Traditions are experiences that bond people and years together. Time passes, history is created, and memories are formed around repeating holiday patterns.
It’s amusing to see how little ones have grown, and to hear their parents’ chuckle, sharing their family anecdotes. There are special foods to eat, games to play and gifts to open. Giving to the food pantry or a toy drive is also in the holiday mix. Various Christmas traditions are a way to stay connected. Favorite holiday moments can be renewed and a way to honor a loved one.
The making of Divinity Candy was a favorite Christmas gift of Genevieve Cole to her children and grandchildren for many years. On the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, also “Jenny’s “ birthday, her five children and 19 grandchildren came home to Center Street in Troy.
In the summer just past, at the family reunion, planning had begun. In a Bradford County park, on a picnic table under a pavilion, folded paper names were drawn from a hat for Christmas gift “assignments”.
Four months later, folks traveled through snowy mountainous terrain from Wellsboro, Pa., Rochester, N.Y. and Youngstown, Ohio to celebrate their mother and grandmother. One year a grandson flew in from Hawaii, where he was stationed in the Army with his wife and three children, to surprise the family.
The gift exchanging and holiday meal proceeded with a lighted birthday cake to follow. All engaged in song, commemorating a year gone by, and another to look forward to.
The fully lit two story 15 room home was a sight of happy chaos. Before gifts, dinner and cake, nothing short of a Christmas cooking miracle (see recipe below), happened in a small kitchen.
Mrs. Cole gathered ingredients to make Divinity, a pure white confection, to be light and fluffy with enough hand whisking. Grandchildren gathered around the table. Eagerly, the kids took turns stirring but ran out of power quickly. One has to work fast when making candy, and with accuracy. Most were content just to watch, hoping to get rewarded in the end. Tasting the spoons, mixing paddles, and bowl was a treat for the well behaved. Sometimes there was not one.
Patience and focus is required to make Divinity candy, not always characteristics of exuberant children, still dreaming of sugarplums and excited from Santa’s visit. Suddenly, there was a hush in the kitchen as Mrs. Cole spread out a layer of satin smooth sugar confection in a glass dish to cool.
“Let it rest and we will hope for the best,” she would say as she scooted the kids out of the kitchen. A couple do-gooders stayed for clean up, and to get the first bite of cut candy pieces.
Mrs. Cole took time to enjoy the moments of special occasions with family and friends during and after a nursing career spanning 32 years at Troy Community Hospital. The wonder of Divinity time still lives in the homes of her children, grandchildren, and now the parents of great and great-great grand’s. Loved ones are missed but their Christmas legacy remains for the taking and sharing.
Traditions old and worn, or bright and shiny new, are the heart of Christmases around the world.
Divinity Candy Recipe: By Emily Grace
- 3 cups sugar
- 3/4-cup water
- 1/2-cup light corn syrup
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2-teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla
- Butter a 9 x 9 glass dish.
- Combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking mix until syrup reaches firm ball stage, about 250 – 265 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
- While syrup is cooking, beat egg whites with salt until stiff.
- Gradually add half of the syrup to the egg whites, beating constantly.
- Return the remaining syrup to the stove until boiling again, then gradually beat the remainder into the egg whites until dry (no longer shiny).
- Beat in the vanilla, just until combined.
- Pour into prepared dish and allow cooling. Cut into squares when firm, with a sharp thin blade knife, greased for clean cuts.