A Christmas Cookie Tradition
By: Alexa Johnson Anderson
I don’t let a total lack of artistic talent stop me from decorating cookies every Christmas. This lack of cookie-decorating talent goes back decades. In fact, there is not a single Christmas that I can remember where I didn’t decorate cookies with friends, siblings and any other stranger that was walking past the house when we got started.
One of the things that I love about Christmas is the traditions that wrap up the season and baking cookies are always high on the list. These cookies aren’t your regular easy cookies. They are ones where you actually have to plan ahead. You have to KNOW that you are making those cookies because they have to chill. You have to take the time out to think ahead and make a conscious decision to spend quality (well, I guess that’s relative) time with your loved ones and create some lovely (to only your mother’s eyes) and delicious creations.
There were some very specific rules around the making of the cookies. That’s what makes them a tradition, right?? First, each person gets one pan of cookies, so you have to choose which shapes you want very wisely. I learned at an early age how to puzzle my stars, candy canes, and gingerbread men to maximize cookie space on the pan.
Second, you have to have one store-bought vanilla icing, another of chocolate, and another set of homemade icings – red and green – although the red always ended up being some random shade of pink because none of us had the heart to use as much red dye as we needed to. That’s what imagination is for. The colored frostings have to be ready to lather on to the cookie in an pastry bag, or icing dispenser…whatever it’s called. I am sure that there is a more official word for it, but there’s no way that I can even think of what it is.
Third, you have to purchase every single type of cookie decoration you can imagine. All five of us kids were prepared to use every single decoration as we lathered icing on our cookies. Silver balls, cinnamon bites, red sprinkles, green sprinkles, sparkly sugar, chocolate sprinkles, and any other nonsense that we could dream up.
Fourth, make the most of your time with family and friends! Several friends have joined us over the years and their cookies always seem to look like Martha Stewart had infiltrated our group. For me, though, the joy is in the icing and whack-a-do decorations. After the cookies are decorated, we eat as many as our stomachs can handle and then plan on saving a couple for Santa Claus. Because of my hoarding tendencies, I always have at least one left for the jolly old guy.
The times I spent with my family and traditions that I share with my own family make life sweet. Having continuity between my own childhood and my children’s lives create a warmth that I never want to give up. I hope that the time I spend with my kids means as much to them as it does to me.
What are your holiday traditions? Please share with us. We would love to hear from you!
Below are the recipes for the cookies and icing for you to share with your family and friends.
Christmas Cookies and Icing
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp cream of tartar
- ½ cup butter or margarine
- ½ cup shortening
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla flavoring
Sift together flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Cream together butter, shortening, and sugar. Add to the flour mixture; stir in vanilla flavoring. Chill the dough. Roll dough out on a floured pastry cloth and cut with cookie cutters. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 6-8 minutes.
- 2 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
- 2 tbsp shortening
- ¼ cup of milk
- ½ tsp vanilla flavoring
Mix all ingredients and frost.