There is nothing better than decorating the tree with all of your favorite holiday Christmas ornaments, some Christmas carol music playing on the radio, a warm fire crackling in the fireplace, and a creamy glass of old-fashioned eggnog on Christmas Eve. The smell of the tree, the lights glistening off the glass ornaments, and the taste of nutmeg and cream are the things most of us will remember about our Christmases past and present. But where did this creamy concoction come from in the first place and how exactly does it make our Christmas ornament decorating that much more special?
As you may or may not know, most of our modern holiday Christmas traditions originally came from different parts of Europe. The most popular Christmas traditions came from German, like the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, and handmade German ornaments. While it is unclear where exactly eggnog specifically came from, it most likely came to America from a variety of different European cultures and traditions. When the early settlers came to America they brought with them some of their traditional foods and drinks. Eggnog most likely came from some of the popular milk and wine based punches that were popular at the time. Once in America, however, rum was used to replace the wine in the mixture and the eggnog of today was born. This concoction became a popular wintertime drink in those early colonial times due to its spicy taste, cold creamy froth, and warm rum ingredients.
As the early settlers enjoyed a glass of eggnog while they decorated their own Christmas trees with the handmade wooden ornaments they made at the time or the fine glass Christmas ornaments that they had brought with them from their home countries, eggnog was not necessarily only popular at Christmastime as it is today. Eggnog was often made in large quantities and was commonly served throughout the winter season at parties, social gatherings, and as a welcome greeting to visitors who might come a calling. Eggnog became a popular drink on the first day of the New Year as friends and family would go from house to house giving each other greetings and sharing a cup of the frothy brew. It is said that even George Washington himself was a huge fan of eggnog and concocted his own version of the drink by adding whiskey, sherry, and rum.
Today, as we place the Christmas ornaments upon our own trees, eggnog is still a popular holiday drink. Served with or without rum, many people enjoy the creamy drink with friends and family, just as our ancestors did hundreds of years before. Though we no longer make our own wooden ornaments, instead purchasing store bought Christmas ornaments out of necessity, Christmas is still a special time of year where we gather together with friends and family. We also no longer make large vats of eggnog to be served throughout the season, but instead we usually purchase a can or a carton of premade eggnog mix. However, the basic ingredients and flavors are still the same and we can toast each other just as well with the premade eggnog mix.
Perhaps you might want to relive some of these old holiday traditions by throwing a good old-fashioned tree trimming party, complete with handmade Christmas ornaments and a homemade eggnog mixture. Nothing will impress your family and friends more than handing them each a beautiful handmade German ornament along with a cold glass of freshly made eggnog. Making eggnog is quite simple and there are very few ingredients involved. You do not have to add the rum to the mixture if you choose not to because eggnog is just as good without the alcohol as it is with.
The first thing you need to do is to get six large eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. You will need both parts of the egg for your eggnog, so do not throw them away. Slowly beat the yolks while adding three quarter cups of sugar. Mix the yolks and sugar together until they turn a lemon or golden color. Next, add four cups of milk, two cups of cream, and a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon to taste. You then want to whisk the egg whites until they become stiff and then add them to the mixture just before serving. Pour the mixture into cups and if you like you can top each with some whipped cream and a little bit of nutmeg for a spicy treat. For a decorative touch, add a small Christmas ornament to the cup handle or stem so your tree trimming guests can identify their own eggnog while decorating the tree.
Now, you might be worried about the fact that eggnog uses raw eggs. While this certainly is a minor safety issue, it can be avoided by slowly heating the eggs and then cooling before serving. If you have a cooking thermometer you want the eggs to reach 160º F to kill all of the possible bacteria. Most store bought eggnog is pasteurized, so the risk of bacteria is eliminated because the eggs have been heated before being used.
While the mass produced Christmas ornaments and pasteurized eggnog of today are very different from the hand carved wooden ornaments and unpasteurized eggnog of yesterday, you can still experience the old-fashioned Christmas traditions of yesteryear with your family today. Consider gathering your family and friends together to make your own Christmas ornaments together or purchasing some handmade German ornaments that are made with the traditional Christmas ornament making skills that have been handed down for generations. You can also mix up a batch of your very own eggnog while everyone gathers together for a holiday cheer after the last Christmas ornament is placed on the tree, just as the early settlers did hundreds years ago.