Visions of Sugar Plums

“…visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads….”
-Clement Clark Moore

It is the first week of December. Normally that would not be a sentence that would grab your attention. But with the mere mention of December, visions of sugar plums dance in our heads. Even if we are not quite sure what sugar plums are. Being the intrepid investigative reporter I am, I am going to reveal to you just what a sugar plum is, right after I look it up on the internet. Talk amongst yourselves for a minute, I will be back…..

Okay, I got a lot more information than I bargained for, so I will give you the definition of Sugar Plum in a nutshell. It is not a sugared plum. In fact the term has very little to do with the plum other than the fact that the first sugar plums were similar in size and shape to the fruit. I gleaned this information from an article written by Samira Kawash revealingly called “Sugar Plums: They’re Not What You Think They Are”. Kawash says that “the sugar plums of Christmas fantasy are in fact sugar” spun around a central seed of caraway or cardamom. The confections were popular in the 1800’s but have their origin in the 1600’s when the meaning was not sweet at all. If you had a mouthful of sugar plums a few centuries ago, you could be considered deceitful (meaning you spoke sweet words with a false heart).

Kawash likens the sugar plum to today’s jawbreaker, as the process of conjuring up the sweet treat is much the same, though certainly not as inspiring. When Clement Moore wrote “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, he used “sugar plum” to convey “the excitement, the pleasure, the childlike wonder of Christmas, all in the shape of a little sugar plum.” Kawash also explains that Tchaikovsky used the Sugar Plum to rule the Kingdom in the Nutcracker Ballet because it was the “universal signifier of everything sweet and delectable and lovely.”

Some of the other things that dance in my head at this time of year are not sweet and lovely: “to do” lists with unrealistic goals; stress derived from trying to find the perfect gift for everyone; and my eternal struggle with the turkey question: will I or won’t I take on the festive bird one more time.

I am learning, albeit slowly that the trimming of the “to do” list to essentials is vital to what is left of my mental health; that there is no truly perfect gift; and that a ham or prime rib stands in beautifully for my nemesis, the turkey.

Keeping the important traditions, while adding a few new is also what keeps Christmas from getting stale. I am thinking of moving my Charlie Brown Christmas tree from its usual corner to another spot this year—and depending on how loud the hue and outcry from my family is, I may just do that.

The original reason for the season is not lost during the preparations for gatherings of friends and family, but the warm feeling that comes from shared camaraderie is a wonderful and comforting thing during the winter days to come. I am ready to take on another Christmas season with visions of all that is “sweet and delectable and lovely.”

What are your “visions” for Christmas this year?

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Published in: on December 2, 2015 at 2:45 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I knew the origin of sugar plums, but can’t find out the link to Tchaikovsky. Hey ho. As for my vision for Christmas? To survive. It’s not a good time of year for me.

  2. I vowed to get my head out of the sand and enjoy this year the way my mom would want me to!

  3. I had no clue on sugar plums… now I know, thank you.
    Turkey nemesis! You crack me up. My visions are similar to yours (surprise) just get everything done in time.
    We do a pork loin for Christmas….and keep the rest of the meal a bit simpler.

  4. Thanks for the sugar plum fact…..I will use this tidbit of info this Christmas season to test guests as to the origin. We are at the cottage for Christmas this year which is a welcome change….I think we might BBQ!!!

  5. Well, our vision of Christmas may be a little different this year, whether our family likes it or not :). We have a relatively small house and therefore have to do Christmas dinner buffet style. By the time supper is done, there is not an inch of uncovered counter space in my kitchen, mostly because of the turkey platter and all the pots of veggies. Mike cooks the whole dinner (phew) and then I clean up, but he complains that I spend all my time in the kitchen and don’t visit with anyone. However, if anyone wants dessert, I have to do some dishes to make room. By the end of the day, I’m exhausted!! So, we are actually entertaining the idea of having something other than the full turkey dinner this year. We might do a lot of make ahead dishes like lasagna and cabbage rolls. I have also discovered some really good recipes lately for cranberry wild rice and mediterranean quinoa salad which can be made beforehand and put in the fridge. We could even cook a small turkey or ham a day or two before Christmas and serve it cold. It’s not a firm decision yet, but we are considering it. Anything to cut down on stress these days is a good idea to me :).

  6. Thanks for the history (and culinary) lesson. I had no idea. I wish you success in enjoying the loveliness of the holiday and avoiding the stress. Music, lights, friendship.
    and yes … turkey 🙂 At least in my families home!

    • the internet is just full of wonderful info. Wishing you the best holiday ever–enjoy your turkey while I enjoy my prime rib, or ham, or lamb–anything but turkey–which I love by the way–just hate cooking it!


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