Holiday Eats. What dish do you look forward to each year at the Christmas party? Share the recipe if you can!
Can you sense my enthusiasm and excitement about still writing about the holidays?
But this is an easy one. And, to me, it is more about family and tradition and how that both changes and stays static as our families change.
For the last… 28?… years, my mom, sister, and I have baked and decorated simple sugar cut out cookies. The reason I don’t know how long we’ve been doing it is because I can honestly not remember a time when we didn’t. It is a tradition that is so tightly woven into what the holidays mean to me, that I can’t imagine what a holiday would have been like before it (my mom might say the holidays before it were easier, at least easier than those first few years of cookie-making when my sister and I were but a kindergartner and a toddler).
Through childhood, teenagehood, one going off to college and then the other, one going off to graduate school and then other, marriages, and now a baby joining the family, we have still always managed to find ourselves back at my mom’s dining room table about a week before Christmas, armed to the hilt with frosting guns and sparkling sugars and those tooth-shattering silver nonpareils.
When I stop to think about the day-long event, I am sort of surprised at how strong a thread it is that ties me to Christmases past. Simple things, like the way the arsenal of cookie cutters has changed over time, like rings on a tree as our family changes. There is the simple diamond with scalloped edges and wooden handle that has been with us forever; the plastic airplane we bought to make cookies especially for my grandfather who builds model planes; the Santa with the giant beard that you can just heap frosting on to (!); the Star Wars cookie cutters I added when Aaron and I got married because nothing says “Season’s Blessings!” like a bunch of festively-decorated Storm Troopers. It’s not very often you see a whole part of your history laid out on a kitchen counter.
There have been some hilarious mistakes along the way– the hand cookie cutter is forever losing fingers, so we always end up with a cookie flicking everyone off. One of the Christmas tree cookie cutters always ends up making trees that look a bit pregnant, but we can never remember which of the 3 or 4 trees it is. Once we tried making the dough green, which worked GREAT for the trees, but it turns out people were less thrilled to eat a green cookie in the shape of a scottie dog. There is an amorphously shaped cookie cutter in the bunch and no one can tell if it’s a bird or a rabbit or a dog. We don’t use that one very much.
There is Christmas music, coffee, sometimes eggnog. There is a lot of laughter, especially as we consume more and more sugar and get more and more tired of punching out cookies from the cold dough and decorating each and every one individually. Rarely do any two cookies (of about 6 dozen) look alike. Unlike so many of the other things we do during the holidays, this feels casual and relaxed. It is small. It isn’t exactly “quiet” (see: sugar-induced laughter), but it isn’t rushed or forced.
This is probably the closest I get to what the truly holidays mean to me. Time with the people who have loved me the fiercest, even in the times I have probably not deserved it. Time to reminisce about the Cookie Days of the past. Opportunities to think about what future Cookie Days will be like.
[Photo credit: Dad, who doesn’t really get to participate but has been stuck several years listening to the “cackling cookie ladies,” as he would say. Lately, he’s just been leaving the house for the day on Cookie Day. Ha!]