Have you ever heard of the expression, “Hanging of the Green?” If so, have you ever wondered why we call it that or why we celebrate the service in the church?

You can’t talk about hanging greens without talking about Advent, which means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus which was his first Advent and the anticipation of his return in the Second Advent.

The beginning of Advent is a time for decorating the church with evergreen wreaths, boughs or trees that help to symbolize the everlasting life brought through Jesus; hence the term “Hanging of the Green.” Green represents renewal, new life, freshness and rebirth; thus, the reason for evergreens because their foliage doesn’t die, they remain ever-green…ever-alive.

A Hanging of the Green service is truly a humbling experience.

Now, special church services are often followed by special receptions and such was the case – a time for the church family and friends to come together and celebrate the joy of the season. These recipes are only a few of the wonderful dishes prepared by the church hostesses for this occasion. They will be greatly appreciated during the holidays if you are planning a party or even just a casual, family dinner. Happy holidays.

Granny Smith Apple Dip

2 (8 oz) pkgs cream cheese

1/2 c granulated white sugar

1 1/2 c light brown sugar

1 t vanilla

1 (8 oz) pkg Heath Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee Bits

Whip first four ingredients until creamy smooth. Add Toffee Bits reserving some to sprinkle on top of dip. Serve with wedges of Granny Smith apples.

Rosalyn Carter’s Easy Cheese Ring

1 lb grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1 c chopped pecans

1 c mayo

1 small grated onion

black and cayenne pepper to taste

1 jar strawberry preserves

Combine first 4 ingredients. Season with the two peppers. Mix well. Pour into a 5 or 6 cup mold that has been slightly oiled. Refrigerate until set. Unmold. Serve with strawberry preserves in the center of ring and spooned over top. Serve with a mild cracker.

Seasoned Pepper Cheese Ball

1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese

1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix

Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper

Combine cream cheese and dry dressing mix. Shape into a ball or log. Roll in Seasoned Pepper. Serve with crackers.

Fruity Cheese Ball

3 (8 oz) pkgs cream cheese

1 t vanilla extract

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained

1 c white raisins

1 c confectioner’s sugar

1 t lemon juice

1 c angel flake coconut

2 (7 ox) bags Sun Maid Fruit Bits

1/2 c chopped nuts (optional)

Mix all ingredients together except nuts. Shape into balls or logs. Sprinkle nuts on top or roll in nuts. Serve with ginger snaps, graham cracker sticks or Club crackers.

Hot Bacon and Swiss Dip

16 oz pkg Swiss cheese, grated

8 oz pkg cream cheese

1 c mayonnaise

1 pkg real crumbled bacon

Soften cream cheese and use an electric mixer to combine until smooth. Add bacon and stir in grated cheese.

Pour into baking dish and bake at 350 until cheese melts and top is light brown, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with crackers, pita chips or corn chips.

Hot Artichoke Dip

1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained

3/4 c mayonnaise

1 c grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4-1/2 t garlic powder

1/2 t Worcestershire sauce

1 T lemon juice

Combine all ingredients except fresh Parmesan. Spoon into a 1-quart baking dish that has been sprayed with vegetable spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with the 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan and bake 5-10 more minutes until bubbly but not brown.

— Judy O’Daniel’s “Country Gourmet” column appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition. This column originally ran Dec. 3, 2010.

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