The holidays are a time for family fun! Opening presents and eating great food are just some of the traditions that make Christmas everyone’s favorite time of the year. The real icing on the cake is of course… movies! When the weather outside is brutal and the family’s stomach is full of delicious treats, we all plop down in front of the boob tube and watch our favorite holiday films. So the team at Your Holiday Lights put together a list of the top ten Christmas movies of all time. We polled our office, family, and friends to get the most well rounded list we could. Continue reading “Top 10 Christmas Movies”

xmas-energy-saving-pic

During the holiday season, Americans consume more energy than any other time of year. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration during November, December, and January all forms of energy use skyrocket. While it’s obvious that the major reason for this is keeping your home warm, there are some tricks to help keep your costs down. Continue reading “Christmastime Energy Saving Tips”

Happy Thanksgiving

Americans love their holidays, and more than that, they love their food. So it would be no surprise that one of the most popular holidays is Thanksgiving. Ingrained in our traditions is the belief that certain foods coincide with a specific holiday, and that every Thanksgiving we should have those foods on the table or we aren’t celebrating correctly. But why turkey and stuffing? Why cranberry sauce? Why pumpkin pie? And for the love of everything good, why green bean casserole?

Turkey

Turkey is so synonymous with Thanksgiving that we jokingly call it Turkey day. The real truth is we aren’t even sure that turkey was present on that first Thanksgiving. Most historians don’t seem to be able to agree on whether there was turkey, even though there’s considerable evidence for turkeys being a popular dinnertime menu item for centuries. There are only two eyewitness accounts of what happened during that three-day feast: a letter written by Edward Winslow and sent back to England, and a written record from Plymouth’s governor, William Bradford. Winslow didn’t mention turkeys at all, but Bradford writes, “And besides waterfowl (duck or geese), there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.” Americans started eating turkey for Thanksgiving in the mid-1800s after a popular magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale published her recipes for turkey and stuffing.

Traditional stuffing side dish for Thanksgiving in a baking pan

Stuffing

Within my family, stuffing might be the most controversial of the sides. Everyone thinks they have the best recipe, and some just refuse to eat it. While stuffing has long accompanied the “bird”, the style and recipes have evolved. The birds present at the first meal, whether they were turkey or waterfowl, were probably stuffed with onions and herbs, not bread. As with the turkey, Sarah Josepha Hale’s recipes for stuffing likely made it a companion to the turkey.

Gourmet whole berry cranberry sauce with fresh cranberrie

Cranberry Sauce

I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of cranberries, but I’ll do my best to be fair to the sweet and sour scourge of the holiday feast table. One thing we can be certain of is that cranberry sauce was not at the table that first Thanksgiving. Sugar wasn’t readily available, and those terrible tart berries wouldn’t have been appealing. Cranberries are, however, truly American. They are one of only a handful of fruits native to North America. As the sugar supply increased, so did our cranberry consumption. By the Civil War, they were such a holiday staple that General Ulysses S. Grant famously demanded his soldiers be provided cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day meal.

Green beans casserole, traditional side dish for Thanksgiving

Green Bean Casserole

The most unlikely tradition from that first feast was the green bean casserole. Introduced by the natives, the green bean casserole… I’m just being silly. This famous dish was created by Dorcas Reilly for Campbell’s Soup in 1955. Her original recipe can still be found on Campbell’s website, and it was such a hit that it has found its way into our 300-year-old tradition. Campbell’s commissioned Reilly to develop a recipe that was easily replicated using only their products. According to the soup company, 30% of all cream of mushroom soup sales is bought for green bean casserole.

Whole pumpkin pie with a slice cut out

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkins and squash were almost assuredly at the first Thanksgiving, but not in the form of pie. Like I mentioned earlier, sugar wasn’t easy to come by, and neither was butter or flour. Baking wasn’t an option at that time either. According to some accounts, early English settlers in North America improvised by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey, and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes. It wasn’t until the early nineteenth century that recipe appeared in American cookbooks or pumpkin pie became a common addition to the Thanksgiving dinner. Some attribute this addition to Hale’s article as well, but John Greenleaf Whittier’s popular poem in 1850 might have sealed the deal.

 

                “The Pumpkin”

  By John Greenleaf Whittier 

“Ah! on Thanksday, when from East and from West,

From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;

When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board

The old broken links of affection restored;

When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,

And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,

What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?”

gift-wrapping-hacks

While the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year… it can get a bit hectic as you grow older. As a child, your biggest worry around Christmas was whether or not Santa remembered to get you that ONE gift you wanted SO BADLY. Now you’re juggling the rush of shopping, scheduling, cooking, wrapping and bouncing between holiday parties at work, the neighbor’s house and your in-laws… sometimes you’re too busy to soak in all the wonderful holiday cheer surrounding you! Continue reading “5 Gift Wrapping Hacks for a Less Hectic Christmas”

Love it or hate it, Christmas music is inescapable this time of year! They’re classic, they’re fun and they’re earworms. Christmas music is some of the most covered music – you’ll be surprised how many different versions of your favorite tune you can find online. So in no particular order… here’s a list of some of our favorites, new and old – to get you in the Christmas spirit! ENJOY: Continue reading “Literally Just a List of Awesome Christmas Songs”

Best Holiday Cocktails and Mocktails

Eat, drink and be merry… that’s what Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about, right? But let’s be honest, coming together with loved ones over the holidays is sometimes best paired with a cocktail.

We’re here to share some of our favorite holiday cocktails – and for the kids/those who don’t drink… you’re not stuck with sparkling grape juice this year! Each of these can be prepared as a mocktail! Continue reading “Holiday Cocktails and Mocktails”