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Christmas bring-togethers.

Christmas bring-togethers

Bell-ringing parties, wreath-making parties, caroling by boat: our readers celebrate the holidays with some ingenious twists on old traditions.

Letters full of Christmas cheer--and good ideas--poured into our offices last December, after we asked you to tell us about your special holiday activities, crafts, recipes. We were delighted by the surprising ways you celebrate, and the lengths you go to to make your get-togethers unique and memorable.

On these 10 pages, we show but a sampling of traditions you keep with your families, friends, and neighbors. Other holiday ideas from your letters are secattered throughout the magazine, and we'll report on more in future issues.

For details on making the wreaths shown opposite, turn to page 84. Directions for the munlies start on page 158.

Readers who entertain with music or Dickens: they enlist talent

How to entertain guests brought out a number of innovative solutions from our readers. One idea that kept popping up was renting talent to provide the festive atmosphere, rather than relying on reluctant guests to sing, play an instrument, or whatever.

A family in Los Angeles enlisted the services of a puppeteer to entertain the neighborhood children-- and their parents--at one Christmas block party. A woman in Fresno invited her guests to come hear a local Shakespearean actor do a dramatic reading of A Christmas Carol. At left you see a group of Dickensian carolers that wandered through a party in Atherton, California.

Check local schools and colleges; symphony, opera, and theatrical associations and guilds; talent agencies or music stores; or look in the yellow pages under Entertainers. You may want to make several inquiries, since rates vary drastically.

They build parties around traditional steamed puddings

Because they generally improve with some aging, steamed puddings are the focus of late November and early December activities in many Western homes. Jennefer Santee of Carmel, California, wrote that four generations gather at her mother's home to mix the ingredients for plum puddings. After a festive lunch, the puddings are taken home to steam and steep in sherry.

Betty Emery Miner of Corvallis, Oregon, prepares hot steamed puddings for serving at back-to-back parties along with a sauce and tea or coffee. "The house is decorated, the serving utensils and china are down, and I spend the evenings enjoying the guests and conversation' --a strong case for this kind of organization. Ripe, golden persimmons from their own garden remind the Ellenberger family of Palo Alto, California, that the holidays are at hand. The mellow fruit is the base of their exceptionally easy and flavorful pudding (recipe on page 204), shown being served at right.

"Come for chili. It's black tie'

Ray and Paula Fair, Redmond, Washington

"If this seems complex, it's because it is,' sums up Ray Fair as he describes his championship chili recipe, winner at several regional cook-offs. We add that it's worth the effort; directions are on page 192.

Like the Fairs' tongue-in-cheek black-tie bash, parties that feature a generous and hearty main dish by the host couple, supplemented by other parts of the menu brought by guests, are a popular trend in the West. They are a way for all to share in the labor and cost of entertaining. Busy hosts appreciate the help; guests enjoy participating in the planning.

At this party for 30, guests arrive with assorted appetizers and desserts that are set up buffet-fashion. The Fairs serve their steaming all-meat chili with a pot of pinto beans and a choice of condiments--cheeses, salsa, and chopped onions--plus coleslaw and cornbread. Beverages are kept ices in an inflated rubber dinghy adrift on the kitchen floor.

The evening's entertainment involves hosts and guests judging each other's liberal interpretation of the black-tie dress code, fancy steps on the dance floor, and showmanship choices in the white elephant gift exchange.

Photo: "Christmas morning we have "munlies,' or little bread men, made from a German recipe from my mother's family'

Sandra L. Petsche, Canyon Lake, California

Photo: "Everyone prunes, then we wind prunings into wreaths to decorate and take home'

Cas Szukalski, Monte Sereno

Photo: "We decorate our boats, tie four abreast, and float around our island. It really makes us feel as if Christmas has arrived, seeing children running down to the docks'

Shirley Werner, Westlake Village

Photo: "I have two octaves of English handbells for our fun--and unusual-- ring-and-sing Christmas party'

Yolie Becerril, San Diego

Photo: "Come for chili: it's black tie.' Guests arrive in irreverent attire, bringing appetizers, desserts, and white elephant gifts

Photo: At their annual party, Paula and Ray Fair serve specialty-of-the-house chili-- meat in sauce and boiled beans

Photo: Caroling quarter, members of the San Francisco Opera chorus, entertain guests at Winifred Chrisman's party

Photo: Appetizer and dessert buffets show off guests' culinary talents. Dancing follows, with absurd gifts opened at breaks

Photo: Served hot from the steamer, persimmon pudding is studded with chopped nuts
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1984
Words:815
Previous Article:Where Santa reads and answers his mail.
Next Article:Their holiday wreaths start in the garden.
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