I’m pretty sure there was no eggnog on that first Christmas. There were shepherds out in the fields with their sheep, however. So maybe there was cheese.
But over time, special holiday foods emerged. Why so much sugar this time of year? According to www.foodtimeline.org, sugar used to be very expensive and was the food of the wealthy. For other people, it was a treat saved for special occasions.
Eggnog was most probably an American version of an Old English holiday beverage, say food historians. And it has truly remained a holiday beverage. A local grocer tells me eggnog sales literally stop the day after New Year’s.
This year as my mind grapples with the tragic events in our world, I find myself wanting to go back to the simplicity of that very first Christmas. Cookies and fudge don’t seem as important. And as I drive the miles to be with family in New Mexico, I will focus on the words I found tucked within an old book that once belonged to my grandfather. On a small piece of paper that he apparently cut from a magazine in 1951 are three paragraphs from author Henry Van Dyke titled “Keeping Christmas”:
“There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas Day — and that is keeping Christmas.
“Are you willing to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to hearts hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for the place where you can sow a few good deeds of happiness? Then you can keep Christmas.
“Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world — stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death? Then you can keep Christmas.”
I will remember that as I sip eggnog with my family. I will think about the baby in the manger and the hope of that first Christmas. And I will pray that this year we can all keep Christmas.