Christmas is a special time of year, so let the shopping, caroling, tree decorating, kissing under the mistletoe, roasting chestnuts on an open fire, cooking and eating begin.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth on December 25thand has been recognized by a majority of Christians in the western world since AD 354 when the First Feast of the Nativity was celebrated in Rome.
With no evidence at all of the exact date of the Nativity, historians and theologians speculate that Jesus of Nazareth was not born on December 25, but sometime in the spring, coinciding with Easter, which commemorates his resurrection.
Considered the most widely celebrated festival in the world that is both secular and religious in nature, the origins of the Christmas celebration probably began before the 4th century in the ancient-Greco-Roman world during Constantine’s reign. The Emperor of Rome made Christianity the legal religion of the empire and it is thought that he may have chosen the particular date of December 25th as a political move in order to weaken the already established pagan celebrations that took place during this time of year.
Medieval Christmas observances celebrating the winter solstice, in recognition of the return of the sun, typically lasted for weeks that included a mix of secular and pagan traditions.
As traditions began to take shape throughout the centuries as Christmas became a major Christian festival, each country and ethnic group have established their own traditions that vary widely from one country to the next.
Most American traditions and observances include gift and card giving, various church and public festivities, gathering with family and friends, and singing Christmas carols.
Surrounded by warm feelings of the season as the Yule log burns in the fireplace and good cheer abounds as Christmas Day arrives next Tuesday, for many people, it’s a favorite time of year.
But in reality, this widely observed holiday can often lead to seasonal stress and increased anxiety that is easily usurped by the joy of the season.
Despite the madness of non-stop holiday activities, ‘tis the season to be jolly and what better way to beat the stress is with something yummy fresh from the oven.
With so many traditional favorites to choose from, this fuss-free recipe for mini cranberry muffins will round out your holiday breakfast, of course, after the gifts have been opened. The muffins can be made the day before Christmas, which allows time to embrace the season and all the festivities in order to capture the true meaning of the holiday, leaving any possibility of humbug behind.
Mini Cranberry Muffins
1 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries (if using fresh, coarsely chop)
Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, brown sugar and nuts in a large bowl. Blend eggs, oil and vanilla in another bowl. Pour it into the flour mixture and mix until moistened without over-mixing. Fold in cranberries. The consistency of the batter will be dry. Brush mini-muffin cups with a little oil and spoon in the batter, about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes or until brown and wood toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. While still warm, loosen muffins carefully with a knife and transfer to racks to cool. It’s optional to re-heat muffins before serving.