It’s time to celebrate treasured holiday traditions and maybe even make some new ones. With that in mind, we asked Rebecca Proctor, our creative director and chief brand officer, and Patience Brewster, the creator of our Patience Brewster by MacKenzie-Childs collection, to share some of their favorite traditions.
Patience, whose holiday creations include Dash Away, 12 Days, and Nativity, says she’s overly sentimental and celebrates the holidays much the same way she did growing up in Plymouth, Mass. Everything, she says, centers around slowing down the day and stretching out the celebration. “We spend time taking it all in,” she says. “We want to make it linger.”
There isn’t a mad dash to the tree on Christmas morning and a flurry of wrapping paper flying. After waiting for everyone to be ready to go downstairs, stockings are shared first. There is always a tangerine at the toe of each stocking, which inspired Patience’s Tangerine at the Toe ornament.
Next come the presents, which are wrapped lovingly with handwritten notes attached. Opening them can take hours, and often they aren’t all opened until the end of the day.
Breakfast on Christmas morning is always chicken pie, which is made from a recipe that has been in the Brewster family for at least five generations. Says Patience, “It’s comfort food that can be served all day. Many of our friends stop by for a bowlful, topped with a flakey pie crust in the shape of a heart or star.”
Like Patience, Rebecca believes in savoring the experience of Christmas, making it a long, leisurely day for family and friends. Rebecca, who does a lot of traveling in her roles with our company, wants to truly be home for the holidays. “I want to nest and always have something cooking or baking. I don’t want to go anywhere but home.”
Christmas morning begins with a large breakfast with no rush to unwrap the gifts. And when that time arrives, the first one in the family to open a present is Rebecca’s dog, Flanna, a 5-year-old Irish wolfhound. Then, the rest of the gifts are opened, one at a time, which takes until about noon. There’s a light lunch, soup usually, that’s followed by a long walk outside to get some fresh air.
For dinner, there’s always an extra place set at the table for whoever might drop by, a custom that comes from her husband’s family. Says Rebecca, “We usually have no idea who’s going to show up, but that chair is always filled.”
As for the evening meal, there’s the tradition of Eton Mess, a dessert that mixes meringue, berries, and heavy cream. Popular in England, Eton Mess is named for Eton College, a British prep school founded by King Henry VI in 1440 that counts Princes William and Harry among its alumni.
Rebecca likes to serve Eton Mess in a trifle bowl so you can see the layers, and she assembles it at the table just before serving, which adds to the fun of the presentation. She loves this recipe from chef Jamie Oliver, which she hopes you might try and perhaps make it your holiday tradition, too.
For the meringue:
6 large free-range or organic egg whites
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons superfine sugar
a pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, scored lengthways and seeds removed
2 heaped tablespoons superfine sugar
9 ounces strawberries, hulled and sliced
9 ounces raspberries
1 teaspoon good-quality balsamic vinegar
optional: a handful of flaked almonds, toasted
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- To make the meringue, place the egg whites into a squeaky clean and dry bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until they form stiff peaks.
- With your mixer still running, gradually add the 1 cup plus 5 tablespoons superfine sugar and salt, then whisk on high speed for 7 to 8 minutes, or until white and glossy. To test whether it’s done, you can pinch some between your fingers—if it feels completely smooth, it’s ready; if it’s slightly granular, it needs a little more mixing.
- Line two large baking trays with parchment paper. Spoon the meringue mixture onto the baking sheets in the shape of 6 to 8 circles. Bake in the oven for one hour, or until crisp on the outside and a little soft and sticky inside. Once cooked, leave the meringues to completely cool.
- Whip the heavy cream with the vanilla seeds and 1 tablespoon of the superfine sugar until you have soft peaks.
- Take half the strawberries and half the raspberries and put them in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar and the last tablespoon of superfine sugar. Mash up with a fork.
- To assemble the dessert, break the meringue into a bowl, making chunky pieces and some fine powder.
- Fold the vanilla cream and the mashed-up fruit together until well mixed, then sprinkle in the rest of the fruit and fold again.
- Layer your crushed meringues and fruity cream into your serving dish or glasses, then sprinkle with the toasted almonds (if using) just before serving.