Growing up, I didn’t leave Santa a cup of hot cocoa, but chocolate-y warmed milk was a staple in my holiday diet. Whether sipped while decorating the tree or watching A Christmas Story, hot cocoa was the epitome of Christmas indulgence. I imagine that kids raised on candy bar sweet Swiss Miss feel differently. After all, powdered hot chocolate is kid-proof: flip on the kettle, let the water boil and stir to dissolve the mix. Quick, simple and ready to be enjoyed whenever the craving strikes.
This was not the drink I grew up with. At my house a cup of hot chocolate was what I would grow up to call hot cocoa and first required asking a parent if they would make you some. Mom usually said no, but Dad could be convinced with a nice smile and some compliments. The milk would be pulled out of the fridge, the cocoa powder unearthed from the depths of the cupboard and the sugar gotten down from the highest shelf. As he whisked the ingredients together on the stove (we didn’t, and still don’t, have a microwave), my dad wondered jovially if he still had the knack for making the perfect chocolate-y cup.
The question was irrelevant. No, the hot cocoa was never chocolate-y enough to satisfy my cocoa hungry taste buds. But it didn’t matter. As long as it was warm and reasonably sweet, I gladly gulped it down while sitting in front of the Christmas tree with the familiar sounds of Ralphie’s BB gun plight playing in the background. A cup of hot cocoa was the sign I was waiting for to be certain that Christmas had finally arrived.