It's a Wonderful Time of Year!

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
December 24, 2014

This has been such a busy month for our Headquarters staff as I am sure it is for all of you.  The Office of the Organizing Secretary General processed thousands of dues in early December.  We welcomed over 1200 guests to the 13th annual Open House on December 10th.  Constitution Hall was busy with the military band concerts every weekend.  On December 12th the Executives donned Santa hats and distributed gifts to each of the offices while singing Carols.  Later we joined all of the staff for a holiday luncheon in the beautiful O’Byrne Gallery and closed with a few more songs.  On December 15th Curator General Jennie Rehnberg and I attended the annual Docent Christmas Luncheon and had the privilege of pinning the newest docents, each of whom had completed extensive training.

During the Docent Luncheon, DAR Museum Director and Chief Curator Heidi Campbell-Shoaf shared one of her family traditions as she demonstrated making clear toy candy.  It is called toy candy because it is made into small shapes using antique molds. Heidi provided the history of this candy in case you want to add it to your holiday traditions:

Molded boiled sugar candy is first found in recipe books in the middle of the 1700s in France. Before that sugar was being boiled to make lozenges sold by apothecaries for all kinds of ailments. In 1651, a famous doctor wrote in a medical text that lozenges “restores lost strength, takes away burning fevers, and false imaginations!” 

In the early 1800s, when sugar was easier to get because of the sugar plantations in the Caribbean, more sweets were made and more confectioners made molded candies. By the middle of the 1800s they were made in quantity and shipped to dry goods stores for people to buy for in expensive holiday gifts. Since the candy was very sensitive to humidity, it was made from about October through April depending on where in the country you were.

The candy wasn’t flavored in any way – it was the shape that was the selling point. The colors available were green (colored with spinach juice), red (using cochineal dye) and natural uncolored candy which tended to be yellow or golden.  Two of the biggest mold manufacturers were in Philadelphia, Thomas Mills & Son and Valentine Clad & Sons. Since molded candy was something done by a trained confectioner and not in the home, molds are harder to come by than molds for other sweets like ice cream.

There is a small business in Pa. that still makes the candy and has been since the 1890s. Here’s the link.

Before departing D.C. to return home that evening, I dropped into the Museum Shop to pick up a few gifts.  It was delightful to meet Marjorie Carber who was visiting the building with her daughter.  Marjorie joined the DAR in Pennsylvania in 1952 and paged at Congress several years before moving out of the area.  We shared memories of paging at Congress and she said she clearly remembers the lively debates during the Resolution discussion.

After being away from Houston for two weeks, I finally began our holiday preparations before heading to our ranch. Each family has their own unique holiday traditions and favorite meals.  In our family we attend church on Christmas Eve, and then enjoy a delicious Tex Mex meal with enchiladas, tamales, queso and guacamole.  After gifts are opened Christmas morning we enjoy brunch, followed by a large meal later in the day.

Our family traditions will change a bit this year as we will celebrate at our daughter’s home instead of at our ranch.  With three little ones under the age of 7, it seems much easier to have the children wake up in their own home.  It will be a very exciting morning as they eagerly open gifts. 

In our family, the joy comes in being together in celebration of the Christmas miracle.  Regardless of how you spend the holidays and the traditions you enjoy, my wish is that your days will be filled with the love and laughter of friends and family.

I am deeply grateful to each of you for your support of our important mission to preserve our heritage, promote quality education for children and share your patriotism.

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