Christmas was such a special time when I was growing up.  Months before the preparations would start, my Mother and her sister, my Aunt Bea, would go down town to 13th & F Streets NW to the G C Murphy 5 & dime store.  Their favorite vendor set up a booth every year in October and sold glazed fruit and a variety of nuts. This is the only place in the city where they would shop for these items. Sometimes they took me along and we would go down on the streetcar and then walk the 2 blocks to the store.

The special fruits and nuts were selected, which they would turn into fruit cakes using their fatherís family recipe. The cakes were always baked in October and stored away in air tight cans, first with slices of apple then wrapped in cheesecloth that had been wrung out in Brandy.  Every 2-3 weeks the cakes were checked  and more brandy added if needed.  They said this was to age them and they were kept on a screened in back porch in a cabinet. All I know is that as a young girl I thought it was a lot of hard work, and it was.  What seemed like endless hours were spent chopping the fruit and nuts by hand. (no food processors in those days)  This would take forever - or so I thought.  My Mother would go to my Aunt Beaís house and help her chop, then Aunt Bea would come to our house and help Mother chop.

The fruit and nuts were dusted with flour after they had been chopped, then they were set aside and the pans were made ready.  This involved greasing the pans, (some were one pound coffee cans) then lining them with strips of brown paper bags, then the paper was greased,  the oven was turned on and the temperature set.  Now it was time to mix the batter.  Butter, sugar, flour, eggs, extracts and spices were carefully mixed by hand with a big wooden spoon. Then the fruit & nut mixture was added and the rest of the mixing was done with the hands as the batter was so heavy.  After the pans were filled they went into the oven for the slow baking they required.  After a long cooling over night they were stored away to age.

These cakes were served at Holiday parties and when the family would get together.  As a young girl I didnít like them very much. It was the only time of the year that we ever had soda in my house and that was ginger ale and root beer.  The grownups would have coffee.

The only other thing I could drink was milk or water.  I was not allowed iced tea as it had Caffeine.

Other treats that were baked for Christmas were my Grandmother Evaís ginger cookies.  She mixed up a large amount  by hand, with her special wooden spoons, two of which I still have and have used many times myself.  The batter consisted of  flour, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, ginger and lard. The batter would be cooled then rolled out and cut into rounds using a glass dipped in flour. Grandmother stored these in a big tin with a tight lid. Sometimes a piece of apple was added if needed to soften them. Oh my but the smells in the house when they were baking was just wonderful and they filled me with anticipation of the goodies to come. These were delicious and are still my favorite cookie with a glass of milk.

Grandmother also baked cakes, some with a cooked chocolate frosting and others filled with jelly and then dusted with powdered sugar on top.  These were served to friends and family over the Christmas holidays. Pies were made for Christmas dinner, pumpkin and mincemeat.  I didnít like the mincemeat but I loved the pumpkin.

Christmas Eve was a very busy day at my house.  Daddy would always go for the tree and keep it in the back yard in a bucket of water.  Then he brought it  into the house and it was set up and the lights were put on.  My Daddy was such a perfectionist that every thing about it had to be perfect.   After my brother and I were in bed,  Mother and Daddy would trim the tree, set up my brothers train set, with tracks that ran around the bottom of the tree, wrap the gifts and fill our stockings.  By this time my brother and I were waking up.  We wanted to dash downstairs to see what Santa left for us, but Mother and Daddy made us open our stockings in our room.  This gave them a chance to go downstairs and turn the tree lights on.  Christmas was always so special.

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