And A Fine Pudding It Is!
I didn't have many Christmas traditions growing up. My mom cared more about Thanksgiving than Christmas, and honestly, we never really knew if my dad was going to be home or deployed for the holidays. About the only Christmas "tradition" I remember was that my mom would let us pick one present to open on Christmas eve. But what would usually happen is she couldn't stop at one and before you knew it, she was passing out ALL the presents. So, there really wasn't any "Santa" talk around our house.
Charlie's family, however, had quite a few Christmas traditions. Thanks mainly to his mother, who ADORED Christmas. I never knew that stockings were for filling until I met Charlie's mum. My mom just hung them on the wall, and there they stayed; completely decorative and sadly empty until they were returned to the storage box until next Christmas. Charlie and his sisters had GINORMOUS felt stockings that his mom made for them. Stockings were more important than other gifts and carried the most significance.
My first Christmas with Charlie, his mother made me a stocking and filled it. Each thing in the stocking had a story; an orange in the toe of the stocking (a precious and exotic commodity during wartime), a few nuts in the shell, some sixpence (chocolate for us), homemade shortbread (to represent the Scot side of the family), some tea (Earl Grey was my favorite), and a few small, wrapped gifts. It was always a joy and a tradition that we carry on to this day with our own kids. Right down to the homemade stockings. Even in very slim times, never would we, or could we eliminate the stocking tradition in our home.
Charlie's mum also loved Christmas pudding. I really didn't know what Christmas pudding was. In my head, pudding was something that Bill Cosby hawked on television; a lovely, soft, creamy dessert treat. In Mom's world, pudding was a steamed treat, either sweet or savory, and every well-stocked kitchen had a pudding pot. Charlie explained to me that Christmas pudding tasted quite a lot like the dreaded fruitcake, only warm and steamy. He LOVES it. Loves fruitcake, loves chutney, loves mincemeat pie, and loves his mom's Christmas pudding. No one else in the family likes it except Charlie and mom. So when the time came for Christmas pudding, I pretty much expected everyone to leave the table. Yet quite the opposite happened.
Dinner dishes were cleared quickly and everyone would excitedly return to their places at the table. The anticipation was palpable. Eyes were bright and cheery with expectation. Mom would call from the kitchen; "Okay, dim the lights!" The first thing you saw was the glow of the flame and in would come Mom, carrying the pudding, her happy face framed by the glow. The lights would go back on, she'd blow out the flaming pudding, set it in the center of the table, say "Happy Christmas!"
Now, here's the reason that everyone wanted a piece of the pudding that no one really cared for; pudding charms. Charlie's mom inserted little silver charms into the pudding. Each charm carrying some significant wish for the new year to come. She'd always remind us the charms were there, so to be very, very careful. She didn't want anyone to choke. Which was never a problem, because most of us would just fork through the piece of pudding on our plates without every eating a morsel. We just wanted our charm. The girls were mostly hoping to find the engagement ring. Other charms included a money bag or sixpence (wealth), a bachelor button, a thimble (spinsterhood), a spoon (never hungry), a wishbone (make a wish), a horseshoe (good luck), a bell (an announcement or proclamation). When all the charms were found and we laughed over who got what and what the new year would bring, then everyone would hand their plates over to Charlie, who would happily eat all the unwanted pudding.
Christmas pudding and the pudding charms were always something I wanted to continue. For years, I would go into tea shops and ask about them, and even when we were in England a few years ago, I inquired. To no avail. Either they didn't have them, or they were just too expensive to acquire. This past weekend, while Averie was here for Thanksgiving, she said.."Hey, why don't we go to the bead store and see if they have jewelry charms we could use? It can't be that expensive." So that's exactly what we did. We ended up finding most of the traditional tokens, but we added a few of our own to add a new tradition; a leaf (turning over a new leaf), a cruiseship (travel), and a pig (prosperity, and also he was so cute).
We'll definitely be going the traditional route and adding embroidery floss or ribbon through the loops so that they will be easy to find in the pudding and no one will break their tooth or swallow one. For all the years Charlie's mom fretted over that, I always wondered why she never added floss to her charms. Ribboned charms = stress-free pudding. Another thing I can count on; even though no one likes pudding except Charlie, with the charms, no one will say no to a serving of pudding this year.