“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” – Edith Sitwell
It’s no secret that we love a good listicle. When the opportunity presents itself to write about our favorite things, we jump on it. Traditions vary for those of us here at Knit Picks HQ, but the one common thread is that for each of us, this time of year offers a chance to indulge in the nostalgic traditions each of us holds dear. Whether it be watching Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas on repeat or imbibing a classy holiday cocktail or two, we hold each near and dear to our collective hearts.
In the spirit of all things merry & bright, we bring you our guide to enjoying the winter holidays!
Ultimate Cookie Platter
Alexis – I love December; it is easily my favorite month of the year. Besides my love for all things Christmas (movies, songs, decorations), I get to spread some good cheer baking for all my family and friends. Baking cookies represents all of the things I love about the season, as it ties together tradition and generosity in a small tasty treat.
What once started as a simple continuation of a family tradition soon turned into a spreadsheet and baking madness as my desire to share grew. As soon as the calendar flips to December 1st, my humble kitchen and dining room transform into a virtual cookie factory. Pounds of flour, nuts, butter, and sugar line any extra counter space. Sweet smells of melted chocolate and gingerbread permeate the air during my rounds of baking for batches that get shipped or hand delivered to local friends and co-workers. And of course a few for the surprise visitors: Santa and his reindeer.
Because it is impossible for me to grasp moderation, especially when giving, I go all out with seven different cookie options that have expanded and shifted a little over the years. There are the staples: Gingerbread People, Pennsylvania Dutch Coconut Macaroons, Linzer Tartlets (my favorite), Bourbon Balls (the boozier the better); a new classic: Chipotle Chocolate Chip, my spin on a Mexican Hot Chocolate; and two new fan favorites: Caramel Salted Pretzel Linzers and Italian Bakery Style Butter Cookies, developed by my favorite home chef Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. All of these are created with love and happiness as I dance to Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite Op,71a covered in powdered sugar.
Daniel – I have four essential drinks that I have to have at some point during Winter.
It’s not for everyone, but I’ve always enjoyed eggnog in all of its forms. I made my own eggnog for the first time just last year using this incredibly easy blender recipe. It was so well received that I made a second batch right after Christmas that I aged for three weeks. Not only do I recommend the taste, but aged nog is ironically also safer! If you’re particularly wary of raw eggs or prefer your eggnog kid- and teetotaler-friendly, you’ll need to cook your eggs! I like this clever recipe that tempers the eggs with scalded milk in a stand mixer, rather than going full custard.
A serendipitous juxtaposition at a holiday baking party led directly to a festive version of my go-to winter cocktail. Just adding ground cinnamon to a drink results in unpleasant sediment, so now I make cinnamon syrup. Add a teaspoon to a standard Manhattan recipe (or any number of other traditional cocktails) for a healthy dose of holiday cheer. You can also add a whole nutmeg to the syrup for additional flavor, but I recommend avoiding clove.
Full of spice and piping hot is my favorite way to have apple cider, the only way I’ll drink wine, and by far the best way to enjoy port. In my experience, store bought mixes are lackluster and not worth it, especially when it’s so easy to make your own. There are plenty of worthwhile recipes online, but I prefer the quick and simple like this one for mulled wine. If you’re thinking ahead, it’s simple to prepare your spices ahead of time and makes it more feasible to get a little more involved. Though it requires the extra effort to dry your own orange and ginger, I really like this fancier recipe. If you’re *really* ambitious, some homemade glogg will really impress at your next holiday party.
Absolutely necessary to all winter celebrations. While I’ll drink any kind of cocoa, and even have a special affection for store-bought mix packets, you don’t have to go crazy to make a good homemade mix. It also makes a delightful and easy gift!
Hillary – The only surefire way to get me in the holiday spirit is by watching holiday movies! My favorite Christmas Eve tradition is going to the candlelight church service, coming home, and getting into new Christmas jammies to watch A Christmas Story.
Here are some of my must watch movies to snuggle in and catch the holiday spirit bug. Grab some hot cocoa, your favorite furry friend, and a cozy blanket!
It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic for good reason. It was nominated for six Academy Awards and is on the list of 100 Greatest American Films of All Time.
And my personal favorite, The Nightmare Before Christmas! Tim Burton blends Christmas and Halloween together in a way that is both spooky and heartwarming at the same time.
If you want a good cry, The Family Stone is perfect for you. Full of an all-star cast that comprise a family full of quirky personalities, the story revolves around the holiday season. Although not a typical Christmas movie, it is a GREAT movie I highly recommend.
Kate – Full disclosure: I have to actively make it a point to NOT listen to Wham’s Last Christmas throughout the year. Not only do I get all 80’s kid misty-eyed when I hear it, but I may have accidentally indoctrinated my 5-year-old daughter into the Wham fan club, as she now requests this song as well. I blame my love of music on my dad, who ALWAYS had the radio on and tuned into his favorite classic rock station, and also my sister, who let me watch MTV* whenever she “babysat” me. Don’t worry though. This playlist does consist of more than just holiday pop hits from 1986. I added a little Darlene Love, Vince Guaraldi, and even a little of The Ramones for good measure. Download my Holidaze playlist here!
*Note: This was in the eighties, when MTV actually played music videos.
Favorite Winter Reads
I’ve read this book countless times since I was a child, and it never fails to make me happy. But what’s now intriguing me most about this book is … why do I consider it a wintertime book? Is it the cold/wintery aspects of the story that keep me coming back, or is it the warm cozy parts that draw me in? Do I instinctively snuggle down deeper under my blanket when Sara Crewe is shivering in her attic room or running errands around London in her hole-filled shoes and skimpy, old clothes? Or, do I feel some sort of vicarious warm fuzzies when Ram Dass sneaks in and decks out Sara’s attic room with cozy furniture, tapestries, a roaring fire, and yummy food?
(I would stare at this illustration for hours.)
I think I love this book for both, honestly. Also, I know lovers of this story can be pretty opinionated about which illustrator they prefer, but I’m just going to go ahead and assert that Graham Rust’s illustrated version (originally released in 1989, which just happens to overlap with my childhood … coincidence?!) is the best one. And really, my assessment of this very much hinges on the two-page spread depicting Sara’s decked out attic room (above).
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Fun fact! Charlotte Bronte’s unfinished manuscript for a novel entitled Emma was likely part of the inspiration for the book A Little Princess. (The more you know!) Anyway …
I think this is where my wintery feels start to be more about the cold and less about the warm and fuzzy. When I think about reading this book in the summer, it just feels wrong. How could I read about Jane shivering at Lowood school because THE WATER IN HER WASHBASIN HAS LITERALLY FROZEN during the dog days of summer? That just seems vulgar, doesn’t it?
It’s occurred to me that Jane Eyre features a similar “super cold” but then “warm and fuzzy” moment like Sara’s attic transformation in A Little Princess. Jane wanders the moor (SHE SLEEPS OUTSIDE IN THE COLD, Y’ALL), and shivers and starves, pretty much collapsing on St. John River’s doorstep before being brought inside to a cozy fire, food, and new friends!
Clever Non-Knit Gifts
Lee – I always love making and giving handmade gifts to my loved ones during the holidays, knit or otherwise! With a lot of non-knit gifts, you can batch-make several of the same kind of item to give everyone in your group, and/or you can have time to make more different kinds of items than with long-term knitting projects. In my old (pre-Knit Picks) life, I used to write a lot of craft project tutorials, so I’m going to point you to some of those projects that would make fun gifts!
Hannah – The first year I got my very own Christmas tree, I realized that I’d not inherited a stash of ornaments! A new tradition was born: every year I make a handful of new decorations to add to my steadily growing collection. I try to make two sewn felt ornaments, two knit/crocheted, and a batch of cinnamon ornaments every year. Now, I’ve got a good-sized box, and I have sweet memories that go with every piece. I like Alicia Paulson’s felt patterns, this recipe for cinnamon ornaments, and I’m planning on making Annie Watts’ Walrus ornament this year (I love it so, so much!).
Whatever traditions you hold dear, or if this time of year is simply about relaxation and replenishment, we hope you are able to slow down and enjoy life a little. Happy holidays!