Family traditions have been on my mind even more so this year. It began with Thanksgivi-kkah; the first time in history that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided.
I had a chuckle or two when that became the talked about topic in November. Our Thanksgiving stuffing is a time-honored and passed down recipe from my mother-in-law from a recipe that was passed down to her from her mother-in-law, my husband's grandmother. The star of that recipe is Challah bread.
Thanksgivi-kkah. Ha. We've been doing that one for generations.
This Thanksgiving tradition was even carried forward this year when my daughter made the stuffing in Los Angeles with her friends unable to travel home to their families.
And, so it goes...
Before I knew it, it was the end of December and it was time to bake the cookies. So, I'm reposting this one for my Dad. As it turned out when I first wrote this, unbeknowst to anyone, it was one of his last Christmases with us. I'm really glad that I filled that tin of his.
This year, for the record, I only made the pretzel cookies. But, I did find time to add my Mom's rum cakes to the mix. When she gave up on the all consuming cookies and my sisters and I took over, she made the rum cakes. I found her recipe, handwritten in my childlike print, used her pan and we enjoyed rum cake too this year. And so...
It's Time to Bake the Cookies
It’s a week before Christmas and all through the house, focus and presents are scattered about… nothing is hung by the chimney with care, and according to the calendar St. Nicholas will soon be here.
And so, even though I have too many things to do, I’ve been wondering about traditions. By definition, a tradition is the passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation… A mode of thought or behavior followed by a people continuously from generation to generation; a custom or usage… A time-honored practice or set of practices.
Okay. We have time honored practices. We have passing down elements of culture from generation to generation. We have traditions.
Okay, things evolve. I accept that.
So, what is my tradition? Maybe my scramble to do last minute shopping and the walking in circles dazed and confused is as much a part of my tradition as anything.
Food is associated with most holidays. It is one of the elements of culture handed from generation to generation. Like Thanksgiving when a lot of us are comforted by knowing that the green bean casserole will most likely make an appearance next to the cranberry sauce because it is tradition, in my house it is expected that I will bake Christmas cookies.
New Jersey frequented by my Grandmother, aunts, and even my Uncle Al. That said, what everyone in my house waits for is my famous almond butter pretzel cookie.
It’s just not Christmas until I bake the pretzel cookies.
The pretzel cookie is a two day event, a confection requiring timing, utmost control and patience. A cookie that many have tried, most have failed and somehow, in my family only I have mastered. I tore the recipe out of one of my mother’s Family Circle magazines in 1981. The almost-thirty-year-old stained, torn, very used pages are now preserved in plastic binder sheets in my recipe organizer. I’ve consulted these pages and baked this cookie routinely -- through my single days, my newlywed years, even through my kid's baby years -- never missing one.
I’ve thought about giving up this tradition. Who needs the calories, the cholesterol, the sugar, or the gluten anyway? Maybe I could skip it. No more crazy-lady baking. I thought about how it all came to be, this being my tradition. My mother never baked cookies. Once we were old enough, the cookie baking was left to her three daughters. Hmmmm… Three daughters, baking cookies… you get the picture.
Thoughts of cookie retirement danced in my head. Is it time to hand over this tradition to my own daughter just home from school?
said he hoped he got it back filled again this year.
The pretzels are one of his favorites.
I don’t have a prayer. It’s time to bake the cookies.
Sooo… hear me exclaim as I sign off tonight…
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
(and, Peace to all you bakers out there.)
(originally published December 18, 2010)