'Vision of sugar plums dancing in their heads'

What are sugar plums?

I mentioned the tale last week of The Night Before Christmas.

Do you remember how it starts out, with children dreaming of sugar plums? Did you, like me, wonder what those were? Well, in hopes you have a bit of time this week to reminisce and wonder about such superfluous things, I’m going to offer some answers.

Sugar plums were the name for a popular confection in the Victorian era (the same time frame as the story of St. Nick’s visit and also the original Nutcracker and The Mouse King story.) They were hard candies that didn’t contain or taste like plums but were, rather, simply plum shaped and possibly plum coloured.

They were derived from an ancient candy that goes back centuries—nut or seed coated laboriously in a sugar syrup. They were similar to a French dragée or Jordan Almond. Nowadays, there is another version of this little sweet that has dried fruits with a seed at the centre, rolled into balls and coated in sugar. I’m not sure this energy ball-version is a worthy update of the candy kids dreamed of, but you can make some and decide for yourself.

Wassail is another old English term sometimes heard during the Christmas season, and it involves all kinds of fun. The wassail is a sort of punch—most say a mulled cider with spices—that was used to toast the good health of neighbours. The word comes from an old Norse greeting, “ves heill”, meaning to be in good health.

In the Middle Ages, peasants would go wassailing to greet their lord at his door and upon receiving their toast of good health, the lord would give them food and drink. There is a song that is still sung today that tells how the conversation went on, much the same as our current “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.

Today, carollers continue the tradition of going door to door as the wassailing peasants of old once did. Perhaps, we should also take on orchard wassailing here in the Okanagan? (More on that custom and other historic farming celebrations in a future column.)

I can’t give you Christmas trivia without including the scoop on mistletoe, as it’s one of my favourite elements of the season’s tradition. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that can kill its host tree or bush, but in the grand scheme of things it offers many benefits, such as food for birds and pollinators and a nesting habitat.

The ancient Romans were the first to hang a sprig of mistletoe over their doorways, as they believed it protected the household and offered peace, love and understanding. (Maybe I should leave mine up after the holiday season, for a year-long boost.)

It was those good old Victorians who came up with the idea of kissing under the mistletoe, although it has long been a symbol of fertility. The custom was that a man who met a woman under the mistletoe was allowed to kiss her, and that if she refused, she would have bad luck. I remember when I was a kid, my brother and I would hang out under the mistletoe, looking for extra hugs and kisses.

I’ll close this week by saying whatever you dream of, be it sugar plums, a kiss or good times with friends, be brave when you awaken and go get those dreams. That is the true secret of all this giving, I believe. It lights the fire in us so we can have the courage of our convictions and show off our full potential.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, as that is how I send my love and good tidings this time of year. But however you celebrate, may it be full of joy and wonder.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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