Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Colour Collaborative: December: Spice

This time of year is all about the spice, isn't it? The oranges studded with cloves, the cinnamon sticks and star anise bobbing about in the mulled wine, the little glass jars of powdered ginger, cinnamon, cloves and mixed spice that we add to our Christmas baking.

So much of the pleasure I take in this time of year lies in our rituals and traditions, in the slow festive build up to the big day. Some are inherited, others ones I've started with my own children. Like hanging the wreath on the front door. (The only red out there right now is the sold sign.)

Decorating the tree.

Baking mince pies. I like to make small ones with a star shaped top.

Buying poinsettias.

There are more: flicking through my copy of the Radio Times, watching favourite DVDs, reading Father Christmas to the kids, listening to Christmas music, buying stollen and lebkuchen, attending school nativities and carol concerts. I'm sure you have your own traditions too - and they are probably very similar to mine - but one thing the children and I always do at Christmas, and have done since they were very small, is bake gingerbread.

We eat a few straight away while they are still warm and some might be given away as gifts, but most of them are hung on the Christmas tree as decorations. They're never perfect and that's the point. Some are a little wonky, some a little overdone, but it doesn't matter. It's tradition

Spices of course come in an earthy rainbow of colours - I'm thinking of bright yellow tumeric, fiery red paprika and all the other shades in between. But Christmas spices seem to be brown, both before and after cooking.

And the thing about brown, whether it's gingerbread biscuits, wooden decorations or simply wrapped brown paper parcels, is that is all looks so very good with the traditional red, green and white of Christmas, and provides such a neutral base for some festive sparkle.

What are your Christmas traditions? Do you make gingerbread tree decorations too? Or a gingerbread house maybe? That's on my list for next year. 

* * * 

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.


  1. A spicy post Gillian, I love making my Christmas cake. I say 'my' because only I really eat it - every year I eat a nine inch Christmas cake and then in January get walking on the cold dark evenings. Jo x

  2. Beautiful post and gorgeous photographs of your Christmas baking. I can almost smell the cake and gingerbread! X

  3. Your post is making me want a coffee and a slice of ginger cake.... I bake Swiss Christmas cookies, a Christmas cake and we usually make a gingerbread house, although ours is not gingerbread but Lebkuchen, which is softer and uses a mixture of spices. x

  4. I love your idea of hanging your gingerbread on the tree. We made a gingerbread house last year and I think it will become a tradition, it was a lot of fun and everyone joined in. And surprisingly the gingerbread was quite delicious too. As we speak, I have a batch of star-topped in mince pies in the oven. Spices really are the scent of Christmas aren't they. CJ xx

  5. I love having the house filled with the spicy scents of gingerbread and mincemeat slice. I used to make mince pies but now make a tray bake of shortbread filled with homemade mincemeat. I will mull some wine and some cider and make a spicy apple cake. The chutney was made ages ago and some will bee spread over the pastry of sausage rolls. I can not hang edibles on my tree, Ben would have a field day.

  6. Hey are you moving this weekend? If so GOOD LUCK!

  7. I enjoy all the baking at christmas, the warmth from the oven and the rich smells that linger in the kitchen. I made my mince pies yesterday but having seen yours with the stars on top i'm tempted to make some more.
    I'm never made gingerbread but yours look lovely!

  8. hee hee....the year i decorated our tree with gingerbread ornaments (and it really was a beauty if i do say so myself!!!) we came home from a holiday party to find all the ornaments gone from about 1/4 of the way up the tree. the ribbons were still there...the stars and hearts and angels, though were GONE......and our big old sheepdog was fast asleep under it. Merry Christmas, Sammy.

  9. I love that you make gingerbread ornaments. I've never tried that but I've always wanted to. I once know someone who made ornaments from huge amounts of cinnamon mixed with something else, maybe white glue, and then baked them for a long time in a very low oven and they were hard as ceramic. We always make a gingerbread house, but we cheat because I buy a kit with the parts already baked and included. :)

  10. As you've commented on my post, it is fascinating when our ideas overlap, particularly as it so rarely happens. But your post is about traditions and mine about associations so we have still managed two completely different takes on the same brown things.

    Gingerbread was a great favourite here when the children were small, and we would make little house shaped biscuits to hang on the , a nod to the traditional gingerbread houses they wanted to make and that I deemed too much like hard work for Mum (I was clearly a grinch even then!)

    1. *hang on the tree. That and a whole other sentence was just deleted by a whippet's nose on the keyboard!

  11. Lots of traditions here in Switzerland, as well as those we have combined with our own to make our individual Christmas season!! I have written quite a bit about it so whoever is interested can link back to my blog, as otherwise I might just take yours over, oops…
    But the earth is brown in winter, as are the pinecones that epitomise the season, as well as the spices, so yes, I think it really belongs :)

  12. I hope that you will have a wonderful spicy Christmas wherever you are this year and that next year will be even better. Your move will add some spice to your life in a good way I hope! Happy Christmas! xx

  13. I love the smell of spices too. So delicious. And the taste is a big bonus. I'm looking forward to eating my Christmas pudding for all its lovely spices. Lovely post. Bee xx

  14. Love your photos, especially your wreath.
    I hope you have a lovely Christmas and good luck with the move!! xx

  15. The photo of your kids, both working on the tree decorations, that is just adorable... The perfect image to reflect what christmas is all about !
    As for the rest of the photos, how strange, I feel a little bit hungry.. I wonder why ;-)))

  16. I really appreciate that you're still taking time out to write to us when you must barely have a moment to yourself with the big move imminent. A lovely post. Funnily enough, despite my love of baking, I don't have a baking tradition as it's Mum who makes my cake. One food tradition though is to go to my parents on Christmas Eve for hotdogs and bacon butties using the bacon and sausages she used to cook with the turkey - yes, she cooks the turkey the day before - very odd! x

  17. While my oldest daughter and her girls have made gingerbread cookies this year, I did not get in on the festivities. The cookies were inhaled and had no chance to even be considered as ornaments for the tree :) I have been making loaves of pumpkin spice gluten free bread this year, though. xx

  18. You already know some of my traditions from my blog - such as the Schrottwichteln you commented on the other day :-)
    I have a few decorative items that I just feel I can't do without during Advent and Christmas, and putting them up is one tradition. Another one is to polish all my wooden furniture with a beeswax polish the weekend before Christmas. It gives them a warm shine and the flat has a subtle honey scent after that.

  19. Spicey scents so redolent of Christmas! Love the gingerbread tree decorations.
    Jacqui x

  20. I'm planning on doing a Food Memories post next week about festive eats, but thank you for reminding me about one of my favourite spices (paprika). The colour, the smell (especially the smoked stuff) and even the name itself - so wonderful.
    I always admire those beautiful little tins of it that they sell in delicatessens.
    And yes, brown shades at Christmas: gingerbread and cinnamon sticks.
    A lovely post. x

  21. I love your family's Christmas traditions. I've never made gingerbread tree ornaments before but I might try making them with my girls next Christmas and hopefully they'll turn out as lovely looking as yours. And yes, I love brown too. It's the perfect background for every kind of sparkle. x

  22. What a lovely tradition! Unfortunately not one I can start in this house as the Little person does not like ginger, but we have tried mince pies with a orange zesty pasty this year! Sorry I'm so late getting around to you this time but have a fantastic Christmas!

    S x

  23. Christmas traditions...well, a cooked Ham and Prawns are always on the menu seeing as it's Australia, I always make a wreath ( although this years wasn't as successfull as normal, we always have stollen and other german traditional food...and now...just maybe, I might join in the Gingerbread making tradition!! :)


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