Whoville caroling and chocolate kisses make holiday spirit bright

Chocolate kisses are a key ingredient of Mrs. Patterson's Peanut Blossoms. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

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Chocolate kisses are a key ingredient of Mrs. Patterson's Peanut Blossoms. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year / With the kids jingle belling / And everyone telling you be of good cheer.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit ho-hum about fa-la-la-ing these days. If only I had the same exuberance for the holidays that I did when I was a kid.

Christmas preparations always began the day after Thanksgiving. My mom would play cassette tapes with upbeat tunes like “Jingle Bells,” “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Frosty the Snowman.” She’d pop in a “Silent Night” chime instrumental, as well as religious songs that only she liked. We’d pull the artificial tree out of its original Sears box, and deck the halls in red, green, silver and gold. We’d fill nooks and crannies with a nativity scene and nutcrackers, while my dad cursed as he tested and repaired strand after strand of burnt-out bulbs.

One tree-trimming session remains particularly vivid. I was probably about 10 years old. After all the ornaments were hung, the garland and lights strung, I grabbed my sister and little brother by the hand. We stood around the tree and swayed like Whoville kids from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” But, instead of singing “Fah who foraze! Dah who doraze!” we went with “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree” — on an endless loop, because they were the only lines we knew —– until it turned into an all-fall-down laugh-fest.

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There was more singing in early December, when families from our street would gather at the home of the Pattersons, our next-door neighbors, for a night of caroling. They’d pass out copies with the lyrics to holiday classics. We’d circle the block, knock on doors and sing to familiar faces and strangers, alike. Some tried to give us money. The kids always wanted to accept. Their parents always scolded them.

The best part, though, was going back to the Pattersons’ big yellow house for hot cocoa and cookies. Mrs. Patterson’s Peanut Blossoms were my favorite. I’d eat the entire chewy peanut cookie first, saving the chocolate kiss in the center for last, plopping the chocolate in my mouth and letting it slowly melt and leave my tongue coated in sugar.

A lot has changed since those caroling parties of the ’70s and ’80s. The kids on the block are long gone, as are their elders. Mr. and Mrs. Patterson moved out of their big yellow house on Cornell a few years ago. When my mom moved out of hers last month, the old neighbors remarked that the last of the “Cornell ladies” finally had left the street.

My mom used to call Mrs. Patterson and other neighbors to borrow an egg, a cup of sugar, some milk. Now, I’m the one who rings old neighbors with increasing regularity. My mom has been in poor health for weeks. They ask how she is, how they can help. They lend motherly listening ears and offer advice. Nextdoor is one thing; neighbors turned family are another.

It’s taking a village of friends and neighbors in Atlanta to get me through these final arduous weeks of 2020, too. There’s no caroling, hot cocoa and plates of chocolate kisses. Instead, we’re socially distanced around our backyard firepit, holding a beer or glass of wine and talking into the night.

If we want to be jolly, as we finish out this tumultuous, emotion-filled year, craving normalcy and getting none of it, perhaps we have to change our mindset, and accept the reality of change itself. Traditions die and new ones are born all the time, and for reasons unrelated to a pandemic. Fond memories of yesterdays and todays both can live on, playing in our heads like “O Christmas Tree” on an endless loop, or slowly melting on the tongue like a warm chocolate kiss.

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Mrs. Patterson's Peanut Blossoms are one of writer Ligaya Figueras' favorite holiday treats. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Mrs. Patterson's Peanut Blossoms are one of writer Ligaya Figueras' favorite holiday treats. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Combined ShapeCaption
Mrs. Patterson's Peanut Blossoms are one of writer Ligaya Figueras' favorite holiday treats. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Mrs. Patterson’s Peanut Blossoms

Once mixed, the dough might appear insufficient for four dozen cookies. Roll it into smalls balls. It’s the perfect ratio of cookie to chocolate kiss.

Mrs. Patterson's Peanut Blossoms
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar, plus more for coating
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 48 milk chocolate candy kisses
  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a large mixer bowl, combine all ingredients except candy kisses. Blend well with a mixer.
  • Shape into balls using a rounded teaspoon. Roll balls in additional sugar, then place on ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven. Top each cookie immediately with a candy kiss, pressing down firmly, so the cookie cracks around the edge. Makes: 48 cookies

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per cookie: 90 calories (percent of calories from fat, 48), 1 gram protein, 10 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 5 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 5 milligrams cholesterol, 65 milligrams sodium.

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