used in addition to anti-nausea medications ó may help to control the stomach queasiness that may accompany cancer treatments.

Candy canes supposedly made their way into Christmas tradition by way of a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany. In 1670, according to an article in Christianity Today, said choir director handed out white sticks of sugar candy to fidgety kids he hoped to subdue for a live Nativity scene. Not sure if this was successful but it helped make candy canes a Christmas tradition. German immigrants brought the sugar canes to America where they eventually received red stripes and peppermint flavoring. 

Egg nog, my favorite "Enjoy! Itís Christmas!" indulgence, appears to be an adaptation of sugar, cream and milk-based drinks that the English often enjoyed with added rum, brandy or whiskey for cold winter nights. (Did I mention Iím having a white Christmas?) Itís a long-held tradition in our family to share a glass of eggnog sprinkled with nutmeg when we get home from Christmas Eve candlelight service.

So this Christmas, as I steep hot tea in the china teapot lovingly painted by my mom many years ago and sip from the colorful cup given to me by a dear friend, I will remember those whose connections have made my holiday seasons special. 

And when we get home from Christmas Eve candlelight service this year, we will surely have a glass of eggnog with nutmeg sprinkled on top. 

May your Christmas be full of joyful memories and traditions as well.

 

 





 



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