“Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”

The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the day is quite warm. I’m thinking winter has forgotten to come. Not that I’m complaining, but there is a certain expectation here in New England about Christmas and winter and maybe even snow.

My mother was always the architect of Christmas. She bought the gifts, did all the baking, trimmed the tree and decorated the house. My father did his best. He’d help my mother wrap, do the outside lights and put the tree in the stand. He used to do tree lights, but one year they were so tangled he refused to hang them. He just threw them on the floor and sat down. No one wanted to remind him he had put the lights away the year before. The lights then became my responsibility. I was quite fussy about where they were hung, and I tried to vary the colors of the bulbs so same colors wouldn’t be together. My father also helped by being the official taster of Christmas goodies. He did love his sweets. He knew he could count on having sugar cookies, her peanut butter balls, a pie or two, and some different cookies, whatever struck my mother’s fancy from a magazine or a cookbook. I remember her Auntie Mary’s, a chocolate cookie with a cream in the middle.

I began baking and bringing the goodies to my mother’s. I made fudge which was grainy and was my father’s favorite. I made my grandmother’s date nut bread and one year I made orange cookies. My mother liked them so much she hid several so they’d be some left just for her. My English toffee always disappeared quickly.

One year my sister and her family from Colorado came for Christmas. She bought goodies including whoopie pies, one of our all time favorites. What was amazing and extraordinary was she brought spritz cookies because my mother always made them when we kids. She’d add coloring to the dough and we’d have white, red and green cookies. I also made spritz cookies for the same reason. We were all going to be together for Christmas for the first time in many years and spritz cookies was a connector to our childhood Christmases. My mother remembered those years, and she too made spritz cookies. The three of us through those cookies celebrated the shared memories of Christmases past.

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17 Comments on ““Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.””

  1. olof1 Says:

    We never made much of the cokkies and candy in my family for the obvious reason my mother never understood how to make anything edible 🙂 Thankfully my grandmother did all those things instead.

    I actually do remember us making the dough for the gingerbreads and I can’t remember how much we made but we kept on putting cookies in thge oven for hours and hours 🙂 After that we bought the cookies instead.

    Foggy all day here and just around 32F, from now on it’ll get warmer again.

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • Kat Says:

      Christer,
      Say Christmas and so many things come to mind. Those cookies jump right out at me.

      I love gingerbread cookies. I have made them a few times with faces and piped white frosting for hair and a dress on the lady.

      Soooooo warm here.

  2. Birgit Says:

    They are really called spritz cookies in English with German word spritz (squirt)? Funny! Not the easiest word to pronounce. Common Christmas cookies here, easy and fast to make loads of them. As a kid I helped an old lady in the neighborhood making these cookies each year and got some of the cookies for us.

    • Kat Says:

      Birgit,
      That is the perfect name for those cookies. They are made with a cookies press so they are sort of squirted from the press. The press has several designs for the cookies so you can make a variety of shapes.

      http://www.southernplate.com/2012/12/spritz-cookies.html

      • Birgit Says:

        It’s faster and more traditional if you use a meat grinder instead of a cookie press.

      • Kat Says:

        But how do they have a form? Meat grinders tend to spit out round pieces of the meat.

      • Birgit Says:

        Spritz cookie attachment for different cookie shapes:

        Two persons for a traditional manual meat grinder, one for dough input and winder, the other one (usually the kid) cuts dough string pieces off the grinder and puts them on the baking plate. It’s faster nowadays with electric meat grinders but it’s less fun and you don’t need a kid for help.

      • Kat Says:

        Birgit,
        I can see the templates across the front of the grinder. Do you push the dough through?

        I haven’t ever seen anything like that. Thanks for finding it.

        (the link was in my e-mail but disappeared here fr some strange reason.

      • Birgit Says:

        Just see 1:15 – 1:50 of this video (ignore German talking):
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfOUn1yVINk
        Easy and fast 🙂

      • Birgit Says:

        In case you’re wondering, the white stuff at the end is just sandwich paper to get the rest of the dough out of the grinder.

      • Kat Says:

        Birgit,
        Those are made quite differently than the ones we all make. This video shows a cookies press which os similar to mine.

  3. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    My father did all the gift wrapping in my house. He loved to do it which was very fortunate as my mother hated wrapping. She was like me that way. I always feel like I’m wrassling alligators. 🙂
    My father usually did the tree, too. He would spend a fair amount of time drilling holes in the trunk and glueing extra branches into the bare spots. He was particular about that. He was also one of those people that had to hang the tinsel one or two pieces at a time. No tossing allowed. He liked the lights to be strung on the outside of the tree. This proved problematical in later years when I had to do the lights because I like them closer to the inside of the tree. I think it gives the tree an internal light. Besides, the lights didn’t have clips on them and wouldn’t stay on the outside as well. It was always a point of dispute between my father and me. But I always won because I was the one putting up the lights.

    Cookies weren’t a big thing either, except for chocolate chip and oatmeal. Later on I would make pizzelle. A friend and I would get together at her house and make springle cookies, pizzelle, baklava and shortbread cookies. I loved making shortbread cookies in the big molds. My friend’s granddaughter and I would sit on the kitchen floor and decorate them with food coloring, jimmies and dragoons or whatever those silver balls are called. We sat on the floor because the kid was only 2 or 3 years old and couldn’t reach the table very well. And the floor was easier to clean. 🙂

    Today is sunny most of the time, warm and windy. Very weird weather.

    Enjoy the day.

    • Kat Says:

      Caryn,
      I love to wrap but sometimes there is so much to wrap the task seems daunting. No ribbon makes it easier (all of us have ribbon eating cats).I always buy ornaments for the packages.

      From the time I was little, my mother demanded we put the icicles on one at a time the same way icicles hang from the roofs of houses. We were better at tossing in piles. I don’t ever remember my father hanging an ornament. He was an ex-lights guy.

      I always put white lights up the trunk of the tree and around the angel on the top. I think of them as stars. The rest of the tree has colored lights.

      I used to make pizzelles and haven’t in years. I don’t even know where my iron mold is. We decorated the cookies, and we used so much frosting the cookies were heavy.

      Very weird weather indeed!

  4. Bob Says:

    I never understood wrapping paper. I have two left thumbs so trying to wrap a gift is like trying to wrestle a greased pig. Making bows was was even worse. My bows always came out looking flat and ugly. After spending a half hour trying to wrap a box while crinkling the paper the recipient will destroy the wrapping paper and bow in less than ten seconds.

    I am thankful for the invention of the holiday gift bag and stick on bow. After the recipient opens the bag and removes the gift the bag and bow can be recycled for several years. The only waste is the small amount of tissue paper used to cover the gift which gives the illusion of surprise for the recipient. The gift itself is usually something the recipient didn’t want or doesn’t need and will either re gifting it or returning it for cash after the holiday.

    For several years we stash our kids Chaunukah gifts in the closet and just hand it to them each night after lighting the candles. The kids didn’t care.

    • Kat Says:

      Bob,
      I love wrapping but not everyone does. I laugh thinking of my father wrapping. His presents were always a bit lopsided and some had far too much tape, but I loved those.

      I look forward to unwrapping presents and I expect most people do so I don’t use a gift bag to hold a present. I use bags for each of my nephews, but I wrap whatever goes in the bag. If you spend time thinking about the present and the person receiving it, there won’t be any returns. My mother had the talent of choosing exactly the right presents, and I think my sisters and I each got a piece of that.

      My mother gave my sisters and me the most amazing gift of loving all things Christmas. My brother never caught the spirit, but then again his life is generally spiritless. My sister’s kids are lucky enough to have caught the Christmas bug as well.

  5. Jay Bird Says:

    Men enjoy Christmas, children love Christmas, but in so many ways it’s a women’s holiday. Shopping, gift wrapping, bows and ribbons, Christmas cards, fancy baking, sparkly holiday dresses for parties, gift-giving and family gatherings, more shopping… Guys just don’t dig on that stuff as much, if you’ll pardon my sexism.

    My dad usually got a rather skanky tree, close to Christmas Eve (cheaper). We used a combination of lights, ornaments, tinsel and “icecycles” to fill in the gaps. It always looked good in the bay window. Better with wrapped presents under it! (though I never got that Red Ryder BB gun I wanted!)

    The tales of your Christmases are wonderful! Thanks for posting such joyous memories.

    • Kat Says:

      Jay,
      It is true that women take a greater part in all the holiday festivities. I would say, though, that the role of the men of the houses differs man to man. I have male friends who do it all except for sparkly holiday dresses and the fancy baking. My brother-in-law cooks dinner in his smoker, wraps, makes cinnamon rolls and shops for gifts for his kids and their kids, but my sister does do the bulk of Christmas decorating.

      My dad gave me money to shop for my mother (for which she was eternally grateful), ate the goodies we all baked and enjoyed his family together at Christmas, but that was about it besides the wrapping I mentioned.

      I’d bring up my gifts and they’d go under the tree. The Colorado gifts did too and all those gifts left little room for Santa’s gifts which appeared on Christmas morning. My mother used to say the tree was lost, gone from sight behind the mounds of gifts.

      I am so glad you’re enjoying my Christmas memories. I so love them all.


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