Twas a few nights before Christmas, give or take some sprinkles, snowflakes, and snow bunnies around; here, there, and on-line flurries everywhere. All through the snow globe, every “creature” was stirring especially the mice. Ma Gingerbread in her icing gown, and Pa Gingerbread in his cap trying to snuggle down for the night with 2.5 Gingerbread children running about.
The adorable and delectable pup, there too. Made of pretzels, ironically, his name stuck! Cinnamon, Hazelnut, and Nutmeg all ran to the window, to see, what was the matter. An epic winter blizzard made for white-out conditions. Swept Frosty, his magician’s hat, hare and all, up in a cloudy dust, along with the house! Jack frost was ready to nip those toes, clean off!
Hazelnut, with glistening icing filled, candy green coated, chocolate covered eyes, sad and blue, said, “Christmas is surely ruined, no more fun to be had, Santa won’t be able to find me, and my present won’t come at long last!” Pa Gingerbread knew what he had to do, to save his family and Christmas …
Before we embark on a scrumptious gingerbread story, so yummy for sure, we must reverence the poem, the rhyme, and the otherworldly origins for that exquisitely cherished Night Before Christmas.
“The poem, originally titled A Visit or A Visit From St. Nicholas, was first published anonymously on Dec. 23, 1823, in a Troy, New York newspaper called The Sentinel.” (Shout-out to sources: parade.com, Wikipedia, histories decorative mysteries, mix-ups, The Big Apple, sugar coma cookies, and my late-great Papi Noel)
“For 14 years, no one knew who wrote it … until Charles Fenno Hoffman, the editor of The New-York Book of Poetry and a friend of Clement Clarke Moore, said the poet and scholar was the author. Moore’s identity was solidified when he decided to include the piece in his own collection, Poems, in 1844. He referred to the iconic work as “his long-ago ‘trifle’; a thing he hadn’t cared to acknowledge before, but would happily do so now,” according to the New York Public Library.”
*A blustery, bitterly cold, forceful wind, gusts through the once closed, frosted-over, latched windows and the heavy wool curtains blow back. * “NOW, is the time!” Resounding like a hollow gong reverberating over the moon, from the ghosts of grandfathers’ past. With one giant swipe, turns back time, the ticks on the clock, giving us a birds-eye-view, to “look” into the past. Peer what was, reflect, and decide for us, at long last, who wrote the beloved tale … Que the dramatic Polar Express, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, or anything Mannheim Steamroller!
“It wasn’t until 1837 that Clement Clarke Moore accepted credit for writing A Visit. He reportedly wanted to keep his authorship secret initially because he was a professor, and the piece wasn’t considered a scholarly work at the time of its initial writing. For some years now, academics and descendants of the poet Henry Livingston, Jr., have claimed he should have bragging rights for creating it.”
“Henry Livingston Jr. was born in “The Big Apple” on the 13th of October 1748 into one of the important colonial revolutionary families of New York (“I’ll say”). Known for his encyclopedic knowledge and his love of literature, Henry Livingston went on to work as a farmer, surveyor and Justice of the Peace.”
Keeping the peace and trotting along, millennium style; 1819 New Year’s Carrier’s Address, A Valentine, Hiding Place, and The Dance to name a recommended few. Whimsical, poetic, and endearing are charmed lyrical thoughts conveyed so beautifully.
“It was in the period following his first wife’s death in 1783, that Livingston published most of his poems and prose, anonymously or under the pseudonym of R. T. His verse has since been described as “good-natured” and was included in a number of respected journals at the time.” (Source allpoetry.com)
“Clement Clarke Moore was an American writer, scholar and real estate developer. Moore was Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in New York City. The seminary was developed on land donated by Moore, and it continues on this site at Ninth Avenue between 20th and 21st streets, in an area known as Chelsea Square.” You should see how good Chelsea looks today, not to mention the housing market!
You decide while reading upon one blustering, wintery afternoon, by imagined horse and buggy, with hopefully a heaping amount of hot chocolate, marshmallows, and whipped cream on everything, neatly placed between your warm mittens. Likely a kitty trying for your lap or pup taking your spot. Okay, just a few “sneaked” treats (or 20) and pets, then back to the story of the Gingerbread’s. Come on “Snowflake”, more clouds to chase! Hope you aren’t afraid of a little snow. Better bundle up and grab those fluffy earmuffs!
“When you think of snowflake decorations, you are typically thinking of stellar dendrites. These snowflakes have six points and lots of unique patterns. They are by far the most popular snowflake you’ll come across in the winter. Most snowflakes aren’t giant. They are typically between .02 and .5 inches wide. However, snowflakes can get pretty big. In fact, the Guinness World Record holder for the largest snowflake was a whopping 15 inches wide. It was measured in January 1887 in Montana. That’s bigger than a frisbee!” (Source lovetoknow.com, pink Christmas trees, the mighty “buffalo” soldiers, holidays with ranch dressing, freezing temps-hands-toes, but warm hearts evermore, and my sheer awesome fascination with the “weather”.)
“You might have heard that snowflakes are like fingerprints, and every one of them is unique. Well, it’s true! Each snowflake takes a different path from the sky to the ground. So, each one is formed in a unique pattern that makes it one-of-a-kind.” Just like us, kinda! Let’s stick to making snow angels, whilst playing in the powdered sugar and yes, it does snow on Mars, but I digress as usual.
Doesn’t snow watermelon sound so good? Well, you can’t eat it! “Blood snow or watermelon snow is a pink snow that smells faintly of watermelon. It’s caused by an alga in the snow. So, the snow can be red or pink. However, even though it smells like watermelon, you don’t want to eat it because it can cause a stomachache.” FYI, ginger is great for stomach aches and pertains to this story, just you wait.
Dashing and swirling through the wind, either or, neither here nor there, or maybe over yonder; “Clement Clarke Moore is said to have based his vision of Santa Claus on both St. Nicholas and a local Dutch handyman where he lived in New York. Legend has it that the handyman operated the sleigh that took Moore home.”
“Since its original publication, “Twas The Night Before Christmas” has been reprinted more times than anyone can count, and undoubtedly in more languages than anyone can say!” (Shout-out grunge.com, childhood imagination, books, linguistics, wildly entertaining nooks, and cozy crannies from cuddly grannies)
“For a while, St. Nicholas was mostly a Dutch thing. Protestantism frowned upon the celebration of saints as a form of idolatry, so parents had to tell their kids that not only was St. Nicholas forbidden but also, they wouldn’t be getting any presents. (Yikes) After St. Nicholas got the Protestant boot, people mostly stopped celebrating December 6, with the exception of the Dutch. The Dutch called Nicholas “Sinterklaas”.”
“Sinterklaas was one of the first “sketches” of our modern Santa, not only did he do the whole leaving-gifts-in-shoes thing, but he also wore the red bishop’s robes of the original St. Nick (BTW, who was very real for 500, Alex!).”
Speaking of famous persons and a lot of father time later; “By the Middle Ages, the man of the hour, was assisted by elves, he had some cool Santa magic that got him in and out of chimneys, and although he hadn’t yet discovered flying reindeer, he did seem to have at least one flying horse. Incidentally, in order to get a gift, you were expected to leave some treats out for the horse, which explains why Sinterklaas hadn’t yet reached traditional Santa Claus rotundity.” The night is still young.
A quantum Christmas leap forward and were back to the story …
The cookie wafer shingles were in shambles … The licorice lined fence nowhere to be found. The neighbor’s peppermint fixtures, lemon drop umbrellas, and hot hearts furniture, strewn everywhere. Graham crackers and candy canes in bits and the animal crackers all gone/went into hiding. Sugar blown windows all shattered and the scene looks like a disaster!
The Gingerbread family knew they would never endure if they stayed, therefore Pa grabbed a sturdy chocolate, caramel wafer, perfect to hold five. Prayed for a quick, paramount escape, a dire need get-a-away. Pretzels was fast enough on his own and thought this great fun!
Fantastically, gliding over mountains and hills, speeding by forests in quick blurs; the Gingerbread kids experienced a thrill. Sledding is so much fun, they said, snowboarding next time; sounds great! Plowing through the snow, at crazy speeds galore, Pa Gingerbread held tight with all his might.
What goes up, must come down, and lo’ and behold at the bottom of the hill, smashed and smacked their makeshift sled, into presumed rock of Gibraltar, but actually a horseshoe of massive proportions. We’ll talk rocks, lucky horses, ancient folklore, the world over and under and everything in between, more mythological beings, another day of writing about all things Christmas, carousels, and extreme carolers. Tis years almost end, so we better get a move on …
His name, Sleipnir, and he’s a horse of course. His game is your gain, if you know how to “speak” his language. Known for having a sleigh, eight legs, to be exact, and esteemed for flying fast. Brilliant gleaming loyal white steed, munching obliviously on “Frosty’s” nose before he ever saw or felt us coming.
Right before impact, I must address, back in the day and back by popular demand, “Yule is known as a time in which family and friends would strengthen their ties to each other through hospitality, feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and making merry in the face of the privations and dangers of winter.” (Source sonsofvikings.com, daughters, and wives)
Yup, you heard Vikings! “Odin crosses the skies during the nights of Yule, rewarding the good and punishing the bad. The Vikings and other northern European peoples believed that Odin raced across the windy night skies leading his pack of gods, elves, beasts, and ancestral spirits in a great hunt against the ice giants and the forces of darkness.”
“This Wild Hunt, as it was often called, was linked to winter storms and dangerous omens.” And you thought it was Marvel, bells and whistles, bowls of jelly, the magic of Hollywood or only in the movies, but in all actuality, these are oral traditions; conveying’s passed down for centuries from generations. Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it!? But could it be plausible, albeit factual?
And the wild jaunt continues … Biblical times, we are facing, tracing the origins of gingerbread making. We’ll learn some delectable mentions, tasty views, from the fourth wisemen who unfortunately had to call in sick on the quest to welcome the new king, baby Jesus.
“There’s an early medieval Christian legend that expands on the story of the birth of Jesus. In addition to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that were given as gifts by the three wise men from the east, ginger was the gift of a fourth wise man who was unable to complete his journey to Bethlehem due to health complications.” (Props to finglobal.com, stars, camels, “paid” sick leave, ginger-lemon-honey tea-times, guiding lights and nights, divine birthdates, deserts, inheritances, and sushi.)
“Before he died, he gave his chest of ginger roots to the rabbi that had cared for him during his illness and the rabbi told him of the prophecies of a great king who was to come to the Jews. He would be born in Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread” (Ah-ha moment inserted here) when translated from Hebrew. It was common for young acolytes to make houses of bread to eat in order to symbolically sustain their faith. It was suggested that the students add ground ginger to their bread as a spice and preservative.”
There are a few fairytales, I’d like to “speak on”, within this wholesome cookie-cutter version. Ours of course, gluten, dairy, and soy free; “Gingerbread refers to a broad category of baked goods, typically flavored with ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar, or molasses. Yum! Gingerbread foods vary, ranging from a soft, moist loaf cake to forms nearly as crisp as a ginger snap.”
*Lost and now most definitely hungry! From the twirling and turbulent sands of centuries hourglasses; ever since we’ve been between humps, in a never-ending desert on a camel with no-name … Looking off into the distance of time. We’re headed straight for an enchanted “forever” frozen forest in the nick and “thicket” of time. *
“Gingerbread is claimed to have been brought to Europe in 992 A.D by the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis. He stayed there for seven years until he died in 999 and taught gingerbread baking to French Christians.” Sweetly rolling as of this day. The smell of vanilla and cinnamon wafting by, heaven is real, and miracles abound everywhere you please. That’s surely another day of writing about miracles, oil paintings, beret’s, croissants, and the city of lights.
And a thousand plus years later and a thousand “storms” on …
“Gingerbread houses are traditionally built using pieces of baked gingerbread assembled with melted sugar, with the roof tiles made of icing or candy and the gingerbread house is placed in a yard decorated with white frosting to represent snow.”
“While the gingerbread house is the most common architectural form, other options include a gingerbread cabin, castle, church, museum; the engineering possibilities are endless.”
“There’s a rumor that attributes the gingerbread house origin to the Brothers’ Grimm. Remember the witch that lived in the gingerbread house that attracted and trapped brother and sister duo, Hansel and Gretel?”
Following the breadcrumbs, originally, I was told peas then stones, Hansel left behind for us to follow; we’ll find all the original stories reside in a haunted forest. Cinderella, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wicked Witch, and my favorite, The Evil Stepmother; all masterful pieces of literature to conceal the grimmest of bleak despair and dark times in history and relate passed on knowledge for other innocent boys and girls. Just be glad we aren’t children in that era!
“Most people are familiar with the story but for those who aren’t, it opens on a pair of children who are to be abandoned by their starving parents in the forest. The kids, Hansel and Gretel, get wind of their parents’ plan and find their way home by following a trail of crumbs Hansel had dropped earlier. The mother, or stepmother by some telling’s, then convinces the father to abandon the children a second time.” (Props to allthatsinteresting.com, my brother’s re-enactments, family resemblances, history, Wikipedia, Disney, and everything sweet to treat.)
“The notorious tale of Hansel and Gretel has been translated into 160 languages since the Brothers Grimm first published the German lore in 1812,” and might be inspired from truth/history or translated through a neighbor turned wifey. “When the great famine struck Europe in 1314, mothers abandoned their children and, in some cases, the unthinkable happened. Scholars believe that these tragedies gave birth to the story of Hansel and Gretel.”
After the birds ate the trail of breadcrumbs; “The starving pair came upon a gingerbread house that they begin to eat ravenously. Unbeknownst to them, the home is actually a trap set by an old witch, or ogre, who enslaves Gretel and forces her to overfeed Hansel so that he can be eaten by the witch herself.”
“The siblings manage to escape when Gretel shoves the witch into an oven. They return home with the witch’s treasure and find that their evil matriarch is no longer there and is presumed dead, so they live happily ever after.” Or did they …!?!
We must say our goodbyes, pay heartfelt adieus, wir sehen uns, and thank Hansel and Gretel for their astute perceptions; love your family, and care for one another, the best you can. There’s a crumb or nugget of goodness you can take with you. No calories, but smothered in knowledge, worth every morsel. Did I get us lost or turned around? Now, back to the story and right where we left the Gingerbread family.
While we nibble, heavenly ingredients and savoring the divine toppings, the Gingerbread family scattered about from colliding, head-on with an otherworldly beast. Gathered their buttons and bearings, marched right up to the horse, with as much bravery as a Gingerbread man can have, and expressed their tribulations and demands.
*In horror and unfathomable comprehension, gestures at Sleipnir*. Pa Gingerbread commanded this monster to release Frosty’s nose at once! Sleipnir raised two of his gargantuan hooves backwards as to not step on this mouthy and irate cookie. Smiled down, snorted and said, “Oh, didn’t see you there, Lil guy and almost crushed a critter on Christmas!” “Better than mistakenly eating your head, Aye!”
Appalled, distraught, and clearly leveled by this monster’s candor, magnitude, and politeness, Pa Gingerbread stated with righteous indignation, “How could you eat my friend!?”
Sleipnir was sympathetic while trying not to laugh and snort all over this tiny cookie-man, reassured the Gingerbread family. He didn’t mean any harm, no pish-poshing around, wasn’t eating Frosty and doesn’t eat living beings, but will never resist a carrot or three. In fact, his retirement years have been just that; eating, grazing, hanging out with the reindeer, telling jokes, oh, and lest I forget, running errands for Santa Claus.
Baby Nutmeg in a small, delicate, sweet voice, asked Sleipnir, “You really know Santa?”
Sleipnir excited as all get out, said, while he bent down (at least 4 legs) allowing the family to take hold his gorgeous mane, “Hop in the sack and I will take you to him, in a flash.”
Hurling in the air, like they just didn’t care, was a mostly terrified family and pup, minus the exhilarated Hazelnut. Pretzels didn’t think too much. He’s played these tricks before and a few reindeer games to boot. Something to the middle child, you don’t say, always curious to explore, and ever ready for a game, or got game! *(One of those expressions fit, and since we’re talking game, might as well speed up the rest of this story. Christmas is right around the corner!) *
Everyone landed safely in this, oh-so plush red velvet bag, except Hazelnut and Pretzels for whom sadly were zipped out the top! In Sleipnir’s senior days, he has all the hutzpah still, just not as accepting of hearing aids. Thusly, never heard the entire Gingerbread family screaming his name. Him thinking, he’s the best boy ever and Santa will be beyond thrilled to see them.
*Ma and Pa Gingerbread hugging and clinging to the two children left, whilst Sleipnir soared through the stormy skies above. Climbing, charging, and dipping at speeds no cookie had ever seen or been before. This is a first in cookie history, and in the making! *Huddling tight, “It will be alright my little Gingerbread family. Santa will know what to do. We’ll all be together again, God willingly soon,” Pa Gingerbread exclaimed. *
Plummeting to Earth or the thought thereof, is quite an over-powering feeling for most. Not for thrill-seekers, Hazelnut and Pretzels; they surfed the snowflakes like “Olympic” pros! Made a game of leapfrog for a little while (a few nano seconds), but with snowflakes, till they landed on a ginormous evergreen.
“Bark! Bark!” coming from Pretzels; that means, “Come on Hazelnut, we gotta climb down this tree, … I think I see Frosty!”
“Hoo! … Hoo!” screeched the snowy white owl; that’s code for who goes there and why are you on my branch?
Typically, anyone in their right Gingerbread mind, would be petrified by this nocturnal bird of prey. Just by the sheer fact, he could easily poke out our eyes! No, this owl was a “hoot”, more ways than one, and loves Christmas more each year it comes, makes him “floof”. His name, Tootsie, and says everything in threes. Been in the enchanted forest since the seventies! Implored, “I will give you a flight and you can tell me all about your plight.”
Now enchanted forests are notorious for nefarious fellows, so we are better to hitch a ride, snowy owl style and got dropped off right atop Frosty’s magic top hat. “Oh, that was awesome, Mr. Owl Tootsie, thank you … hope to see you again!” *Snowy owl salutes a farewell thee, until we meet again under the stars on a blue moonlight tree. *
“Thank goodness, you’re okay, but where is everybody, and Happy Birthday,” said Frosty, with glee! “Bark, Bark”, said Pretzels, and Hazelnut interrupted; “Pretzels, I can tell Frosty.” … “We have to get to Santa, or the North Pole, or Christmas Village and we fell out the bag” … *Hazelnut, tried her best to explain all that had happened to them. Leading up to this very chilly moment, frantic still to find home. Knowing now, all that matters, this season and whelp any old reason, was to be close with your family, wherever you are from, no matter how far from home. *
“Tis the season,” said Frosty, and “I got plenty of magic in my old top hat.” “Me and the hare can get you back, all with the use of this amazing hat.” A few abracadabra’s and he waved his snowy arm with wand, over the inside of the silk. Hazelnut and Pretzels were transported or teleported back, like that! Poof, magic is really cool, kids, and can take you through portals of fabulous, out-of-this-world mysteries, literary “nebulas”, yet to be explored.
Sleipnir, so happy to see Santa, couldn’t help but buck a little when he got back into town. The North Pole to be exact; Santa’s village, and everyone in magic land came to view the festivities.
“Ho Ho Ho,” said Santa, “What did you bring Papa Noel!?” As he opened his massive red bag of toys, the Gingerbread family peeked out in utter astonishment. Beyond stupefied and flabbergasted, Pa Gingerbread looked about. “Dearest Santa Claus, we’ve found you, after all, but have lost our Hazelnut and Pretzels the dog!”
“Right on cue”, Santa told Pa; “Ya know, Mr. Gingerbread, time’s my thang, no need to worry about anything.” As the humongous snowy clock tower bell rung, a swirl of snow and glitter (we think) formed beautiful swirls of platinum, purple, and even some streaks of pink. Like a plethora of rainbows streaking through a compressed Christmas cyclone.
After the glitter and sprinkles settled in perfect placement, imagined invisible elves decorated in milliseconds. Even the sparkles looked exquisitely proportional. Nothing like anything, you’ve ever seen, but just imagine a heavenly realm, gleaming.
“Oh, Ho, Ho …. Gingerbread family, all together, … and Pretzels (the pup) playing tug-a-war with my cuff.” “I have a special someone, you have to see again, … my better-half, whom you all came from; Mrs. Claus, and out of baked wonderful goodness, love, and heaping amounts of Christmas magic, you are here!” “To bring cheer to the families all over the world, gather round the family table, share these traditions, and keep the spirit “lit” within everyone.”
The Gingerbread family, whisked up into the palm of Santa’s satin white glove. Burst through the large spiraled with candy mortared double doors. Frosted on one side, translucent the other; this place is beyond magnificent! One level on the outside, eleven or more stories of glory on the inside to mention. How that’s even possible, I couldn’t even tell you. (Totally, magic!)
The elements, appear freezing, but a warm 70 can be enjoyed and quite pleasing. Hazelnut, all a flutter, gasped and said, “It’s snowing!” Betcha, you’ve never walked into a kitchen that was snowing before? A magical, ethereal, and musical voice declared, “That’s how I know the Gingerbread are to be born!”
Allow me, to introduce to you an angel incarnate, Mrs. Santa Claus. As the choir sings a Christmas hum, and the trumpets blow a Yuletide hymn along, an enchanted harp plays by an otherworldly source. “Welcome, sweet children, … welcome home, … Merry Christmas to Everyone!”
This story straight out of Mrs. Claus’s oven, baked with love, joy, and bliss. Hope your holidays are warm, harmonious, and bright. From our wishful kitchen to you and yours, across the snowy globes, a very merry Christmas to all and happy New Year, everywhere!
*The appetizing, heavenly, and oh-so Christmassy family reunion concluded in Santa and Mrs. Claus’ kitchen. The Gingerbread family had found their kind. Home at last, forever a blast! Everywhere Gingerbread’s chatting, giggling, bustling, and baking about. Must have been 400 or more, in just one drawer! Even the silver spoons, all got in the groove! Cupboards, wide open, unveiling a tremendous and grand scene. Looked in the fridge and a snowball fight broke out. There’s no way I’m making it out, … without powdered sugar throughout! Smells of candy, mandarin’s, caramel, chocolate, coconut, tapioca puddin’, and sugary spices galore; soaring through the air, magically evermore. This holiday party is officially lit, fleek, and on ten, I must admit! *
From one sugar plum fairy or sugar cookie to another, see you on the other side of the year for another story …