My cousin, the Dancing Librarian, and I recently got into a discussion about the various sweet treats our families enjoyed at Christmas during our younger years and I thought, hey, there’s a column!
The first thing that popped into the DL’s head were the special cinnamon rolls her mother baked for Christmas morning. She said they were made with pie dough rather than yeast.
We both remembered the old fashioned Christmas hard candy mix — the little filled pillows, the rectangular filled straws, the mini ribbons and other pieces I’m probably forgetting, all in various colors and flavors.
In my house chocolate was a must. Every Christmas when Mom and I took the bus to downtown Indianapolis to see the decorated department store windows and to shop for gifts, we always stopped at one of the candy stores for a pound of assorted chocolates.
My aunts also often gave Dad a box of chocolate covered cherries as a present.
Maybe that was a Sheridan thing. The DL, who lived in Sheridan like my aunts, said the customers on her brother’s paper route used to give him chocolate covered cherries at Christmas, too.
(One year he snagged so many boxes of the cherries — and other items — he couldn’t carry everything. He had to stop at home halfway through his route to unload his holiday haul before he could continue.)
For several years my grandmother and I had a tradition of making divinity candy each Christmas.
Grandmother never used a candy thermometer. She was so experienced, she could judge how far along the sugar syrup was by dribbling a little bit in water. It fascinated me to watch the syrup change from the thread stage to the hard ball stage as the temperature went up.
If you did the process correctly — and Grandmother always did — you got pieces of candy that looked like little chunks of white plaster, but tasted heavenly.
I tried to keep up the tradition after Grandmother passed away, but I ended up with glossy globs instead of fluffy puffs and decided candy-making wasn’t for me.
Then there were the natural sweets, oranges and apples. Each year my mother bought my father and me the biggest apple and orange she could find.
I thought this was rather odd, because in the 1960s, you could get apples and oranges pretty much any time you wanted them.
I finally asked Mom why she did it and she said it was a nostalgic treat for my dad. When he was a boy, his family didn’t have much money and getting an orange in his stocking was a big deal.
Of course, there were always Christmas cookies. One of my most popular recipes requires fresh ginger and since I always seemed to buy more ginger than I needed, I liked to use the extra to make this sorbet. It’s a great, light dessert for a holiday meal.

Cranberry Sorbet

4 C. fresh or frozen cranberries
2 C. sugar
2 C. water
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 C. orange juice
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Bring cranberries, sugar, water and ginger to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop and soften. Remove from heat and stir in orange and lemon juices.
Strain into a bowl, pressing and stirring with a wooden spoon to extract as much mixture as possible. Discard skins and ginger. Let mixture cool, then pour into an 8 or 9-inch metal pan. Cover and freeze at least 12 hours, or until solid.
I’ll be taking next week off for the holiday, so I’m going to wish everybody a Merry Christmas this week.
Merry Christmas!

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at