Christmas time at Windy Willows was so special, just like at your home. The traditions they had were carefully documented in the journals and are still carried out today by the descendants of the family.
One such tradition was having visitors stop in for tea time. In the main hall, cook would set up a gingerbread zoo. It was an exact match for the zoo outside. It delighted all of the guest, young and old. Cook had many favorite recipes that only came out during the holidays. Here is a recipe that was written down by her and I updated a tiny bit:
Almond Crescent Cookies
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh almonds, walnuts or pecans
2 1/4 -2 1/2 cups flour
Pre-heat oven to 350°
In a large bowl beat butter until fluffy, add sugar and beat again until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add nuts, flour (add 2 1/4 cups to start and 1 tablespoon at a time (up to 4 tablespoons if needed) ) and salt. Bring the dough together with your fingers. Break off small pieces and form into a crescent shape. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for approximately 15 minutes. While cookies are still warm roll in icing/powdered sugar.
Cook would serve them on a white platter with a beautiful paper doily underneath.
When their friends came it was a wonderful time to catch up with what had transpired during the last few months. And of course, there were many stories of the zoo animals that were shared with the guests. The children delighted in outdoing each other with tales of bravery and danger on the travels they had taken with their father the previous year.
Without fail each year a family of Gnomes would stop and pay a visit to Sir Winslow and his family. It was a very merry time. Carols around the tree were always something they did each evening during the gnomes visits. In the journals of Sir Winslow, there are many stories and sketches of the two families enjoying holiday celebrations together. My Christmas Gnome is patterned after one of them.
Decorating the family tree in the sitting room was an undertaking for the whole family. Sir Winslow would direct, and Lady Susan and nanny would help the younger children. Each of them would have a special job to do. Some would string popcorn and cranberries to make a garland. Others would be putting cloves in oranges in a decorative pattern. But my favorite decoration was the paper snowflakes on the tree. I have managed to find directions based on the sketched that I found in the journal.
From Sir Winslow’s Zoo, we wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!