What was Christmas morning like in your family growing up? Waking up at the crack of dawn, scurrying to see what booty hung from the stockings, and a candy frenzied gaze after all the gifts were opened might be a typical American memory of a not too distant past. There's also the spiritual side in the retelling of the Christmas story. Where a young girl, chosen by God, is to carry the Savior of the world in her womb. Having found favor with God, but is in the least of finding favor with her fellow neighbors, as I'm sure they snickered and cringed as she passed since the idea of a virgin birth was less than plausible for them.
As the only daughter, middle child between two brothers, Christmas morning turned from the coveted, "let's just open our presents," to drawn out expectation, but not due to a spiritual exercise. My father turned the one morning of glory into a full fledge DMV line. We would awaken bright and early with "OOO'S & AWWW'S" and running to our parents bedrooms to waken them from their slumber, in hopes of opening our presents. My mom would shuffle into the living room with half opened eyes & gingerly sit on the couch. On the other spectrum was our dad. Although he would rarely eat a full course breakfast the other 364 days of the year, he thought Christmas morning was the perfect morning to do so.
You might be thinking that a breakfast of ham, eggs, toast, coffee & orange juice, which Kenny the Bear eats regularly (Richard Scarry), is a splendid Christmas morning meal. You would be right if it wasn't the prelude. Not only did my dad insist on eating Denny's Grand Slam prior to opening presents, but personal hygiene tied for first on Christmas morning. When he woke up, he headed to the bathroom to shower, neatly comb his hair, clothe with a belt and put on some socks. Meanwhile, us kids, all under the age of 10 salivated at all the presents. But once he was done with his hygiene, he would head to the kitchen to make & eat his breakfast. No matter how much we tried to rush him, he would not budge.
With us on his heels, watching that final drop finish off his fork, we ran to the living room mumbling about our slaughter. However, my dad liked to teach us about anticipation & patience by saying, "Not yet, I need to get the camcorder out." Now, we had one of those heavy duty kind, which my dad had to get just the right lighting, put it on the tripod, and connect it with the TV to see the final product. Finally, it was time to begin. But when the present opening actually started, my dad instituted the following rule, 'We take turns opening presents, no two people at the same time, and say thank you for every gift received.' I can still recall my older brother Willy's friend Steve calling to see what he got for Christmas. Willy said, "I dunno, we're not done opening our gifts yet...yeah, I know, by this rate we're never gonna make it to San Diego (we went every year to my Aunt's house)."
And now, as I experience Christmas on the other end, being the parent watching my girls experience the joy of what lies beneath the green/red wrapping...I can understand some of what my dad gave to us on Christmas morning. He taught us to slow down & to avoid the consumerist spirit, which lie so deep in my seven year old body. It was a gift to know that it's okay to breathe in what I was being given and appreciate it; rather, than just throw it aside and search for more hidden treasure to rip to shreds. This is one tradition I hope to pass down to my girls. Well, the slowing down when it comes to opening the presents part, but not the four course breakfast eaten beforehand...instead, we've instituted the Vetekrans for Christmas morning. And that's what I love about family traditions...you can keep some, throw some out, and create new ones altogether. **We're also throwing out the camcorder.
Vetekrans (printable recipe)
This recipe is taken from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. This is a refrigerator yeast dough, which is also a no-knead. This is a perfect sweet bread to have on Christmas morning, New Year's or some other brunch where you don't want to spend all your time with kneading & proofing.
2 packages active dry yeast (one packet is 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water, 105 to 115 degrees
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 slightly beaten eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons hot coffee or milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Directions: In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup sugar, the eggs, salt, cardamom, and 4 cups of flour until dough is smooth (I used about 4 1/2 cups). Cover and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.
Turn dough onto a floured board and roll out to make a 20-to 24-inch square. Spread with a thin layer of softened butter right to the edge. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle over the butter. Roll up like a jelly roll.
Grease a baking sheet or use parchment and place the roll on the sheet, shaping it into a ring. Pinch ends together to close the circle. With scissors, cut almost through the ring at 1/2-inch intervals. Turn each piece so that the cut side is exposed. Let rise until almost doubled.
Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until just golden. While ring bakes, mix the glaze ingredients. Brush while hot with the glaze.