In my unofficial capacity as cheerleader for quirky New York City events, I’d have to go far to beat the annual Clement Clarke Moore festivities, billed as “New York’s oldest Christmas tradition.”
The proceedings take place at the Church of the Intercession at 155th Street and Broadway, an easy ride on the #1 subway. As I entered the Church, officially a chapel of Trinity Wall Street Church, someone handed me felt antlers. There I was, seated in a huge church with a good three quarters of the people–all ages, all ethnicities– wearing antlers.
The program’s centerpiece is the reading of A Visit from St. Nicholas, known to many as The Night Before Christmas, written by Moore in 1822. This year’s reading was done by Rev. James Cooper of Wall St. Trinity who is retiring. He began by telling a cute story about coming home late Christmas Eve because of being a cleric– instead of the traditional milk and cookies, he and his wife typically returned to a snack of cheese and crackers with “something that looked a bit like apple juice.”
Before the poem we were treated to a procession, carols, handbells and more music. Then the Reverend sat in a large chair, the children in the audience were invited to sit around him and he read. Following more music, we removed our antlers, put on hats and coats and walked across Broadway down to the Trinity Church cemetery to Moore’s grave. A wreath was laid, we sang Silent Night and then repaired inside the adjoining mausoleum for coffee, hot chocolate, sandwiches, cookies and wine. Truly a charming event.
I managed to acquire–and shed–what I’m calling the Twenty-Four Hour Flu that felled me Christmas Eve but whatever it was bowed out in time to enjoy friends and family Christmas Day. I wore my antlers and was very grateful to the family members who pitched in to help cook, serve and clean up.
Making a first appearance at Christmas this year were these meatballs which I initially encountered at the house of a friend. I made them and stuck them in a covered dish in the fridge before flu hit; on Christmas all that was needed was to drop them in the sauce, fish them out, insert toothpicks and serve.
Christmas (or any time of the year) Meatballs
makes about 3 dozen cocktail meatballs
2 lbs. ground meat (I used beef but you could substitute turkey)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used half panko and half Italian-seasoned–doesn’t matter)
about 1/2 cup Heinz chili sauce
about 1/2 cup grape jelly
Mix meat and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Shape into golf-shape-sized balls. Put on a cookie sheet. Heat oven to 350 and bake for about 20 minutes, turning once. At this point you can put them on paper towels to drain and keep in fridge.
When ready to serve, combine chili sauce and jelly in saucepan. Bring to just under a boil. Put meatballs in; let them sit in sauce a while (meaning anything from fifteen minutes to longer.) Remove with slotted spoon; insert toothpicks and serve.
Tiny Tim said, “God Bless Us Everyone.” I say yes to that with a glass of bubbly in hand.