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In Clement C. Moore's famous poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," the children lie "nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced through their heads." Although today's children crave candy canes and chocolates at Christmas time, Moore's poem reminds us that over one hundred years ago children longed for sugarplums. In fact, sugarplums symbolized a child's Christmas joys to such an extent that Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky's late nineteenth-century Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, features a character called the "Sugarplum Fairy," who rules over the Kingdom of Sweets.

What exactly are sugarplums, anyway? In past centuries people might call any kind of candied fruit a sugarplum. In addition, confectioners used the term to refer to candied spices. Thus, dried and sugared plums, apricots, cherries, ginger, aniseeds, and caraway seeds might all go by the name "sugarplum." Traditional recipes suggest various preparations for this confection. Some sugarplum recipes called for coating dried fruit in sugar or sugary icing. Others recommend cooking it in sugar syrup. Nineteenth-century American cooks occasionally stewed greengage plums in a sugar and cornstarch syrup, calling the resulting sweets "sugarplums."

Today's cooks might find it confusing to lump so many different confections together under the name "sugarplum." In earlier times, however, the word "plum" served as a generic term for any kind of dried fruit (see also Plum Pudding). Given this definition, the term "sugarplum" might be said to offer an accurate description of these candies. Sugarplums, or "comfits" as confectioners sometimes called them, not only delighted children as special Christmas treats, but also enriched a variety of cakes and puddings during the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries.

Further Reading

Snyder, Phillip V. The Christmas Tree Book. New York: Viking Press, 1976. Weaver, William Woys. The Christmas Cook. New York: HarperPerennial, 1990.
Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations, 2nd ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2003
References in periodicals archive ?
So with that in mind and visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, we present this year's wish list.
Yet, that's what we should strive to do: put down our spoon, get up from the table, teach ourselves to banish thoughts of sugarplums with Gandhi-like insouciance.
Thanksgiving, with its image of pumpkin pie and whipped cream, is just a prelude to the thoughts of sugarplums that will dance in our heads by December 25.
Whether they're heading out for the holidays or decking the halls for home, manufacturers are setting a sparkling display of innovative product at your feet that will push your customers to dream of sugarplums.
If they want supporters of single-payer like me to jump on the UHV bandwagon, they need to do more than toss around scornful rhetoric about "liberal sugarplums." They need to show hard evidence that there in fact is a sizable dement of corporate America which, while rejecting single-payer, is ready to make a genuine commitment to UHVs.
But before you get carried away with visions of these sugarplums, you need to know that firs develop cones only in late spring.
Film critics with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads beware: Instead of unwrapping yet another lighted-pen stocking stuffer Dec.
For example, both the girls of the Boston chapter of the juvenile anti-slavery society and the speaker of Elizabeth Margaret Chandler's poem "The Sugarplums" refuse to consume or to use products made by slaves.
Beautifully packaged, it also makes a personal gift for the holidays: Five-spice cashew brittle, rich maple fudge, or crunchy peppermint bark will inspire visions of sugarplums for everyone on your list.
Instead of counting sheep, questions dance like sugarplums....
After numerous briefing sessions, a pile of background reading and a trip down to INDA's training course in McLean, VA, I must say my knowledge has improved-somewhat--and I now have company names and nonwovens terms dancing in my head like sugarplums.
Those that ordered from more well-known names like Toys 'R Us were disappointed by poorly operating web sites and promises of sugarplums that never arrived, thus tying up trade dollars.