Have an Old-Fashioned Holiday

Enjoy this roundup of recipes, crafts and activities to help create a fun holiday season filled with the warmth of loved ones and tradition.

| November/December 2015

  • Recycled toilet paper rolls make an easy and festive DIY advent calendar.
    Photo courtesy Alex at Northstory.ca
  • Fill your holiday season with traditional crafts, foods and activities.
    Photo by Corbis
  • Decorate and scent your home with pomander balls.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Pass long winter nights and craft personalized gifts when you learn how to knit.
    Photo courtesy Cotton Clouds

With its cold weather and long nights, the holiday season has long been a time when families spend more evenings together, gathered around the warmth of the fire, finding ways to while away the hours. Many traditional activities for this time of year also served a purpose for our forebears: Baking makes heating the home productive; warming drinks and spices help our bodies stay comfortable; and slowing down lets us rest and recharge as the year comes to an end. Although electric lights, televisions, computers, smartphones and video games make it easy today to overcome the potential hardships of this time of year, you might find it does your health some good to honor this portion of nature’s cycle. Consider these old-fashioned recipes, activities and gift ideas to make your holiday hearken to our shared human history, and to spend some quality time with your loved ones while enjoying the traditional tastes, scents and pastimes of the season.

Mulling Spices

‘Tis the season for the toasty, comforting scents and flavors of aromatic mulling spices, including cinnamon, cloves, allspice and star anise. The hot drinks served up this time of year are deeply satisfying, and folks who live in cold, northern climates have been coming up with ways to serve spiced beverages for centuries. There’s just no getting away from the comfort of sharing big bowls of spicy ales and punches.

My favorite story of spiced wassail involves the indigenous populations of southern England. In the apple-growing, cider-producing parts of Medieval Britain, the winter cider celebrations were a way to celebrate the health of the apple trees. One folktale tells of the ancient “Apple Tree Man” who resides as a spirit in the oldest tree in the orchard. By offering up the last mug of mulled cider (pouring it over the tree roots), the bounty of the next year’s harvest could be expected. I’ll raise a mug to that!

These mulling spices work great with apple cider, wine or other festive drinks. It can also be boiled on the stovetop as a nice spicy potpourri. A gift basket including a bag of spices along with fresh apple cider or a bottle of red wine makes a wonderful gift, indeed. Print the following drink recipes onto lovely cards to go along with it. —Kori Rodley, Mountain Rose Herbs

Gingerbread House

Few things are more fun and traditional at the holidays than building a gingerbread house. This is a great activity for kids and adults alike, and between making the gingerbread, cutting out the templates, creating the houses and munching on them later, it can provide a week’s worth of holiday entertainment. You’ll find plenty of printable templates online by searching “gingerbread house templates.” Try this recipe for delectable gingerbread and construction-worthy icing. Share pics of your creations with us on Instagram and tag us (@motherearthliving) or use the hashtag #motherearthliving.


Popular as a holiday treat in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, pfeffernüsse (or peppernuts) are spice-laden tiny cookies perfect to make in a huge batch and give as gifts. These crunchy, spicy cookies hold up perfectly in the freezer, so you can make them ahead of time and your recipients can save them for after the holiday sweets binge is over if they wish. Not overly sweet and filled with some of the world’s healthiest spices, including cinnamon and cloves, these flavorful cookies make a perfectly Old World holiday treat.

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