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Bring back glamour to the holidays!

By Lesley Blume, Special to CNN
Build a tower of wide-mouthed champagne glasses and let the bubbly flow down.
Build a tower of wide-mouthed champagne glasses and let the bubbly flow down.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Writer believes there used to be more glamour to the holidays
  • She suggests New Year's Day parties and picnics in the snow
  • Wants to bring back punchbowls and champagne pyramids

Editor's note: Lesley Blume is the author of "Let's Bring Back" (Chronicle Books), which details many whimsical, refined, and occasionally decadent old-fashioned holiday entertaining tips and culinary delights to be revived from bygone eras.

(CNN) -- When I was a little girl, my parents would take me every year to see "The Nutcracker." I remember practically drooling in awe as the massive Christmas tree grew out of the stage until it towered over the audience, and hiding under my seat whenever that hideous, sword-wielding, gazillion-headed rat wobbled out onto the stage.

Last year, I went to see it again, just for old times' sake. The takeaway: The grown-ups in "The Nutcracker's" day knew how to throw a hell of a party.

It was all so pretty and elegant. Gorgeously clad ladies and top-hatted gentlemen arrived and immediately descended upon the champagne; they danced and gave toasts, and sumptuous platters of fruit and glasses of mulled wine were toted about by equally well-clad servants. The kids made themselves scarce and played together with quaint wooden toys.

Ah, the good old days.

As far as I can tell, there's no reason why we can't have that sort of cultivated, old-timey holiday rituals and flourishes today as well.

What follows is a short list of such pleasures, just in time for Christmas and New Year's festivities. After all, if you can't be nostalgic during the holidays, when can you?

Let's bring back ...

1. Champagne glass towers

A round pyramid of stacked coupe champagne glasses, in which champagne is poured into the top glass and trickles down to the lower tiers. Popular in the 1920s, such towers are gleaming monuments to pretty decadence. Can you think of a more spectacular way to ring in the New Year?

2. Winter picnics

A sublime way to spend a snowy afternoon. Bundle up, fill your wicker picnic hamper with white wine (which you can chill just by sticking it in a snowbank), a thermos of soup, and sandwiches. Bring along a cheerful red wool plaid blanket to sit on -- and don't forget your dog, who will love rooting around in the snow while you nestle and dine.

3. Brown-paper-and-twine-wrapped packages

Fraulein Maria loved them in "The Sound of Music," and so do I. They are a democratic approach to gift-wrapping -- and terribly mysterious as well. There could be anything inside, from a diamond necklace to a slab of fish.

4. Bonbons

The perfect stocking stuffer for the glamorously indolent women in your life. While many types of candy today are described as "bonbons," the cream-in-the-middle chocolate version of this confection used to be the symbol of lazy chicness: A lady of leisure would supposedly lie in bed all day and eat bonbons. In the popular imagination, these ladies were, of course, invariably clad in marabou-fringed dressing gowns.

5. Homely Christmas trees

Lopsided ones with fat colored lights and homemade ornaments and popcorn strings. Matchy-matchy Martha Stewart trees with white lights and red plaid ribbons look constipated.

6. Figgy pudding

If the lyrics of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" are an accurate indicator, something about figgy pudding makes people quite bossy and demanding:

Oh, bring us some figgy pudding and a good cup of cheer --
We won't go until we get some, so bring some right here.

Well, if it's that good, maybe we should bring it back.

7. Punch bowls

Punch bowls are the Lolitas of serving ware: Filled with pink party punch, they look dainty and sweet and innocent but portend all sorts of naughty behavior. They used to be the life of the party and deserve that honor once again.

8. New Year's Day parties

A lovely, optimistic alternative to the typical New Year's Eve parties -- which are so often well-intentioned but disappointing. Set up a lovely buffet and open your doors at noon. Those who are nursing hangovers can stroll in later in the afternoon.

9. Skating parties

Grab ten of your closest friends, a handful of brightly colored stocking caps, and head to a pretty frozen lake or outdoor skating rink. These once-popular diversions were often followed by a post-skating party supper as well.

The 1966 edition of "The New York Times Menu Cook Book" recommends this endearing menu:

Hot Buttered Rum
Old-Fashioned Vegetable Soup
Crusty French Bread
Mixed Green Salad
Cranberry Cheese Cupcakes

10. Bing Crosby

His voice used to be synonymous with Christmas, thanks to his rendition of "White Christmas" in the 1942 film "Holiday Inn." The nostalgic, comforting tenor of the song strongly resonated with war-weary Americans and overseas soldiers; Crosby's "White Christmas" single eventually sold more than 50 million copies, making it one of the best-selling singles in the world, according to "The Guinness Book of World Records."

Happily, you can find Crosby's Christmas recordings with the wonderful Andrews Sisters on iTunes -- although I maintain that they still sound best on scratchy old records.

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