As we get closer to Christmas, the family rituals we observed when I was growing up come to mind. Some of these we continued to observe as adults with our own families, some not.
One I wrote about earlier was going to spend Christmas with grandparents. Those were very special times that I regret my own children didn’t have. We never lived close enough to my parents to make visiting at holidays reasonable, and I know my kids missed out on a significant experience that would have created deeper bonds with their grandparents.
A tradition I did keep, however, was making Christmas cookies. When I was growing up, we always saved a day before Christmas to make cookies using Great-Grandma Venrick’s sugar cookie recipe. The dough was rolled out flat and the cookies cut out in shapes such as candy canes, trees, gingerbread men, wreaths and so on.
Once baked, the cookies were decorated with red, green and white icing as well as sprinkles of various kinds.
As we kids got older and became involved with boyfriends or girlfriends, they had to be included in the cookie making tradition. It was a requirement, just as it was required for all serious potential mates to go to Norcatur, Kansas, home to both sides of our family, for Memorial Day to meet – and pass muster from – the extended family.
Just as some serious suitors did not pass the Memorial Day test, many more special friends fell by the wayside as the result of not getting into the expected spirit of cookie making. Did some think cookie making wasn’t what guys did? Too bad – that’s what was expected of those who wanted to be around our family.
One Christmas cookie making I remember when I was home from college was when our only brother brought his fiancé to the annual event. I think she was a little overwhelmed by all of us girls – 3 still home at that time – and our various friends. Okay, I’ll admit it — we probably acted out to the point that rising to the challenge of a bunch of rowdy, wisecracking cookie makers was a bit much.
When she was in 11th or 12th grade, our daughter brought a friend to family Christmas cookie making. She’d been going out some with this boy, who happened to be Jewish. Later she told me he was rather touched by the whole idea of being included in a family Christmas tradition so unlike anything he’d previously experienced for Hanakkuh.
Ken used to make cookies for Christmas, but he made a variety of kinds, never the cut out sugar cookies. Now, neither one of us make Christmas cookies, and while I miss it, I have the warm memories of those days of Christmas past.