visions of sugar plums

And other traditional holiday sweets

We’ve all heard the story “Twas the Night Before Christmas” with the children all tucked in their beds, visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. But what on earth are they talking about? Well, the plums they are referring to aren’t really plums at all. According to the National Geographic, sugar plums are “comfits:” seeds, nuts, or scraps of spice coated with multiple layers of hard sugar. Think Jordan Almond. As I consider sugar plums and how as a kid, I thought they sounded terrible, I would like to reflect on some of the wonderful sugary treats that have become a Christmas tradition for many.

Christmas cookies are a holiday staple, and there are so many different varieties that it’s always a treat –pun intended – to get a plateful from your neighbor or friend. Iced, cut-out sugar cookies are my all-time favorite. My mom makes hers using a “100-year-old” recipe she received from our neighbor. Christmas is the only time of year where making the dough, rolling it out, cutting the cookies, and decorating them seems like fun instead of a giant hassle.

Homemade cookies are so much better than what you buy at the store. A lot of people have cookie exchanges where each person brings several dozen cookies, usually that person’s specialty, to a party, and then everyone mixes and matches different cookies and leave with dozens of different treats.

Christmas candy is also something that just feels right. Any other time of year, you would never want to get out a double boiler and a candy thermometer, but each Christmas you rummage through the drawers and the recipe box to make that special stuff. Peanut brittle, fudge, and divinity are staples in many places.

In the South is something called “Aunt Bill’s” candy that is like a toffee or caramel that many southern women whip up. Candy canes have evolved from plain-old peppermint to all the flavors you could possibly imagine. Popcorn balls with red and green gumdrops are also something you only see during the Christmas season.

Thankfully, this sweetness overload only lasts a few weeks, so enjoy it. Share some cookies with your office mates and spread the cheer, because on January 1 you’ll be on the no-sugar wagon and those “visions of sugar plums” become nightmares for low-carb or keto diets!