Studio Musings

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Adapting Traditions to Christmas Present

As a child, December was filled with holiday baking.  Come December 1st, we began baking cookies.  Mom directed the baking, but my siblings and I all played our part; mixing dough, 'spritzing' cookies onto the baking sheets from the cookie press, adding sprinkles (lots and lots of sprinkles), rolling and cutting out.  We made spritz and pfeffernusse, chocolate chip and oatmeal, macaroons and almond spice cookies, and more.  

My memory says we baked almost every evening leading up to Christmas - dozens and dozens of cookies, amid lots of laughter, great smells, snitched cookies and family camaraderie.  In those moments, everything seemed just as it ought.  And then, right before Christmas, we'd package up plate after plate of cookies and take them to our teachers and all of our neighbors.  That became another event; parading up and down our street delivering Christmas goodies. 

As a newly married adult, I tried to continue the tradition.  I baked loads of cookies and delivered them to friends and neighbors.  That continued for several years, but each year it got a little harder, until finally it became a sort of hit-or-miss thing, whether I'd make cookies that year.  It simply wasn't as fun, making the cookies by myself.  Too much alone time.  Through all these years, I continued to collect cookie cutters.  I've come to realize that they were tangible reminders of some of my very best childhood memories.   And so the cookie cutters piled up - each one a little promise of magical fun, just waiting for their chance.

And then a couple of years ago, I hit upon the perfect solution:  The Cookie Decorating Party!  Instead of the loneliness of solitary baking.  I invite my friends to come and share the adventure.  When they're done, they have a plate (or 2 or 3) of decorated cookies to take home with them.  At this point, it's become our own annual tradition. 

The week before the party is spent making sure the house is fully decorated, and the day before I make up lots and LOTS of sugar cookie and gingerbread cookie dough, then stick it in the freezer wrapped in waxed paper.  The day of, we put all of the extensions in our dining room table, and set up an extra card table in the living room by the Christmas tree, swathing both tables in vinyl table cloths.  Then pull out my entire collection.

We encourage everyone to bring a rolling pin and baking sheets, but we have everything else.  And for the day, my house is filled with laughter and cheer, amazing creativity and camraderie.  This year, many wonderful cookies were made, including if I remember correctly, a 'Sharkaroo' (what happens when you combine a shark and kangaroo cutout), several pairs of Christmas pliers (our youngest guest at 9 years old thought the pliers where 'the best'), and a tray of water molecules in the shape of mickey heads, along with the rest of the more 'traditional' Christmas gingerbread men and sundry.

On party day, I normally don't do any cookie making myself.  I'm far too busy visiting and making sure everyone else has what they need.  It's such fun to watch, I just want to drink it all in!  But afterwards, I continue baking and decorating, using the 'leftover' dough.  And it's fun, because I can relive memories from the party, steal some of my friends best ideas (yes, that whale cookie cutter makes a fine llama if you turn it on it's side), and it feels like Christmas. 

I never seem to remember to pull out my camera while the party's in full swing.  But here are a few pics I caught towards the end.

The aftermath of lots of cookie decorating fun

I swear I offered her a chair.  Such detailed designs!

A friends cookies - notice the plaid!  Drawn with food-safe markers
Carrie, my Ornament Swap partner from last year, sent me these as a surprise

My 'Aloha' cookies - playing with the cutters
Turns out the palm tree is one of those designs that just doesn't work as a cookie - every single trunk fell off it's palms.  So I turned the palms into a "wave".  I'm definitely better with beads - my decorating skills are best described as 'enthusiastic'.  But it's such fun (rather on par with finger painting)  :)

Decorating my 'after party' cookies
This year I bought really soft squirt bottles for the frosting, and that worked quite well.  Except I need to make the frosting a little thicker next time.  Some of the colors, the black in particular, were a bit too runny. 

It's funny.  Everyone kept thanking me for holding the party, but I really felt like I should keep thanking them.  Because they came and joined in on the spirit of fun.  And they make one of my favorite holiday traditions come back to life in an entirely new and wonderful way. 

So Merry Christmas everyone! 

I hope that your days are filled with traditions new, old or adapted, that bring you joy and laughter this holiday season. 

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