It’s that time, ladies & gents. That time of year when parents try to kill themselves in toy stores to get the “IT” toy of the year and kids are running around overloaded on sugar from Christmas parties, and there’s piles of snow on the ground and your back aches from shoveling it all. Ahh, Christmas.
That being said, I really do enjoy this time of year. Specifically the delicious food and baked goods, the gifts , the pretty decorations and the shopping. Me not being a religious person, that’s how I roll. See? When you aren’t religious, you can be all about the gifts and no one says you’re going to hell or “missed the meaning of Christmas.” Oh no, wait. People tell me I’m going to hell anyway. Shit.
But I do love me a good tree. Anyway… pretty much everyone knows the Christian version of Christmas, but not a lot of people realize that it pre-dates Christianity, and that Christianity actually stole most of the elements of Christmas from pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice, and it has been said that it was also inspired by the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. In reality, according to actual time-lines, Jesus was probably born closer to March which was tax time in Israel, which is why Mary & Joseph were traveling during his birth. So if you believe in that sort of thing, Jesus’ birthday isn’t even in December, let alone on the 25th- it’s probably in March. Although there’s another theory that it was September, due to the shepherd’s tending the flocks. Christians stole the pagan timeline (and most of the traditions) so that they could celebrate without being persecuted, which means that there really isn’t any “Christ in Christmas” as it is celebrated now, in December. And if you want to be super technical? You can get into how the concept of a virgin birth happening on December 25th is ripped off from Mithra, and the birth being on the 25th of December itself is extremely common with a number of “gods”: Attis of Greece- c1200 BC, Krishna of India- c900 BC, Dionysus of Greece- c500 BC, Mithra of Persia- c1200 BC, Horus of Egypt- c3000 BC… and Jesus of Nazareth- 1 AD.
The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianisation of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship. The English language phrase “Christmas tree” is first recorded in 1835 and represents an importation from the German language. The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century. From Germany the custom was introduced to Britain, first via Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, and then more successfully by Prince Albert during the reign of Queen Victoria. By 1841 the Christmas tree had become even more widespread throughout Britain. By the 1870s, people in the United States had adopted the custom of putting up a Christmas tree. Christmas trees may be decorated with lights and ornaments.
Since the 19th century, the poinsettia, a native plant from Mexico, has been associated with Christmas. Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus. Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of a home may be decorated with these plants, along with garlands and evergreen foliage.
Anyway I’ll stop there to avoid getting bombarded with hate mail. I just wanted to clear that up, since I’ve been asked a lot “If you aren’t religious, why do you celebrate Christmas?” And contrary to popular belief, I am not a Grinch. I love Christmas. I love Christmas music. I love decorating. I love the lights. I love the baking and cooking. I love Starbucks peppermint hot cocoa in the red cups. I love the shopping. I don’t even mind the crowds, really. I love everything about it. Except the snow. I extremely dislike snow… sucks to be me, I guess, seeing as how I live in New York. But I’d rather live in NY and have snow on Christmas then go swimming in a bikini & sunscreen on Christmas, so I’ll deal with it. Speaking of snow, did you notice it’s snowing on the blog? And there’s a new seasonal header, too. Spiffy.
I did one of these posts for Halloween and another for Thanksgiving, so I figured hey, why not do it for Christmas!? So here we are: my top 5 Favorite Christmas Cupcakes. Of course, these are ones I made, not my top 5 favorite all over the web. I did a post like that a few years back for Cupcakes Take The Cake, if you’re interested you can still see it here. So grab some hot cocoa, hot mulled cider or some Old Fezziwig’s Ale and let’s get crackin’!
Nigella, oh Nigella. I made these cupcakes spur of the moment, mainly because I liked how Nigella called the pan a “bun muffin pan” in the recipe… and I decided to do little poinsettias on them at the last second, and they turned out so amazing. Beautiful, really. Everyone loved these, and the flowers aren’t that hard to make. Find the recipe & more here: Poinsettia (& Nigella) cupcakes.
These are so adorable. I just love the way they look, and the little snowman toppers with matching liners. These are just plain vanilla with vanilla buttercream, but the decorating makes them really special. A perfect example of the fact that a cupcake doesn’t have to be fancy flavored to make an impact. The great thing about these is they’re not just for Christmas, but the entire winter season. The candy coated sunflower seeds were a gift from Lyns, and you can find them here in blue, but they also have pink and yellow. The recipe can be found by clicking this link: Jack Frost cupcakes.
These babies are some of my favorites not only because they look gorgeous, but because they tasted fantastic as well. A wonderful chocolatey cake with a rich chocolate buttercream, and a light, peppermint-y meringue “ornament” (or cookie) on top all combined to make an awesome Christmas cupcake. You can get all the info and recipes here: Even cupcakes deserve ornaments at Christmas.
Another recipe/decorating combo that’s perfect not just for Christmas, but all winter long. Great for a winter birthday or a Winter Solstice celebration as well. These coconut cupcakes are Ina Garten’s recipe, but I left out her cream cheese frosting and made a coconut-flavored buttercream, and topped it with dyed coconut. This is one amazing cupcake recipe, trust me, despite the fact (and probably because of the fact) that the cake + the frosting combined calls for over a pound of butter. The recipes for both the frosting and cakes are at this link: “Let it Snow” coconut cupcakes.
And last, but certainly not least, one of the most requested, most complimented and most loved cupcake recipes I’ve ever made: the french toast cupcake. Topped with a cream cheese frosting sprinkled with cinnamon sugar it’s a definite crowd pleaser. Get your mitts on the recipe here: Are french toast cupcakes technically a breakfast food?
These are by no means the only Christmas recipes for cupcakes I have posted- no, no. They’re just my favorites. I have tons of others including super cute gingerbread cupcakes, delicious eggnog cupcakes, beautiful red velvet cupcakes, alcohol-laced hot buttered rum cupcakes, etc. Take a peek at the Christmas category to find that and more, including 7-layer magic cookie bars and biscotti di natale al cioccolato.
If you’re the kind of person who prefers to leave cookies for Santa instead of cupcakes, try looking in my “cookies” category- I have everything from chocolate cookies to oatmeal chocolate chip, including an amazing shortbread cookie recipe, and for the more adventurous, exotic spice cookies with cardamom, ginger and rose water. Typically I try and bake one Christmas-y cupcake a week the entire month of December, but this will have to do for the first week. Sorry guys. Take a trip down memory lane by clicking some of those links to get some inspiration and I’ll be back soon with something tasty and pretty for you to look at.
One more little thing… I’d like to think of myself as a not materialistic person. Sure, I love nice things- pretty clothes, expensive makeup, nice housewares, etc. Yes, I can be a bit selfish at times, all us humans can be/are by nature. But I also give to any and every charity I can, donate food to food banks, donate toys to toy drives, give to the Salvation Army every time I see the bell-ringers, donate my old clothing to the Lupus foundation, etc. I do my best to make this world a slightly better place, day by day, person by person. I am never mean or cruel to people unless warranted. Sarcastic, yes, all the time. But mean? Not usually. I consider myself to be a happy person. Someone who can find the bright side of many situations. Someone who no matter what is going wrong, can find either a positive angle or at least a drop of good in it. I can make myself happy with very little, and sometimes little things are what truly make me happiest anyway. But this is a season when it’s really easy to go crazy with “wants.” Yeah, I have a lot of wants. Everyone does. But whether or not I get them, I know I’ll be happy with myself for being a good person, and that I’ll be happy what I do have; family, friends, pets, and all the material objects I love and adore (my laptop, my Kitchen Aid mixer “Lola”… etc). If I never got another “thing” in my life, I could be happy because I’m aware that’s not what’s important. But let’s be honest: it sure as shit makes life (and Christmas) fun to have things, or be able to give things, or to have the comfort of knowing someone is looking out for you.
So this Christmas, amidst all your hustling and bustling and shopping, please make a donation to at least ONE charity. Any charity that speaks to you- cancer research, diabetes research, programs that feed the hungry, AIDS research, programs that help the homeless, religious programs, neglected or abused animal organizations- whatever. Pick at least one, and donate even just $5.00 or $10.00 to them. Consider it a Christmas or Hanukkah gift. There are SO many out there less fortunate than you or I, let’s remember them and use this giving season to lend them a hand. And if you choose not to… when you’re sitting in front of your fire, drinking hot cocoa and opening lavish presents this year while listening to Bing Crosby on your iPod, remember those who are hungry, lonely, sick, and without all the comforts you have… and be grateful that life dealt you a better hand. Whatever religion or non-religion you are, that’s an important thing to keep in mind. I’ll get off my soapbox now.