“Christmas cookies and holiday hearts, this is how the holiday starts.

The morning is cold. The high today will be 34°. Tonight will be in the teens. Right now it is sunny, and the sky is blue. I can see the branches of the pine trees in the back yard sway when the wind blows. They almost dance, a chorus line moving side by side.

The other day it was dark when I got home. On the drive, I was amazed at how many houses are decorated for the holidays. One of them was so bright with lights I stopped to get a better look. All of a sudden my memory drawers overflowed with visions of my childhood. I was back in the car with my family on our traditional light ride. We never talked very much. Mostly we just oohed and ahhed.

When I was a kid, we made ornaments. We’d sit at the kitchen table where my mother had laid out all sorts of decorations like ribbons, the ever versatile pipe cleaners, buttons and whatever she could find. Elmer’s glue held the decorations fast on the styrofoam balls, our canvases. I remember buttons sticking to my fingers, and I remember peeling the glue off my fingers when we were done. I still have the record for the ugliest ornament. It was an angel with fishing line hair and a pipe cleaner halo.

We also used to string popcorn. I remember sitting on the floor watching TV while we worked. The thin kernels often broke on the needles so by the time we were done the floor was covered with small pieces of popcorn.

Decorating cookies was another Christmas tradition. My mother would bake sugar cookies. We had trees, stars, Santas, bells and reindeer. Once the cookies were cooled, my mother made the frosting. She’d make a big batch of white frosting then divide it among small bowls on the table. She would then add a different drop of food coloring to each bowl. There were also tubes of color so we could make lines and such. I remember my sister Moe’s cookies had so many frosting layers we didn’t eat them, but she’d lick them and then leave the cookie, sort of like the way she ate Oreos.

For us, Christmas wasn’t a single day. It was all those days before and all those traditions.

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9 Comments on ““Christmas cookies and holiday hearts, this is how the holiday starts.”

  1. olof1 Says:

    I’m not coming from a family caring much for traditions and the ornaments we did do were made in school. Back then nobody did much ith lights outside their homes either, as most they dressed a spruce in the garden and that was it. I wonder why because since it is so dark here they really should have done what they could to brighten up the world 🙂 🙂

    Have a great day!


    • katry Says:

      Even when I was a kid, outside lights were amazing. In one town, there was a house lights contest. So many cars showed up they had to drive slowly on the streets.

      Here on my street there are three houses with lights. At one house the lights outline the house. The new neighbors cross the street have no outside lights. They even kept the front of the house dark on Halloween, not the most neighborly people. I call them neighbors just by proximity.

      I think every family takes some traditions from the family history and also adds their own.

      Enjoy your Sunday!

  2. Bob Cohen Says:

    Hi Kat,

    When I was a little kid in NYC my parents befriended an Italian family who lived on the block. They would invite us to help them celebrate Christmas and we would invite them on one night of Chanukah to help us celebrate. My most vivid memory was their huge Christmas tree in their living room.

    When we were older we would decorate our house for Chanukah with blue and white streamers and a Happy Chaunkah banner. We even had an electric menorah that we placed in the living room window and screwing in a bulb for each of the eight nights. We also lit a candle menorah for real.

    Chanukah was my father’s favorite time of the year because he would take over the kitchen and make potato latkes which are traditional Chanukah treats for Eastern European Jews. Fried food is traditional for Chanukah to help us remember the miracle of the sanctified oil lasting eight days in the temple in Jerusalem. Sephardic Jews eat dishes such as cassola (sweet cheese pancakes), buñuelos (puffed fritters with an orange glaze), keftes de espinaca (spinach patties), keftes de prasa (leek patties) and shamlias (fried pastry frills). I had to look them up because I don’t know any Sephardic Jews and never had any of those dishes. In Isreal they eat round Jelly Donuts called in Hebrew Sufganiyah. I’m not a fan of potato latkes but could eat my weight in Sufganiyah. 🙂

    I wonder if Muslims have a winter solstice holiday? I know that some African Americans celebrate Kwanza which was invented in this country in 1966 to celebrate their African roots.

    Another beautiful sunny day but cooler with highs in the low 60s.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Bob,
      Where I lived in Ghana has the country’s largest population of Muslims. Many of my students were Muslims. Eid al-Fitr is one of the important Islamic holidays. It comes at the end of Ramadan, and this year it was in June.

      I love potato latkes and have tasted bunuelos. The jelly donuts sound tasty.

      One of the houses not far from me has a menorah in its window. One of the town halls used to display a lit tree and a menorah.

      I think we all have our own traditions around food. My uncle was Italian. Christmas Eve is the Feast of Seven Fishes. My uncle liked that one as he owned a fish market. My father used to help him out for a few days before Christmas as his store was from opening to closing.

      I have a Kwanza cook book. I love many of the recipes.

      Cold all day!

      • Bob Cohen Says:

        Obviously, food goes with celebrations of all kinds. Every region of the world celebrate with food. I’m sure that Christians in the Middle East, Africa or in India have their own culinary delights that probably doesn’t include roasted Turkey, Ham nor even seven fishes. 🙂

      • katry Says:

        I remember being grossed out when I read that the Huns used to put their meat under their saddles so it cooked, sort of.

        Ghana never had special foods for the holidays though the Muslims had huge amounts of food when Ramadan, a time of fasting, ended.

  3. Hedley Says:

  4. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Your cookie memory reminded me of the baking day a now departed friend and I used to do every year before Christmas. The tradition was to do individual shortbread cookies in character molds. After they were baked and cooled her toddler granddaughter would help us decorate them. I remember the two of us sitting on the kitchen floor painting character cookies with food coloring and sticking those silver candy balls all over them. Our cookies were certainly unique. But tasty!

    It snowed a bit more yesterday, just enough to freshen the dirty snow. The sun was very strong this morning and melted a lot of it away in spite of the very cold temperature.

    Enjoy the evening.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I really enjoyed our decorating sessions when I was a kid. Many of the cookies were ugly but, like yours, they tasted great. I haven’t made sugar cookies in a long time. I make my orange cookies and then choose a couple more. Last year the snickerdoodles got raves so maybe I’ll make those again. I like to change up my cookies from year to year.

      It rained here for a while yesterday. Today stayed cold all day.

      Enjoy your evening.

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