by Sara Mead
Thanksgiving is over, black Friday is passed, Sunday marked the start of Advent, and today is the first day of December. Last year, I counted down the days in December leading up to Christmas with candy–a virtual, candy-focused version of the Advent calendars of my youth. This year, I’m counting down the days with cookies. Because, really, what food is more emblematic of Christmas than the cookie? As we’ve noted on this blog previously, there isn’t really a classic “Christmas meal.” Christmas traditions range from goose, to beef roasts, to smoked and cured fish (if you’re Emily‘s family), to Chinese food. The closest thing, I think, is the cookie. It’s what you leave out for Santa, for crying out loud!
I come from a part of the Midwest where you give people cookie plates at Christmas. People (typically women, often with their extended family of female relatives) make several batches of cookies in the weeks before Christmas, using recipes acquired and handed down over years from kith and kin. Those cookies then get made up into cookie plates, which you take around to friends, family, colleagues, and so forth as a holiday gift. Because my dad was a high school principal (yes, MY high school principal), and (thank goodness!) a well-liked one, my family always had tons of cookie plates, from my dad’s staff, parents, and students. Over time we came to look forward to certain cookies, which my sister, grandfather, and I would fight over, or sneak around one another’s backs to secure. (A few favorites: Springerle made by my high school biology teacher, anything made by the high school librarians, and cookies made by our friends the Brinklows.) And of course, my mother, a terrific cook and baker, had a few classic cookies of her own. (Best. pecan. tarts. ever.)
As an adult, I don’t get nearly as many cookies as my family did when I was growing up–which is probably a very good thing for my health and waistline! But I still love a good Christmas cookie. Last year I hosted a cookie swap for the female contingent of the IFA, along with a few good friends from other parts of my life. This year I’m going to do the same.
Over the next 24 days, I’m going to be counting down the days to Christmas with cookies–Some that I’ll make myself, some that others will make, some that IFA folks have made and shared in the past, and possibly a few things I’d like to make but lack the time/equipment/handed-down family recipes to pull off. I’ll try to mix my holiday traditions, traditions that aren’t mine but I’d like to steal from others, and some new-fangled cookie ideas as well.
And, to that end, here’s an invitation for you: Please share your Christmas cookie traditions with me! It’s hard coming up with 25 days worth of Christmas cookies, even with the delicious bounty of options that exist. So, send me some information about your favorite/traditional holiday cookies (or put links to posts you wrote in the comments below)! I’m particularly looking for cookies with photos and recipes, but if you have a particular family recipe you don’t want to share, I’ll settle for photos and a few words about why this cookie matters to you.
Second: I still have yet to find a Christmas sugar cookie recipe that satisfies me, despite years of looking, and I’d love any suggestions folks have. I’m looking for a cookie that is thick, soft, easy to work with in dough form, and can stand up to some serious frosting and decorations.