Back in the olden days, we kids would be out of school the weeks between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, and in these Olden Days of Yore, this time off was called “Christmas Vacation.” They were days filled with playing outside, or inside when it was much too cold.
Baking cookies was a part of vacation. Our mother would start early making the dough and freezing it a couple of weeks beforehand. Sometimes, when I would come home from school, she already baked a few batches of butter, almond, or spritz cookies. She only made these that time of year, which made them very special, indeed.
We either watched or helped her bake. We cut the rolled butter cookies in the shapes of reindeer, trees, Santa Clauses, bells, horses, rabbits, dogs, and stars. We sprinkled colored sugar on the butter cookies or put halved maraschino cherries or walnuts on top. In the case of topping them with cherries or walnuts, we put them on the cookies that had been already rolled twice and shouldn’t be rolled anymore – so we put a little dough in our hands, rolled it around to make a ball, placed it on the cookie sheet, and pressed a cherry half or walnut in the center before baking. No dough was wasted.
We learned how to dredge the cooled almond cookies in powdered sugar. These were an “icebox cookie.” You shaped the dough in logs and sliced them. Some of these we left plain without the powdered sugar; these were our dad’s favorite.
With the spritz cookies, we learned the art of careful and patient pressing of the dough through a manual cookie press, and on those we also sprinkled colored sugar on top before baking. These shapes were wreaths, flowers, trees, and dogs. A maraschino cherry here and there found itself on the cookies, too.
Sometimes our mom would also make chocolate chip cookies, too, from scratch as all the baking was done.
Today, I still have all these Christmas cookie recipes, and I try every Christmas vacation to make them, just as we had growing up.
©2022, excerpt from “Holidays on the Edge”