The long build-up to Christmas has begun

As any young person will tell you, Christmas takes a long time to arrive. Parents, on the other hand, will tell you that even with all the planning and work, Christmas arrives too quickly.
Those preparations take a long time.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been putting up our traditional white lights around the yard. When we used the incandescent bulbs, you could see in daylight how well you were distributing them through the trees and shrubbery.
LED lights really only show their whiteness at dusk or at night.
It took two weeks to get the lights up. The first week was discovering how many still lit up from last year and then beginning the replacement process? It was then we discovered two large gaps in the branches of the trees.
We filled those voids in on Saturday morning and brought the wreath out to decorate the front of the house. The garland with lights around the door remains to be added, which will happen this coming weekend. It is just one of the first steps.
Our sons already have let their mother know what sweets they would like for the short period around Christmas, and she has added the lists of ingredients to her shopping lists.
One might hope that the lists might have grown shorter over time but their sweet tooth minds seem to enjoy the once-a-year special baking even more.
It is a little bit like Christmas baking. Our family has a tradition of enjoying fruity Christmas cake and traditional English plum pudding. You begin both processes by marinating the different fruits in different mixtures of brandy and sherry.
The Christmas plum pudding, which is actually a steamed pudding, is a rich mixture of eggs, dried fruit, sugary fruit flour, molasses, dark brown sugar, and suet. It is steamed for six hours in a bath of water and then stored away until Christmas morning, when it again is steamed for three-four hours.
The earlier you prepare the pudding, the more the fruits and spices meld together to create a rich dessert that can be topped off with a caramel or hard sauce.
The Christmas cake also must rest once it is baked, and then a wonderful Grand Marnier is drizzled over the top and the cakes are wrapped and sealed­–only to come out for guests as Christmas approaches.
Over the next few weeks, our home will be filled with aromas of Christmas as shortbread, cookies, and squares are baked and stored. The cooking and baking will consume several weeks, with all being ready for the friends and relatives who will visit.
Each year we talk about reducing the baking, and we do trim some sugarplums and cookies from the baking list. But every year, we discover new ideas and recipes that seem to replace some of the traditional sweets.
And the decorating inside the house still has to happen.
Christmas does not happen suddenly but rather builds up over a season with traditions, family, lights, food, and music. Enjoy the season ahead.