Herb of the Year for 2019: Anise hyssop (Agastache ssp.
Flower of the Month for December: Poinsettia
December is National Egg Nog Month. Fruit Cake Month, too
December Feature: Mistletoe: The Christmas Herb
Week 3. Christmas Bird Count Week
December 17: National Maple Syrup Day
December 18: On this day in 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published
December 21: Winter Solstice: Celebrating the Shortest Day of the Year
December 22: Hanukkah begins
Week 5. A New Year Begins
December 31: New Year’s Eve
At Thyme and Seasons, I buy mistletoe from a local supplier and Laurel and I package it in plastic bags tied with festive holiday ribbons. During the Christmas season, we process hundreds of mail and telephone and email orders for the herb, which grows in basketball-sized clumps on the hackberry and pecan trees in the wooded hills to the west of Pecan Springs. Once you’ve seen those fresh yellow-green leaves and translucent berries, glowing like huge pearls, you can understand why our mistletoe is so popular.—Mistletoe Man: A China Bayles Mystery
North American mistletoe (Phoradendron tomentosum) does not belong to the same genus as the European mistletoe (Viscum album). But the legends and lore of the European plant long ago made their way to America and got connected to our mistletoe. One thing all mistletoes have in common, however: they are all hemiparasitic. That is, they get part of their nutrients from their host plant, as well as manufacturing their own.
Mistletoe seeds are sticky and are easily transferred, by birds, to the tree on which the plants will spend their lives. Because this process was largely invisible, ancient people thought the plant itself was magical. Here’s some fascinating mistletoe lore I gathered when I was doing research for the China Bayles mystery, Mistletoe Man:
- In Britain, mistletoe was hung from the rafters of homes to protect against fire and lightning.
- In Wales, mistletoe gathered on Midsummer Eve was placed under the pillow at Yule-tide to induce prophetic dreams.
- In northern Europe, mistletoe was thought to act as a master key that would open any lock.
- Swedish farmers hung mistletoe in the horse’s stall and the cow’s crib, to protect against evil trolls. They also used the large twigs as divining rods.
- Everywhere, people enjoy kissing under the mistletoe
Check out Susan’s Christmas-season mysteries (click on the cover to see the book–and snap up a recipe or two):
National Cookie Day—and there’s no mystery about what we’ll be doing! Here are the top 10 holiday cookies from Taste of Home. But for China’s all-thyme cookie favorite, bake a batch of Ruby’s Hot Lips Cookie Crisps. They’ll disappear before you can say The Darling Dahlias and the Poinsettia Puzzle (the title of Susan’s latest holiday mystery).
If you’re stumped for gingerbread ideas,you might try Beatrix Potter’s favorite gingersnaps or Lady Longford’s ginger cake (scroll down to the bottom of the linked pages). And if you haven’t read one of Susan’s Cottage Tales mysteries, now is a very good time. Those badgers are a special treat!
Did you know that maple bark has been used medicinally? Mohawk Indians and other Northeastern tribes used it to prepare a blood purifier, eye medicine, and cough medicine. Like us, they cherished the sap, boiled, as a sweetener. For a baker’s dozen sweet & savory recipes, go here.
How many eggnog recipes do you have in your file? Not nearly enough! Here are 20 more—bet there are some you’ve never thought of. And to go with your eggnog (or mulled wine or hot cider), some very special eggnog cookies with eggnog glaze. Oh, my!
Celebrate Kwanzaa with a great Kwanzaa feast. Recipes & ideas for a real celebration.
Check out Susan’s Pinterest collection of holiday sweets from around the world. Special recipes for a special month of parties, celebrations, and joyous revelry.
Find out what Susan is up to these days by visiting her blog, Lifescapes. There’s always something interesting going on in the Texas Hill Country. She posts book reviews, bookish thoughts, and notes on the fast-changing world of books on her “other” blog, BookScapes.