My paternal grandmother made lots of candy, cookies and goodies at Christmas. Her kitchen seemed to have many containers with all sorts of homemade goodies.
I don’t recall any specific holiday foods that my maternal grandmother made. I do recall that she usually had ribbon candy in a candy dish. Years later I bought a dish just like it and I use it at Christmas time now. When I asked my grandmother about that dish she said she didn’t remember where she got it but it was probably at the TG&Y dime store.
Overall, I do not have a sense of traditions or routines at Christmas though they must have been present. Rarely did I live near my grandparents and other relatives who were in Oklahoma but if we were there at Christmas we spent Christmas Eve with my maternal grandmother and then we all spent Christmas Day together at my paternal grandparents’ home. Christmas Day included a big meal that my paternal grandmother fixed with the help of all the women. The kids did the dishes. I do not recall any specific foods just a lot of it and much variety.
Many more times throughout my younger years, we were not near Oklahoma so it was just me and my parents at our home. Christmas Day was always a relaxed day with a good meal and gifts.
The only specific holiday food I recall that Mom made was the Date Nut Roll. This candy has been a presence in my family since my mother was a child. My mother shares how she became reacquainted with this candy:
When I was working at Oklahoma State University (ca 1964), we had a Christmas party and someone brought a Date Nut Candy that, when I put it in my mouth, I was overwhelmed with sensations of taste and smell that were clearly out of my memory. I loved the candy and asked for the recipe. When I made it, I realized why I’d had those strong sensations of taste and smell memories: it was out of my childhood and was something my mother used to make so long before that I’d forgotten all but that sense of taste/smell. The sensation of smell was that this candy was poured hot onto a wet cotton dish towel, wrapped up into a roll and put in the icebox to cool before slicing. As it cooled, the smell of the candy mixed with the smell of the dish towel.
It requires cooking to the soft ball stage and was more than I ever wanted to do, in fact, I’ve never made it as I always rely on mother to make it. I recall it made quite a bit and when stored in the refrigerator it lasts a long while. I found this recipe dating back to 1926 and in that one it has 1 cup more of sugar, 1 cup more of nuts and more butter in it. Then one from 1956 says
slice or serve and wrap in foil and put in a tin box with tight fitting lid. Store in a refrigerator or cool place. This candy may be made a month before using if stored as directed above, or may be frozen and kept 6 months.
Update: I made this recipe for the first time yesterday (December 4, 2009) and it was pretty simple. All of us like it except my daughter. Sugar, nuts, butter, dates, what’s not to like. Here’s a photo journal of the process.