It’s not the season til the hot chocolate gets made

Published 3:42 pm Friday, December 23, 2016


I’ve been having a hankering. It started a couple of weeks ago, when the weather teased us into thinking we might actually have a winter, and the air was cold enough for me to see my breath – not big billowing puffs of breath like you get in January, but little wisps curling out and up; smoke signals signifying the start of the holiday season.

When I was a little girl, I loved everything about the cold weather. I loved seeing my breath and I loved sweaters and wool skirts, and one year Mama made me a big fluffy coat out of black faux fur material she got at the outlet store, and I loved wearing that, too. I really loved flopping down on the floor in front of the fireplace with Brother, where we would read our books in companionable silence, at least until one of us couldn’t stand it anymore and snaked a foot out to poke the other one in the leg, and then the chase was on.  What I loved most about the onset of winter though, was Mama’s special hot chocolate, because it meant that Santa was up north revving up the reindeer, and Christmas was right around the corner!

It always happened on a Saturday, along about the middle of December. Brother and I would come inside after a long day of playing at the park to find Mama standing in front of the stove, gently stirring the most wonderful concoction ever! She started the treat by heating a couple of cups of heavy cream. When it was warm enough that little bubbles were forming all around the edge, she brought out her magic ingredient- two entire Hershey bars! Brother and I would be dancing around the kitchen by this time, and there was usually a threat to just pour everything down the sink and send us to our rooms, but we knew that she was bluffing, because her eye wasn’t twitching. Mama would break up the candy bars, and drop them into the simmering cream, and then whisk it until the whole thing turned the yummiest shade of cocoa brown. It was a better, more delicious color than anything ol’ Swiss Miss has ever come up with, that’s for sure!


Now, special hot chocolate like that could only be sipped out of Santa mugs! Ours were hand painted by one of Daddy’s employees who did ceramics, and were shaped like little Santa heads. We loved how cute the Santa faces were, with rosy round cheeks and little gleams in the eyes. We also loved that they were designed so that we drank right out of the top of Santa’s jolly little head!

Mama would put the finishing touch of a Stay Puft marshmallow in each cup of chocolate, sit us down at the table with our little mugs in front of us, and warn us to wait until it was cool enough to drink. Because it was made of cream, all the whisking made it thicken up, and each sip coated the inside of a kid’s mouth with chocolaty heaven, and Mama didn’t want to have to haul us to the doctor and explain how we received second degree burns on the roofs of our mouths. I never could wait, and without fail burned my tongue something awful and had to walk around with an ice cube in my mouth until it melted, but it was worth it every time, and when we were done, it was officially time to start being Christmassy! The tree could be lit and decorated, the angel that Mama and Daddy got me from Nuremberg could come out in her beautiful red silk robe and genuine tinsel halo and take her place at the top, and wrapped presents could come out of whatever mystical tunnel connected the North Pole to our living room. Those hot chocolate evenings were the best part of winter.

This year, even though the weather man says we can wear shorts on Christmas, I’m craving that rich, thick chocolaty drink, with a real Stay Puft marshmallow right on top. I missed the mid-December date, and I haven’t seen my Santa mug in about thirty years, but it’s not going to be Christmas until I’m sitting at the table, trying my hardest to let the cupful of memories of Mama’s love and childhood memories cool enough to drink. I figure I’ll see my breath one more time this year, even if the weather remains balmy, when I open the freezer door to retrieve an ice cube for my burning tongue.

Mewwy Chwisthmath!


Pepper Ellis Hagebak spends her days framing other people’s art and her nights lost in the beauty of words.