Monday, December 19, 2016

The year a third-grader saved our Christmas tradition

A number of  years ago, I spent quite a bit of time thinking back on my memories of Christmas past. I did something that those of you with grown children or with grandchildren might like to consider doing, if you haven't already. I wrote down every Christmas memory I could think of from my own childhood and my kids' growing-up years, and typed them up. Then I made copies of family Christmas photos and other memorabilia, and gathered up all of the recipes I use at Christmas, along with recipes my mother and grandmother used. What I ended up with was a wonderful Christmas memory book to give to each of our children and their families.

In fact, when I lent my copy to my parents for them to look through, they were so taken with this book that the next year, I made them one of their own. Then two of my aunts saw the book and enjoyed it so much that I ended up making each of them a copy, too.

Back cover of the memory book
It was interesting -- when I really started to think about Christmas memories, so many things came back to me that I thought I had forgotten. The memory I'm about to share with you, however, has stayed sharp and clear.

First,  a little background. Christmas cookie baking was a BIG tradition for us. I had grown up in a home where lots of baking went on, especially at holiday time. My mother would be in the kitchen for days before Christmas -- not making just cookies, but yeast breads and fudge and other treats -- and she would make up goodie trays for all of our neighbors and friends. So when I had a home of my own, I very naturally carried that on.

My mother's fudge recipe

I had always seen my parents' holiday gifts of baked goods to friends and neighbors as a very important part of Christmas. So early on, I began doing the same sort of thing by baking dozens and dozens of cookies and then freezing them for later use on cookie trays to give away and also for our own enjoyment. I started by baking the ones I was familiar with from my own childhood, like Russian Teacakes, Molasses Crinkles, Date-Oatmeal Cookies and Chocolate Spritz. Then, gradually, I
began branching out and trying different recipes. I made a point each year of trying at least one or two different cookies. Many of these recipes would become favorites and go into the file of "must-make" cookies for each year.

When the kids were young, we always, always set aside a day to bake cut-out cookies. We didn't go the route of icing the baked cookies, but did things the easier, possibly less messy way by sprinkling on colored sugars, nonpareils, silver dragees, and the like before baking. I had these marvelously detailed red plastic cutters that produced wonderful designs. I was also fortunate to inherit some of my grandmother's aluminum cookie cutters with the faded green metal handles. For a couple of years our elderly friends Sue and Margaret would join us to make cutout cookies. I think they may have had more fun than the kids! I will never forget how Sue invariably perched on a creaky old wooden youth chair that we had. I held my breath every time, but it never gave way.

image from Gooseberry Patch
So that gives you a little background into how much of a tradition cookie-baking was at our house. You really need to get that, to  appreciate the memory I'm about to share with you.

In my book, I've titled it:

(The cookie tradition part of it, anyway.)

It was a busy year. Our kids had changed schools. Our son was away at boarding school for his first year; our daughters were at a small local Christian school. And so was I.  I was working at the school as a teachers' aide. I enjoyed the work and it was great being able to be with the kids all day. But oh, it was a long day and often meant not getting home until nearly 5 p.m. I was doing well to get a meal prepared each evening -- and sometimes I would start that the minute I came in the door, still wearing hat, coat, and boots. (I did take my mittens off.)

It really looked as if no cookie baking would take place at our house that Christmas. There were going to be two disappointed little girls who had grown to love the cookie tradition. I don't know who came up with the solution in the end, but it was decided that Carrie could make all the dough and we could bake the cookies in the evenings. She was in 3rd grade and could easily read and follow a recipe. Being in an ACE curriculum, she was able to finish her schoolwork each day and seldom had homework. She could do this! So we looked over the recipes and decided which ones we simply had to make. Carrie made up a batch or two of dough each evening and we would bake as many cookies as we had time to before bedtime. I have never forgotten and never will forget the sacrifice of time and effort on this little girl's part. The tradition went on!

As I thought again about this memory, and how a little girl gave up hours of after-school play time to make sure a family tradition could go on, it reminded me of the attitude that God wants each of us to have toward one another in His family.

In this, as in all things, Jesus is our example. At this wondrous season, when we consider how Jesus left His home in glory and came to earth to be born as a Baby in a manger, we are again reminded of why He came. As the Ron Hamilton song so clearly puts it, He was "Born to Die" --  to pay for the sins of each of us. Listen to Jesus' own words in Mark 10:45 -- "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."

When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior from sin, then we become part of His family and are expected to live accordingly. There are many verses in God's Word that remind us we are not to live our lives selfishly, but to be willing to sacrifice our time and talents to serve God and minister to others.

Proverbs 3:27 says, "Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it."

Romans 15:1 reads: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." This is so contrary to the world's thinking! But as Christians, we are not to live to please ourselves. We are here to serve God and others.

Galatians 6:10 instructs us: "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." John Wesley had a saying: "Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."

2 Corinthians 12:15a shows us the heart of the apostle Paul toward his fellow believers in Corinth. He wrote: "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you..." . Paul was not only willing but glad to give of himself in tireless service and sacrifice for these believers in order to help them grow and prosper spiritually. Paul's attitude can and should be our attitude as well -- not just in a burst of good will at Christmas time, but all the time!

I hope this precious memory and these related thoughts will be a blessing to someone today. 
Carrie has kept the tradition going with her own children!  This is Julia a few years back.


  1. Wow, this really touched my heart! The memories that are made around celebrating Christmas are the best, and how awesome that your daughter was willing to do what she could to keep the cookie tradition alive. I just posted about a special cookie tradition at our home too, that was saved this year by my son. Such a precious memory it is to me now. I love your idea of making the book of memories, that is an awesome treasure! May the Lord's richest blessings be with you today :)

    1. So sweet, Marilyn... One of those things that just stays with you. And what a lovely memory you made this year with your college students who wanted to make the traditional cookies. And your son rolling out the dough to save your carpal tunnel ... a precious, precious memory indeed!

      Yes, I have been so thankful that I made that memory book. I have all of our favorite Christmas recipes in it too, and made it a loose-leaf format so my kids can add their own memories and recipes.

  2. Christmas really is full of memories. Your daughter displayed a servant's heart in her cookie baking that year.
    I'm wondering if the very detailed red plastic cookie cutters are similar to the ones I purchased the year we were married (1977). I still have the holly, the star and the tree.

    1. Didn't she, Lorrie? I would imagine that your red plastic cookie cutters are the same type. I forget the brand name of them now, if I ever knew it. I think I purchased most of mine from the Maid of Scandinavia catalog in the early 1970s. I have the holly and the tree as well -- and many more, even a manger!

  3. Love this syptory! Nice job to carry on beautiful memories! LOVE the graphic of the front cover for your book! Can I ask you where you got it? Thanks Cindy

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the story, Cindy! It's a precious memory to me. As for the graphic I used, I am not sure where I got it. This was back many years ago and I did not think to note where I got it. I did find that I've had it since 2007. I thought I might remember the name of the site, but the one I was thinking of didn't yield any results. I couldn't find it in a search of google images either. Assuming you plan to use the picture only for your personal use, if you want to send me your email address (in a comment that I won't publish!) I can send the image to you.

  4. What a precious book for your family to have. I loved this story about how Carrie saved the tradition. I imagine she did not think of it as a sacrifice. I imagine that she found it a joyful thing to do.

    Your days sounded very much like my own. Fulfiiling and exhausting all at once.

  5. The book was so much fun to put together, Vee. My memories of Christmas are wonderful and varied. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I think you are right that Carrie found it a joyful thing to do. She told me after reading this that she didn't remember feeling as if she was giving up anything at all.

    Sometimes I wonder how I survived those busy days! Well, of course I know the answer -- God brought me through them. During a year or two of that time I was also spending a lot of time seeking to mentor and encourage a young mom that I knew. A busy life indeed -- your description of "fulfilling and exhausting all at once" hits the nail right on the head.


Thanks so much for stopping by to visit my kitchen table! I love company here in my kitchen, so be sure to leave a comment so I'll know you've visited! I'll answer your questions and comments here on the blog unless you request otherwise.