Sunday, January 26, 2020

Three Kings Day Open House 2020

2019 will always be to me "The Year of the Hiatus" - I stopped blogging last year because ... I'm not sure, too busy at work, to unfocused at home, Facebook ... but I've missed the journaling, and my blogging friends, and having a visual record of what I've done.  So, with a great deal of caution, careful not to over commit, here we go again.

We held our almost-annual Three Kings Day Open House on Sunday, January 5, and we were lucky enough that my oldest son, John, was still with us on Christmas vacation.  John is now living in Charlottesville, Virginia, and we had not seen him since the previous Christmas!


Here he is with some of his college friends that came to the Open House.  It was so wonderful to see these cute faces!  I've missed them!

So, I've had a lifetime of trial and errors with this Open House.  It started as a small gathering with just my brother's family, which included three nephews which are about the same age as my two sons.  I wanted to teach them about our Cuban tradition of gift giving on Three Kings Day, and to celebrate Epiphany, the revealing of the Christ-child and the light of God to the world.  Many European countries and those of Latin and South America also celebrate Three Kings in their own way.

In Cuba, we wrote our letters to the Three Kings, not to Santa, and we knew their glorious, albeit mythical, names:  Melchior, Gaspar (or Caspar) and Balthazar, and we knew from where they came!  After receiving our gifts, we'd have breakfast and for mid-morning merienda (snack), we'd have Roscón de Reyes - our version of Three Kings Day, always bought at bakery.  I don't know anyone who actually baked the yeasty treat at home.  One thing I've loved about America is their ability to take a tradition and make it their own, so I've adopted this particular approach for the Open House, and the day is as much a reflection of my whim, as it is about tradition.  You'll see what I mean ...

First a Hot Chocolate Bar.  The Spanish, from where our traditions are derived, love hot chocolate.  And I've been intrigued by the many hot chocolate bars I've seen on Pinterest, so I decided to set one up.


I've been playing with a program on my iPad called "Layout" and it makes some very easy collages.  The Hot Chocolate Bar included Candy canes, Williams-Sonoma Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark (this one is now a staple at our house, it is so delicious!), decorated marshmallows (also from W-S), Dark Chocolate Caramels, Peppermint Poles, Chocolate-covered Coffee Beans, Chocolate Hazelnut Pirouettes Wafers, and RumChata to go with some very delicious Hot Chocolate (from W-S).  I draped one of my plaid throws over a basic white tablecloth, and pulled out my Mikasa French Countryside mugs.


It was a cold day, so for the adults that preferred something less sweet, and perhaps with a little alcohol, we offered some Mulled Wine and kept it warm in a crockpot.


And it was served on my Irish Coffee glass mugs ...


The Open House was held beginning at 2 P.M.  It was supposed to end at 6 P.M. but friends kept dropping by, so we actually walked out our last guests at 7:30 P.M.  Planning food for this event can be challenging.  There are those that come earlier and are looking for something light.  For them, I made a tea sandwiches:  Basque-style tuna sandwiches on Oatnut Bread, and Cucumber Sandwiches on White Bread.


Here's the super easy and oh-so-delicious recipe for the Basque-Style Tuna Spread:

4 5-oz. cans Genova Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil, drained
2 8-oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese
½ jar Roasted Pepper Bruschetta (about 5 oz.)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 shakes of Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

With a fork, combine tuna, softened cream cheese, and Roasted Red Pepper Bruschetta and mix until fully integrated.  Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.  This will yield enough filling for three loves of Oatnut Bread.  Basque cooking is noted for their inclusion of local red peppers ad Spanish smoked paprika.  This bruschetta, although Italian, mimics the flavors beautifully.  Oh, and take the leftover bruschetta and serve it over boiled, roasted or mashed potatoes.  Yum!


There were treats aplenty, including the Honey Pecan Butterballs that are a staple in our home.  I've blogged about them here.


I ordered canolli from a nearby bakery ...


My son made his famous Black and White Chocolate Bark with Pistachio and Cranberry ...


I baked a Flan ...


And a cake with the fève baked inside and whoever found it was declared King or Queen for the Day ...


Oranges have a deep connection to Christmas in many cultures, symbolizing the gold balls that St. Nick left for a poor girl, or the bright star that followed the Magi, or the fact that they were considered a special treat during the Depression, and so, a prized gift at Christmas.  They are also in season at this time of year, and I decided a while ago to adopt the custom of having something orange during Three Kings, so I spread Orange Slice Candy around the house.


I know my peeps, and there are some (mostly guys) who start prowling around the kitchen, looking for something more substantial to eat, so I made Pulled Pork Sandwiches (for which I have no pictures!), and I also made a Hot Buffalo Chicken Cheese Spread ... I made four recipes of it during the party. Thank goodness I had enough supplies!


So many lovely friends!  All these photos were contributed by friends since I was too busy having fun to remember to snap pictures.


We ended up with both, a King and a Queen, since one of my friends brought a special Three Kings Day cake with the fève, or bean, inside ...


And everyone took home a goody bag ...


The goody bags included gold chocolate coins, an  assortment of candies, a Godiva Blood Orange Dark Chocolate Bar (my current favorite), a lottery ticket, and a little cardboard box ...


The little box contained a paper scroll with a House Blessing, and a piece of chalk to mark the door of the house ...


The blessing is another European tradition that I tried out one year, and it's become so popular that I now find myself shopping for white chalk in late December to include in the loot bags.  Some friends have panicked on the few years when I haven't had the Open House, and I've actually had to make some to give away.  This year, the door would be marked 20 + C + M + B + 20.  C M B stands for the names of the Kings - Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.  It also means Christus mansionem beneficat - Latin for "May Christ bless this home."


And a star to light our way ...


It was a lovely way to start the year, and it never fails to fill me with joy and gratitude.  Happy New Year!