As I sit here to write this blog, I’m feeling quite overcome with emotion; so much so that I have actually been procrastinating about writing it. I’ve been struggling to put the words together on how one copes with traditions when it comes to this time of the year. Christmas in itself can be a challenging time for anyone, whether they have lost a love one or not. It can be stressful when you have to try to bring families together; and the expectations that you put on yourself and others around you can be overwhelming too. I often wonder why we do this to ourselves, put ourselves in these situations to please others; when we really only have to please ourselves.
As I creep closer to the 3rd Christmas with out mum, I am oddly feeling calm. The gifts are all bought, but still need wrapping. The food is ready to go, just need the fresh fruit and veggies. A trampoline needs to be built, but I’m sure it will happen. It’s going to be 40 degrees, but I can’t change that! Thank goodness for air conditioners, swimming pools and champagne!
Mum was a huge lover of Christmas. Lets face it, with nearly a whole built-in robe full of tubs of decorations, paper, outside and inside lights, tree; and bags of plates, tablecloths, cutlery, bowls and platters (did I miss anything?!) Every year when the sales were on, she would buy more, little trinkets that she loved, and a few more lights and decorations. There were additions too to the home-made sewing/quilting/crafting decoration collection. (You can see these over on my Insta account – The 11 days of what mum made for X-mas.) The first year without mum it was really quite confronting to slide those robe doors back and be greeted with all of these memories. However, we did. We put the tree up, dad did the lights, we hung a few of our favorite decorations up, and put the rest back in the robe. We did the same last year and this year, dad it too. It’s about keeping the traditions and memories alive and remembering the fun that we had with mum at Christmas time.
I don’t think I would be alone in saying food is a huge part of our Christmas day. I can remember many Christmas’ we had on our farm where we would fill an extended table tennis table to the brim with food. There would be a production line of sorts in the kitchen with mum and Nanna and aunties and cousins all helping prepare salads, and nibbles and roast lamb and chickens. Then the whole family (nearly 30 us) would pull up a deck chair and eat our way though it; and again the next day for left overs.
But by far the best memory I have is baking. Puddings, fruit cakes, slices, trifles, balls and my favourite – Honey Biscuits. We would have a designated day where we would bake these. This is a tradition that I recently discovered now spans over 5 generations of my family – how awesome is that!!! I remember the days at my Nanna’s growing up where I would be with my cousins and bake all day. (See below here my family have perfectly captured this day). After my Nanna passed, mum and I would make them and then in recent years, my boys would join in. Another generation to capture the tradition.
For me, it is walking into the house and the kitchen is full of Christmassy smells; cinnamon, cloves, all spice and the sweetness of honey.
Mum would have already been up early to melt the 1kg of honey and 500g of sugar together into a syrup so it is cool enough to use by the time we got there. The rolling-pin and big tub full of Christmas cookie cutters were out and ready to go and the oven was on. Mum would be wearing her Pooh Bear apron and the kettle would be on for a quick coffee before the serious business started.
The recipe is so big, that it’s mixed up in a big yellow tub, by hand. To start with we would all have a go at mixing the flour into the honey syrup and eggs; until the boys little arms were no longer able to do it; or mum got puffed out, then it was left to me to mix the last of the flour in until it was a stiff dough.
Then the messy fun began! Dough rolled out onto the flour, flour everywhere. Trays and trays of biscuits in all shapes from stars, heart, trees, reindeer’s and even gingerbread men that were often missing a leg or gifted an extra arm; or if the boys were being cheeky given a penis! Trays were in and out of the oven, while the dough was rolled and cut. It was a real production line and team effort! Until eventually, the dough was all gone, the pile of baked biscuits huge on the cupboard; and one big mess left to clean up. That’s when the boys decided they had enough and off they would go to find something else to do.
The last couple of years I have been blessed and grateful that my boys have wanted to keep this tradition alive, and as soon as school holidays start they ask when we were going to make them. It fills my heart with warm fuzzies that they are wanting to do this and that they can remember doing it with mum. It’s a tradition of love and togetherness and memory making and family. It’s a tradition that I will continue with my boys, until one day I hope to be able to do it with my grand children.
As I was writing this post, I asked my family to write me a few sentences of what “Honey Biscuits” meant to them. I’d love to share their responses, they have captured the spirit of what this family tradition truly means. Thank you family x
“What is honey biscuits?? Honey biscuits is love, is family, is tradition is coming together once a year and sharing stories of Nanna’s house as kids, the massive production line of aunties and cousins on the tiny kitchen table with the old fold out card table in the passage way to stack the cooked ones, it’s hrs and hrs of rolling dough the constant rotation of trays through the oven, the smell that fills your house and your heart knowing that the love the family and the tradition lives on and will live on for generations to come.” Maxi
“Lots of honey biscuits. First with mum Val the endless icing decorating. Had to be perfect and they were. The years of looking forward to the Christmas tin. Aunty Daph. Two days of honey biscuits. Table after table of biscuit. Then to wrap and pack as most were for church family trading tables. Good memories. The girls now give me my honey biscuit fix.” Aunty Chris B
“Honey Biscuits – where do I start. Memories of making them with Nanna, and then receiving a tin of them from either Aunty Val or Aunty Daph. Haven’t started to create memories with grandchildren but will do soon. As long as honey biscuits and pasties are still being made by the next generations the memories of those who have left us will always stay strong in our hearts.” Cousin Kerry P
“Oh the memories – watching Nanna, my Mum, Aunty Val & Aunty Daph make these on baking days at Nanna’s farm & in Cowell. On the farm I would hide under the big dining table when they were cooling so we could have first taste. I even had my tin of bikkies delivered to me a few times over here in WA, then I would ration them out to my girls so they would last. I have never made them as I don’t do much baking, maybe my calling when I retire lol.” Cousin Chris P
“What Maxi said! I don’t get to join their big cook ups but I do get to enjoy the benefits of them. Mum sneaks a tin in the post to me every year which my kids love! Honey biscuits will always represent love and family and the smell will always remind me of Nanna and Christmas at Nanna and Poppa’s. It’s time to start the tradition with my kids, now I’m that I have my very own copy of the Barossa cook book!” Cousin Tammy T
“Long hot days at Nanna’s, the massive jam cooking pot with the mixture in it, watching the mound of biscuits growing under the table-cloth, sneaking them and getting caught! These days, it’s all chaos in my own kitchen with cousins and sisters and cookie cutters and flour everywhere, my own kitchen table with the biscuits growing under one of Nanna’s tablecloths (kept for that one day of the year), the deliberately random assignment into tins and sealing one tin with packing tape so that we’d still have biscuits on Xmas day. And keeping Nanna alive and in our hearts, in bringing family together like she did, and reminding us of our common histories, wherever we are in the world.” Cousin Sharon F
“In yoga we learn about the energy of food. Fresh food carries its natural vitality and passes this energy to you as you eat it. Processed food carries the energy with which it is made, and is typically dull if not negative. Honey Biscuits are in a league of their own!
Each batch carries the love not only of those who gather to bake them but of those who gather elsewhere in the same tradition, and the many generations of our family who’s loving energy is invoked in memories as we bake. Honey biscuits baked by non family members others are simply not the same!
They are the most special gifts we make, as we share the energy of our WHOLE family – SO HARD to give away to random people, but my friends, the kids teachers, my husbands family all love them. And yes, we must keep 1 in the tin as they run out so, we can live off the smell until the next honey biscuit day.” Cousin Teresa S
“As a child at Yabmana, Christmas time always saw Nanna Schmidtke, Val, Shirl and Daph have one marathon day at the farm baking honey biscuits. Everyone brought all their tins and at the end of the day they were all crammed full. Out in the washhouse on the big benches they worked at mixing, rolling, cutting, in the oven and icing. The wood stove worked overtime and everyone was hot, sweaty and exhausted by the end of the day. There were also 2 other big days when pigs were killed and all the wursts were made and out in the big smoker by the car shed at the end of the verandah.” Aunty Joy B
“When asked, Makenzie and Hannah say it’s a Christmas tradition to make them before we go to Venus Bay for holidays. It reminds us all of Nanna Val and the many biscuits we would get at Christmas time to eat. It’s the mess, flour, laughter and sharing of the biscuits that are made with love; that’s what honey biscuits means.” Cousin Kerry G
“It’s just something we do, and may we all be blessed with families to share this happy mess with generations to come. Honey biscuits rule x.” Aunty Jen H
“I just love eating them!” – Dad 🙂