Publisher's Note

Comfort Traditions

I love to decorate for the holidays, and often chuckle to myself about the many seasonal collections I’ve begun over the years: Byers’ Choice Carolers, ceramic pumpkins, a “haunted village,” ceramic snowmen, etc. And when my house began to feel “over-decorated,” I started collecting treasures for my children’s homes.

To coax a laugh, I’d mail silly, seasonal “talking” items to my then-college student—until her friends started to wonder about her goofy mother! But I do notice the smiles on their faces when everyone gathers for the holidays. If a traditional decoration is not on display, I am interrogated. Just like “comfort food,” there are “comfort traditions.”

Tree ornaments, Santa collections, the Nativity scene…these are special in part because of their limited time on display (despite the retail world’s seeming resolve to promote seasonal items earlier and earlier each year). In this issue, we serve up tips from various decorators on some simple, inexpensive touches to dress up your own home for the holidays.

Gina Edwards provides an inside look into an Italian-American family at Christmastime—and that means lots of traditional Italian cuisine! It’s difficult to imagine the season without a holiday feast—that’s a tradition no matter where in the world you come from. Another universal tradition? “My five children are all over the country,” says Marie Taraska, “but they come back home for Christmas Eve.”

‘Tis the season for holiday spirits! And yet, my affinity for Manhattans is not confined to the season. Whiskey, the drink’s main component, played a key role in the development of 19th and 20th Century Peoria—for a time, the city was known as the “Whiskey Capital of the World.” Want to know what makes a scotch a scotch, or how to appreciate this “noble libation…steeped as much in tradition as multi-layered flavor?” Turn to page 24 for a breakdown of different types of whiskeys and learn some fun facts about Peoria’s “whiskey barons.”

Board games were not played around our house often, but certainly at the holidays. My daughter played “The Christmas Game,” a seasonal Monopoly knock-off, with her grandmother for hours. I was surprised to learn of the resurging interest in board games, but these Eurogames (page 18) aren’t much like the games of Sorry and Monopoly that I recall from my youth. In one sense, their gameplay upends tradition, with a starkly different approach from such traditional American games. On the other hand, in this age of videogames and the Internet, these “alternative” board games carry on the tradition of family and friends gathered around the table.

While I look forward to testing new recipes and trying out new ideas, there is comfort to be found in tradition. Don’t forget to remember yours—and maybe establish a new one this year! a&s

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