That magical time of year is almost here– when Christmas baking is in full swing, and cookies cover every counter, table, and available space. But amidst all the baking and hustle and bustle of the season, I wanted to take a moment to pause– to reflect. Christmas recipes, like Christmas traditions, have their root in family. To taste a work of baking artistry is to taste the love that went into creating it. And there is no better time than Christmas to taste this magical art in action. 🙂
Christmas is a magical time of the year. All the stores are bedazzled with lights and Christmas garlands. My kids “oooh” and “ahhh” over the toy displays in the windows and giggle while we put up the Christmas tree. Mornings are frosty, and sometimes blanketed in white. The crunch of icicles falling from the roof makes you jump in the night, wondering if, just maybe . . . you’ve managed to catch Santa Claus in action.
Some of my fondest Christmas memories revolve around baking. I can remember the excitement in the air when Mom declared it was time to “start making the Christmas cookies.” We made sugar cookies of all kinds and decorated them together. We also made everything from Cranberry bars to the classic Hershey’s Kiss Cookies. I remember feeling OHHH so grown up as my sister and I had the “special job” of unwrapping the candy kisses and putting them carefully into a bowl to await their plunge into the hot center of a freshly baked peanut butter cookie. I remember Mom pretending not to notice when one . . . or maybe like, 5 (haha) kisses magically disappeared. 😉 I’m pretty sure she got extra candy for just this reason.
Baking is a thread that goes through each of our lifetime tapestries in some way. Whether your mom was an amazing baker who did everything from scratch, or whether she was the type who loved shortcuts and pre-made sugar cookie dough, you have baking in your blood. Baking in your veins.
The creation of food is a practice as old as time. Literally. Through the creation of our favorite foods we show love to others. When Mom put that gorgeous Thanksgiving turkey down on the table, she was proudly showing you her love– her hours of prep and labor. When you had cupcakes to take to school on your birthday, or a birthday cake on your special day, someone was there, quietly, showing love to you.
Baking is science of course, but there is a certain artistry to it too. There are some techniques that only come with practice. I can use my Grandma’s exact recipe for dinner rolls, but mine are never as good as hers. Over years and years of practice– of sharing and showing your children and grandchildren how to do it– the fingers learn. The muscles practice. Baking is a skill bred in the bone.
Christmas baking is a time when you can pull out your Grandma’s old recipe books, or those weathered, handwritten recipe cards, and take a literal (and delicious!) trip down memory lane. As you measure flour and sprinkle baking powder and salt, or crack eggs and pour milk, you create magic. Little faces watch the cookies in the oven, wondering if they will EVER be done and ready to eat? Your own kids are the ones, now, who unwrap the Hershey’s kisses. You are the one who smiles at their enthusiasm. You are the one passing on the secrets, now.
On Christmas Eve you set out a plate of cookies for Santa while your children’s eyes sparkle with excitement. You remember well the terrible “Won’t morning EVER come?” that every child on Christmas Eve experiences, trying desperately to get to sleep so that morning will come just a little bit faster.
The traditions we carry on are the ones we have learned. Our minds have learned the recipes just as surely as our fingers have learned the techniques. But the magic is learned in the heart.
This Christmas, it doesn’t matter whether you bake homemade Espresso Chip Cookies or just decorate store-bought ones. Whether your Christmas Eve offering to Santa is fancy homemade cookies or store bought Oreos, take time to enjoy the process. Sprinkle some “reindeer food” with your kids. Watch their faces light up with excitement. Share some magic with those you love. Baking is just a tool– a mechanism to get to the real goal: spending time with those you love.
Perhaps that is the real magic, after all.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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