There is nothing with a more comforting taste and smell than cinnamon. Universally recognizable in both flavor and scent, cinnamon is thought to be the oldest known spice in the world (believed to have been around since before the 1500s BC). It is mentioned twice in the Bible as an ingredient in anointing oil and as an offering of great Babylon.
For the holidays cinnamon is a showstopper! It is used to decorate trees and garlands, flavor hot and cold drinks, and fill a room with the seasonal aromas.
Traditional Christmas decorations, often showcase cinnamon sticks alongside dried apple, orange and/or lime slices. We often see these in floral displays, draped garlands and Christmas tree sprigs. A cinnamon stick can be added with a simple ribbon to a wrapped package to bring a bit of warmth and beauty to any package. Added to a wire pick, a bundle of cinnamon sticks can be used to fill out a floral arrangement and add texture.
Be it hot wassail or spiced tea, there is a bit of cinnamon in there to sooth your soul and boost your immune system. This year, I have noticed many a restaurant menu offering cinnamon infused cocktails. Sometimes the liquor is infused with cinnamon flavor, or it could be the simple syrup is flavored with cinnamon. Often these drinks have a dusting of cinnamon on top or a cinnamon stick used in place of a stir stick.
Then of course there is mulled wine which is a traditional red wine-based drink known around the world but most popular in European countries such as Germany (known as Glühwein), France (known as Vin Chaud) and Norway (known as Gløgg). Recipes vary from country to country. My husband was stationed in Germany for a few years during his military service. He makes Glühwein based on the way he was taught to make it in Germany.
I just purchased a bottle of cinnamon syrup to add to coffee, hot chocolate, hot tea, and apple juice. It may even find its way into some quick bread recipes, although I do love to use cinnamon baking chips in cookie and bread recipes this time of year.
Just about any holiday room spray, reed diffuser, or candle will have a bit of cinnamon in it. Cinnamon is such a recognizable and universally known spice that it seems as though everyone, young and old, finds joy and warmth in this scent.
Cinnamon is made from the bark of certain evergreen trees which are part of the Laurel family. The bark and leaves of these trees have aromatic oils. Once the bark is removed from the tree, it is laid in the sun to dry. During the drying process, the bark curls into what we know as a cinnamon stick. Of course, ground cinnamon is in most every cook’s spice cupboard.
My favorite flavor of ice cream, which sadly is a bit difficult to find in my neck of the woods, is cinnamon. One year for our office Christmas party our caterer, Sandi at Plain and Fancy, learned of our love of cinnamon ice cream. She served it as part of the dessert. I still daydream about that meal! My first time to eat cinnamon ice cream was in Fort Worth. We had just toured a museum and needed a treat. There was an ice cream store across the street. Again, a very memorable experience due to the cinnamon ice cream.
The health benefits of cinnamon are numerous, but cinnamon promotes or is an anti- to most of what ails us! It is said to be anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant, lowers blood pressure, lowers blood sugar, and promotes gut health. Some say it even helps prevent Alzheimer’s.
There are two main types of cinnamon available: Ceylon, which is the most expensive, and Cassia, which is more commonly used due to the affordability and stronger flavor. Some cinnamon may interact with certain medicines, and too much Cassia cinnamon could be toxic, so before a person increases their cinnamon intake, they will need to discuss it with their doctor.
Although cinnamon is a spice adopted by many countries around the world, it plays a particularly significant role in American culture. Apple pie would not be the same without the addition of cinnamon. Think of all those realtors who advise home sellers to boil water and cinnamon sticks to make potential buyers feel at home. Those realtors are smart people!
Cinnamon is one part decoration, one part flavor, and one part scent. At Christmas time, it plays a major role in bringing comfort and joy to people everywhere across the globe.
Wishing you a cinnamony Christmas!
Bonus Information: Did you know ’tis is a contraction for “it is”? The “i” in “it” is dropped and replaced by an apostrophe.
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