December! What does it mean for you? Is it an aura of excitement? A whiff of Christmas in the air? It’s all that, and more. For starters, you can open the first door of your advent calendar (and hopefully you’ll refrain from opening the other 23 doors all in one day); you can legitimately put your Christmas tree up (who doesn’t love tinsel and fairy lights?); and there’s that anticipation of the festivities to come.
The twelfth month means you can once again breathe in Christmas: it bubbles beneath the skin, courses through your veins. It’s the buzz you get when you hear the opening bars of ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ as you walk around a store, or catch a glimpse of the first Christmas advert. It’s opening a card from a loved one overseas, the gleeful familiarity of Elf, and the cosy reminder of the goodness of humanity in It’s a Wonderful Life.
Then there’s the Christmas markets: the smoky scent of bratwurst, sweet waffles oozing with toffee sauce, and the warmth of mulled wine filtering through thick gloves. It’s the knowing certainty of choosing a gift for someone you love; the crackle of wrapping paper; the glow of coloured lights from a stranger’s home; the crumbling deliciousness of mince pies.
It’s the chorus of carol singers, the majesty of the brass band, the sheer joy of shouting out the lyrics to The Twelve Days of Christmas. It’s the small child believing as she sits on Santa’s knee. It’s the chance to spend time with family and loved ones. It’s the sense of giving, of kindness, and of hope.
One of my favourite things is to make something nice for someone else. Perhaps bake biscuits or make a jam. Often I’ll send home-made gingerbread men into school for all their hard work over the year. They are simple, so something kids can help with too. Because they’re delicious, they are really popular with everyone!
Easy-Peasy Gingerbread Men (makes lots)
350g plain flour
5 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g light brown sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
1 medium egg
- Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4.
- Mix together flour, butter, ginger, cinnamon, sugar and bicarbonate of soda with fingertips until crumbly. Mix together syrup and egg and add to dry ingredients until it forms a firm dough.
- Roll out the dough to about 5mm thick. Make sure the surface and the rolling pin are well dusted with flour. Use gingerbread men cutters to cut out shapes.
- Place ginger men shapes on a greased baking tray.
- Bake in the preheated oven until golden, about 15 minutes. Check after 10 minutes. Gingerbread may be ready after 12 minutes in a fan assisted oven.
- Once they’ve cooled, decorate with icing and give someone to enjoy! (Maybe take one yourself – you won’t be able to resist! Just take care not to eat them all!)
NOTE: You can make these egg-free and gluten free by using gluten free plain flour (I use Doves Farm) and substituting with a flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water and left to stand for 15 minutes).
I also make these in a reindeer shapes. I wrap them up in cellophane (in packages of four) tied up with ribbon. As Tony the Tiger would say, ‘They’rrrrrrrrre great!’