Friday, December 13, 2013


In Brazil, Christmas is one of the most important festive days, or "dia de festas". It is celebrated on 25th December.
Having a multicultural population, the festivities in the country are influenced by ethnic ways. As a former Portuguese colony, they have retained some of the Christmas customs of their former masters. Notable among these is creating a nativity scene or "Presepio". The word "Presepio" comes from "presepium" meaning the bed of straw in which Jesus first slept after birth in Bethlehem. This custom is common in places of north eastern Brazil like Bahia, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Maranhao, Ceara, Pernambuco, Piaui and Alagoas. A Franciscan friar named Gaspar De Santo Agostinho is believed to have first introduced the tradition in the city of Olinda (in the state of Pernambuco) in the 17th century. The practice of setting up presepios continue to this day. Every December, presépios are created during Christmas and displayed in churches, houses and stores. Come January and they are dismantled along with the Christmas trees and lights.

On Christmas Eve, thousands of devout Catholics attend the "Missa do Galo" or Midnight Mass. Masses are also organised on December 25 in the morning and later afternoon.
Christmas decorations in the country involve setting up Christmas trees in individual homes and adorning them beautifully with decorative items such as lights, plastic balls and glass balls. A highlight of Christmas celebrations in Brazil is making huge Christmas "trees" of electric lights. These "electric trees" can be seen against the night skies in major cities such as Brasilia, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro throughout the season.
Caroling is quite a popular custom here. Various christmas carols are sung during Christmas to commemorate the birth of Christ. A number of Christmas songs (pastorils and others) are sung on the occassion. "Noite Feliz" ("Silent Night") is probably the song most associated with Christmas in Brazil.

The beginning of the previous century saw many immigrants coming from Europe and other parts of the world and settling in Brazil. As a natural consequence, the festivals celebrated in the country began to be observed in diverse ways and influenced by different traditions that these people brought with them. Christmas is not an exception. The food eaten in Brazil (specially in the South states) during Christmas came from Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and other countries. The traditional Christmas dinner here includes roasted turkey, vegetables and fruits. Beer and wine are also served often; a German "Stollen" or an Italian "Panetone" often find their way to a Christmas feast held in the southern parts of the country. A huge Christmas dinner menu includes turkey, ham, colored rice, and wonderful fresh vegetable and fruit dishes. The less fortunate have rice with chicken or with beans.
In some regions the feast starts on Christmas Eve around 9 pm, while at other places it is eaten at midnight with the children being served first.
Like Santa Claus in the U.S., Papai Noel (Father Noel) is the gift-bringer in Brazil. According to legend, he lives in Greenland and resembles Santa in many ways. Papai Noel can also remind you of Chile's "Viejo Pascuero" (Easter Old Man). This gift-giver of children is depicted as wearing a red fur coat with boots and carrying a bag full of presents. He is believed to secretly leave gifts at the house of every good child on Christmas Day. Children wake up early on Christmas morning to look for gifts from this benevolent character.

Except for the high temperatures and the absence of snow, Christmas here is pretty much the same as it is in the US.


   This recipe for these wonderful cookies, was found at www.whatmegansmaking.com . I hope you enjoy making a batch of these for the holidays.

Lofthouse Style Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

Lofthouse Style Soft Sugar Cookies

I knew I had to have a great recipe to kick off the 12 Days of Christmas Treats 2011, so I’m starting with one of my absolute favorites! You know those soft Lofthouse sugar cookies that pop up in grocery stores around all the holidays? The kind with colored icing and sprinkles? I’ve been looking for a homemade version for awhile now and I’m happy to tell you I finally found it!  I used to (and still do!) love the Lofthouse cookies. I remember having them as snacks at our tennis matches in college and how I always grabbed a cookie after I was done playing, even if we were headed straight to dinner. 
These sugar cookies are so close to the grocery store staples that I almost couldn’t believe it. From the soft and fluffy cookie to the thick and creamy icing…these cookies are good! They’re perfect for any holiday – just change the color of the icing and adjust the sprinkles. I won’t tell you how much money I spent on Christmas sprinkles this year, but looking at these happy festive cookies, I think it was worth it. 

Lofthouse Style Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies


Lofthouse Style Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

Yield: 2-3 dozen large cookies


For the cookies:
4½ cups all-purpose flour
4½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
5 tsp. vanilla extract
For the frosting:
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
7-8 tbsp. milk (plus more, as needed)
Food coloring (optional)
Sprinkles (optional) 


To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk together to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed. Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, scoop a scant quarter cup of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the ball slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart. Bake about 10-12 minutes or just until set. (Do not overbake! The edges should be no more than very lightly browned if at all.) Let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To frost the cookies, place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisk in additional milk as necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. Tint with food coloring if desired. Use an offset spatula or spoon to frost the cooled cookies. (If the frosting begins to thicken as you decorate, just continue to whisk in small amounts of milk to keep it workable.) Top with sprinkles if desired. Store in an airtight container.


Bottle It Up

We have gone little craft-crazy this holiday season. The first thing we created? Silver bottles for the entry way. This project was really easy, but it did take a moment of trial and error.

What You Need:

Epsom Salt (We used Dr. Teal's Cooling Peppermint -- our bottles smell amazing!)
Silver spray paint

Yep, that's all.

Side Note: Glitter is more expensive that I remember it being when I was 9.  This could be because I don't actually know how much it was when I was 9.

Put your newspaper down. Now, we mixed the glitter and the Epsom salt on the newspaper like so:

We sprayed the bottles completely silver and then rolled the bottom of the bottles in the glitter and salt mixture. This is what happened:

I don't know if you can tell (or maybe that's the wrong picture), but we didn't think things through. Our patio is concrete (or "concreek" according to B). Rolling a spray painted glass bottle over the concrete only scratches the paint off the bottle.  So what could have been a one-person project quickly devolved into a two-person laugh riot.

Basically, one person sprayed the bottle and the tilted it back (so as not the scratch the paint) and rotated it. Meanwhile, the other person threw the salt and glitter mixture gingerly upon the bottle as it was being rotated. Hilarity ensured when the person spray painting (me) paid no attention the the direction the spray nozzle was pointing and continually painted everything save the bottle.

But, we were ultimately successful. See:

The picture doesn't really do them justice. All in all, the project took about 20 minutes (half of which was us realizing concrete is not the ideal surface upon which to craft, followed by a good 2 minutes of laughing).