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Holiday Baking Rituals | Manolo for the Big Girl

Holiday Baking Rituals

As I was cruising the web yesterday, I came across this entry in the blog A Day In the Fat Life about what sort of baking she’s doing for Christmas. Reading it, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. You see, for me the holidays always mean baking.

From as far back as I can remember, Christmas happened to involve gifts and music and a big Douglas Fir tree covered in a joyful cacophony of ornaments. Yes, there were a lot of gifts and I was eager to learn what was in each package. Yes, my parents collected Christmas music and there were carols I wouldn’t hear anywhere else as well as artists nobody else seemed to have heard of. Yes, our entire family history was on that tree…or at least dating back to when Mom and Dad were kids. All of these things were great and meant a lot to me, and they still do. But most of all, Christmas was about baking.

It was generally the end of September or the beginning of October when Dad started up the ‘cookie factory.’ He was the primary baker in the family, though Mom did love to bake bread. For the final quater of the year, though, Mom could barely get into the kitchen to make dinner on the weekends, because Dad was baking cookies and fruitcakes almost non-stop.

So many cookies! My brothers and I would beg to be allowed to taste test batch after batch of springerle and liebkuchen and orange shortbread stars and lemon butter daisies and chocolate almond shells…and dozens more. Once a week after he baked them, the fruitcakes would come down from the shelf where they’d been marinating for another infusion of brandy. Dad’s old cat, Hugh, even knew that when the words ‘quality control’ were spoken it meant there was a butter wrapper he could lick clean.

For years I thought everyone had a second freezer in their garage for Christmas goodies. Imagine my surprise when I learned that wasn’t the case!

It’s now been a few years since the cookie factory shut down for good with my father’s death. I still miss it. But when the first snap of cold hits the air and children are deciding what to wear for Halloween, I always bake a couple batches of the one cookie Dad never made: chocolate chip.

And then it’s time to start contemplating what flavor of pie or cake to bake for Christmas day.

5 Responses to “Holiday Baking Rituals”

  1. Lauri December 7, 2008 at 4:05 pm #

    My mom did cutout sugar cookies that she rounded kids up (after we got to old she found more…then had her grandkids do it) to frost and decorate. We’d sit on tall bar stools at the kitchen counter with a bunch of coffee cups full of colored frosting and a variety of sprinkles. After the frosting dried, the cookies were placed in plastic bags and hung on a 3 foot high artificial Christmas tree. Everyone who came into the house was invited to pick a cookie from the cookie tree.

    Never knew anyone else who had a cookie tree at Christmas, but we always did.

  2. Akmed December 7, 2008 at 4:14 pm #

    Thanks for this. http://manolobig.com/wordpress/ is now in my feed reader, I’ll keep and eye out for your next story. I like the layout of your site, nice and clean and easy to read. Thakns.

  3. Twistie December 7, 2008 at 6:01 pm #

    What a cool tradition, Laurie! I’m absolutely charmed by it.

  4. Jenny R. December 8, 2008 at 4:17 am #

    I am a new blogger which has given me appreciation of what others do with their blogs. I just wanted to say good work and although our sites are not really related if you want to swap blogrole links I would be interested.

  5. Carol December 8, 2008 at 8:52 am #

    That’s my mom – still bakes cookies for every occasion. Brownies, chocolate chip, springerle, krumkake, biscotti. Everyone who visits gets a bag to fill and take home (they’re right inside the back door to stay chilled, so you can sneak one on the way in and one on the way out, too!) She’s so good at it that we asked her to bake cookies for our wedding instead of having a cake. Good thing it’s almost Christmas – she’s been baking for weeks now!