If you’re not from Wisconsin, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sconnies know how to have a good time. A really good time. From tailgates to cow tippin’, we’re a laid-back, unassuming sort of bunch who bring the fun (and beer) no matter the occasion. But Christmas? Believe you me, there’s something extra special about Christmas in Wisconsin. This list by yours truly proves it. Now borrow me a minute, will ya?
#1 Brandy Old-Fashioneds. Whether you like yours sweet or sour, with olives or fruit, this elixir of the Gods made with muddled oranges and cherries, a few dashes of bitters and a shot (or three) of brandy is the (un)official cocktail of Christmas. In fact, I’ve heard Santa himself is a fan. No wonder there’s always a couple of empty glasses and some poorly wrapped gifts on our hearth every Christmas morning.
#2 Wisconsin Kringle. Oh, sweet kringle, you had me at pastry. How can any Wisconsinite not fall for your flaky, buttery, O-shaped, sweet-filled Danish goodness with a name so fitting for the holidays? We love you in the office, at holiday brunch and when us ladies’ get together for coffee and tongue waggin’. Eggnog, Christmas, cranberry, cinnamon roll and chocolate pecan—your flavors are as plentiful as my muffin top by January for cripes sakes.
#3 We Know How to Winter. It’s been cold as a brass toilet seat in Siberia for months now and, chances are, we’ve already shoveled snow from our driveways once or thrice. But don’t think for a second that below freezing temperatures put a tear in our beer. Heck no! Wisconites thrive in this winter wonderland of ours. We ice fish. We snowshoe. We curl. We ski. We sled. In other words, we grab winter by the snowballs. (But you know we’ll be counting down the days to that warm spring break vacay by February!)
#4 Supper Clubs. Everyone is welcome at this kind of club. Just walking into one over the holidays feels like a great big hug. The festive buzz of conversation, the clinking of wine glasses, the candlelight reflecting off the polished wood oak paneling adorned with faux garland, ornaments and white twinkle lights. And that smell that tickles your nose? Yeah, buddy. That’s the prime rib special and relish tray with pickled herring.
#5 Rumchata. Poured over ice, it’s Christmas in a glass. Uff-da, this stuff is good! And did you know it’s bottled right here in Wisconsin? Pewaukee to be exact. Midwest Custom Bottling fills 90 bottles a minute, which means my Christmas stash should be ready in 10.
#6. Da Packers. Yous guys know someone in the family is sure to have a spankin’ new green-and-gold jersey or cheesehead can coozie waiting for them under that there Christmas tree. #dontbejealous #bearsstillsuck
#7. Open-Air Christmas Markets. We heart our Germans. They brought us sausage, beer and Christkindlmarkt. Grab a giant pretzel and take a gander past the tiny huts brimming with glass ornaments, alpaca mittens and goat milk soaps. Schnitzel or currywurst is what’s for dinner with mulled wine or a local brewski in a holiday stein to wash it down. No worries, you’ll dance off those carbs as you throw cares and all that’s good and holy to the wind dancing to the polkas, beer drinking songs and Christmas jams your favorite Bavarian Oompah band belts out.
#8. Christmas Card Games. When the weather outside is frightful, games like euchre, sheepshead and cribbage are so delightful. But watch out for Great Aunt Minnie. She may look innocent enough in her hand-knit Christmas sweater and wire rims, but she can read the kitty, trump your hand and make a quick trick before you can say “Go Pack Go.”
#9. Meat and Cheese. Wisconsin is home to racing sausages, so it only makes sense that they are a staple over the holidays, too. You bet your kiester we wrap our Lit’l Smokies in puff pastry and arrange them onto a platter in the shape of a wreath. And you’ve never seen a prettier Christmas tree made of assorted cubed cheeses and hard salami, I tell ya.
#10. Indoor Water Parks. Nothing says Christmas break in Wisconsin like a couple of days in the Dells (it is the waterpark capital of the world, after all). Never you mind the faded tattoos, hairy backs and occasional case of ringworm. We’re at the Wilderness, Kalahari or Mount Olympus for the giant blue island drinks, cheesy holiday décor and Griswold-style family fun!
#11. Beer and Bars. We have lots of both. From New Glarus Brewing Co.’s Cabin Fever to Spiced Winter Lager, local seasonals are on tap at every cozy townie bar on every corner in almost every town across the Badger state.
#12. Big Shows, Small City. We might be smaller than our neighbors to the south but there’s still plenty of holiday events to entertain the Christmas socks off ya. From the Milwaukee Ballet’s The Nutcracker to the Milwaukee Rep’s A Christmas Carol, our performing arts scene is on par with the very best in the country. And parking sure is a heckuva lot easier. Take that, Chi-town!
#13. And, Finally, the People. That’s right, I’m talking about yous guys. Because the stereotype is true. From the Stallis princesse to the Up North Norms, Wisconsinites are about the nicest, warmest and most inclusive bunch of folks you’ll find anywhere. We’ll decorate entire neighborhoods (Candy Cane Lane in West Allis) to raise money for charity, jam-pack a Christmas Clearing Council warehouse full of toys for local kids in need, gather coworkers and friends to volunteer at the Hunger Task Force and collect thousands of coats for Koats for Kids.
Yep, there’s no place I’d rather be this Christmas than in the good land of cheese, beer and cheer. On, Wisconsin Christmas!
© Rachael Liska, happyhearthappyhome.com
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