Kyle asked me the other day what I love so much about Christmas. Not so much into the holiday himself—he’s a total Thanksgiving guy—he didn’t understand why I (and the rest of my family) look forward to Christmastime so much.
After I stopped rolling my eyes and shouting, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHY DO I LOVE CHRISTMAS!? WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE!!!????” I told him it wasn’t one thing in particular but everything at once: the smile-inducing songs, the colorful decorations, the warm lights, the decades-old traditions, the time set aside just to be with family. It’s the well-wishes of “Merry Christmas” I hear throughout the month. And though the gifting is lower on my list of holiday loves, there is something that makes my heart grow a few sizes seeing someone open a thoughtful present you picked out for them. All of it, combined, is what makes Christmas so magical.
Last weekend we were at my parents house and remembered something I had received from Santa when I was little—probably 5 or 6. I had them pull it out so I could show Kyle. It wasn’t a doll or a toy. That year, I had written a note for Santa and placed it beside the milk and cookies I had set out. I asked him for one small thing: His signature. I’m not sure why I asked for that, exactly, and I’m not sure what I expected to find when I awoke. But whatever it was, the note that greeted me was, I think, what made me fall in love with Christmas.
On a piece of North Pole addressed letterhead, scrawled in script, was a letter from Santa. It bore two reindeer hoof prints—true to size—and a burn hole from Rudolph’s nose. It was signed in big loopy letters, and at the end read a note from Santa’s elf apologizing for the prints, the burn. I was enchanted.
After that, I was afraid to stop believing, even after I knew the truth. I remember how scared I was of losing that feeling, how much I wanted to hold that sense of wonderment in the palm of my hand and never let it go. But like every kid, the time came when I did. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that Santa wasn’t what made Santa special—it was that Santa was really only my father, scheming late at night on Christmas Eve simply for the sake of magic.
I guess my answer to Kyle was only a half-truth. Sure, the songs and the lights are certainly wonderful, but the real reason I love Christmas so much is because of its unparalleled magic. The kind that only lingers in the background the rest of the year. The kind that shows up, scrawled on a piece of paper, with a burn mark and two hoof prints, next to an empty glass of milk and a plate of half-eaten cookies.
Onto this delicious cocktail! Everyone has been posting a variation of this gem of a cocktail, but I had to recreate my own because it’s just too good. Easy to make, cozy, not too sweet, a little tart—it’s perfection. Whip up a whole batch and make them a new tradition this Christmas!
Cranberry Moscow Mules
makes 2 cocktails
- 4 oz vodka
- 2 oz cranberry sauce syrup (recipe follows)
- 2 oz fresh lime juice
- 8-10 oz ginger beer (I love Fever Tree)
- Sugared cranberries (use this great recipe via Holly & Flora!) and rosemary for garnish
Combine first three ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until very cold, about 20 seconds. Strain into two copper mugs filled with fresh ice. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with sugared cranberries and/or rosemary. Sip merrily!
Cranberry Sauce Syrup
I encourage you to make your own favorite cranberry sauce, and instead of allowing it to simmer until thick, let it go only about 10-15 minutes so it’s syrupy and still pourable. That’s it!
The variation I used was simply 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. water, 1 cup frozen cranberries, and the zest of 1 satsuma or orange. Combine all ingredients and let simmer until it barely coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. The syrup will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.