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Here we are again, deep in the season that gives us reason to celebrate the senses. 

Sights, sounds, smells and best of all, our taste buds come alive. 

The North Pole may be 3,400 miles away, but we do our best to bring it closer to home with sparkly glitter on gifts and cards. Spray snow is applied to windows, red and green decorations and hundreds of tiny lights turn ordinary homes into Christmas wonderlands. 

There’s the ever-present sound of holiday songs piping throughout stores and we can always find a radio station dedicated to playing the familiar tunes of the season.

Bayberry and gingerbread-scented candles mingling with the pine-y tang of the Christmas tree is yet another reminder that Christmas is almost here.

Best of all, it’s the most creative culinary time of the year; when cranberry relishes make a comeback on the Thanksgiving table, when peanut butter becomes a key ingredient for dips and brittle, and candies and cookies are magically transformed into snowflakes, snowmen, reindeer, trees and wreaths.

For us, the baking starts in the early weeks of December. Nearly everything edible is dipped in chocolate because, seriously, is there such a thing as too much chocolate? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

For some, there’s no end to the imagination that goes into baking and decorating their Christmas cookies. Personally, I’m not one to decorate my food, but I sure do enjoy the masterpieces people invent. Pretzel ears and cherry noses decorating animal-shaped treats? Fantastic!

We’ve all heard of (and perhaps participated in) annual sand tart marathons, with bakers producing dozens and dozens of those thin, crispy delights topped with colored sugar into the wee hours while bingeing between the Hallmark Channel and holiday music.

In our home, the simple pleasure of our annual holiday feast is incomplete without mashed potatoes and no one cares if they’re lumpy.  I’ve never attempted to make anything fancy like plum or figgy pudding, but our meal will surely be topped off with pumpkin or sweet potato pie. 

Pies, logs, rolls, snaps – the desserts are endless! By the time Santa arrives, we will have indulged in an endless array of pastries and tarts, and a perennial favorite; peppermint bark. (Incidentally, for a fabulous twist on peppermint bark, try adding cinnamon pieces!)

Our holiday meal preparation crescendos with a whoosh of heat enveloping me like a blanket as the oven door is opened to retrieve the final hot food…the rolls. Let the banquet begin!

Hosting holiday festivities is a lot of work, but at the end of the day, when I’ve picked over my last leftover and the gravy-covered dishes are finally washed, I can sit back and admire the decorations, feel the season in my soul, and realize that the North Pole isn’t that far away at all.