DAY 2: NOVEMBER 30, 2020
In our rapidly changing world, it can sometimes be difficult to pass down family customs and beliefs from one generation to the next – much less to three or four. We have been fortunate to enjoy a Christmas tradition that spans at least five generations or more and covers well over a century.
Shelton’s grandmother “Tih” grew up making mints as a child in Atlantic, NC, our state’s own version of “Down East.” Tih taught Shelton’s parents how to do it and they taught Shelton. Stan knew he had been given acceptance and approval when he was invited to cut the mints fairly early in the dating days. The tradition was handed down to Brian and Anne, who shared it with their spouses, Cynthia and Matt. The four grandchildren – Lucy, Clay, Abigail, and Benjamin – are currently serving apprenticeships, which consist of cutting (and eating the ugliest) mints.
Mint-making is more art than science, although we have come to appreciate the invention of a digital candy thermometer. The recipe is simple: boil a mixture of water, butter, and sugar for a while; take it off the stove at just the right time and temperature; pour it on a marble slab to let it cool; pull the taffy-like mess until it can be shaped into long cords ready to cut; cut; let it cream; pack (or eat); and give it away.
That last part is the real secret ingredient.
For many years, our family delivered tins of mints to friends and family on Christmas Eve under the cover of darkness, the children leaving the tin in the appointed place for each house and racing back to jump in the car, undetected by the recipients.
Time and circumstance have slowed production down a bit lately, but we still crank out several batches each year and gather for mint-making with our extended family.
We learned long ago that “pulling mints” builds family and friendships…and it’s fun!
It is a tradition that has stood the test of time and, we hope, will continue to be shared in the true spirit of the season.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas,
Stan and Shelton Styers