A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Christmas Cookies

by Anne Kerrigan

by Anne Kerrigan

“Christmas cookies and happy hearts,

This is how the holiday starts.”
-  American proverb

The Christmas season is rapidly approaching. Christmas decorations are already in the stores and at the malls. The Christmas sales have started. In addition to the seasonal onslaught of ads and sales promotions, the Christmas cookie recipes are now appearing in magazines and newspapers. There are  recipes for every imaginable type of cookie, from the basic sugar cookie to the complex gingerbread house. These recipes have undoubtedly been garnered from generations of bakers, and they represent multiple nationalities. I am sure the editors hope that the assortment of recipes will appeal to the nouveau baker as well as pose a challenge to the serious baker.

When I noticed these pages and pages of cookie recipes, my mind immediately flashed back many years. In my memory, I had visions of the Christmas season when my friend Judy and I decided to get together to bake multiple trays of Christmas cookies.

It was the 1970’s. Judy and I were both young mothers; I had six little ones, and Judy had four. Additionally, we were both nursing students, attending all our classes in the evening. It was the burgeoning era of “mature” students, and Judy and I both attacked our studies with relish. School was a challenging change from the requirements of motherhood, as well as an opportunity to obtain the college education which had not been available to us as young women. One particular semester was particularly demanding, and we really depended on the support of our families even more than usual.

As the semester came to an end, we realized we had not accomplished much in order to get ready for the holidays. We felt very guilty about the fact that we had devoted a lot of time to our studies, which left very little opportunity to prepare for the festivities ahead.

So, we decided to bake Christmas cookies! This was our first attempt at making Christmas cookies, and we thought it would be a great way to express gratitude to our families for their patience and support during the school year. We knew this would be a challenge since neither Judy nor I were bakers, but we were determined to make this venture a success. Actually, we were both much more comfortable in the classroom than in the kitchen, so we knew we had to plan carefully. We gathered recipes together, and we made list after list of all the items needed in order to start our baking. We picked a date, and made arrangements to meet at Judy’s since her kitchen was bigger than mine, and she had the room for two playpens.  As soon as the children were on the school bus, I loaded up the car, packed up my two little ones, and headed to Judy’s.

We set up the two playpens right near the kitchen, stuffed them with toys, and deposited Judy’s Patrick, my Sean, and, our foster child, Freddie,  into the mix of the toys. The three of them settled into the two playpens with relish. They were all smiles, and probably thinking, “This promises to be a great play date!”ChocChipT

The baking began. We whipped, mixed, and creamed the ingredients.  Flour and sugar ruled the day, and we were ultimately surrounded by pots, pans, cutouts, and cookie sheets.  We followed the directions to the letter, and as the day progressed, we actually began to feel “cookie competent.”  We felt as if we were the Keebler elves in rapid motion! It was a cookie marathon. Hours went by, and we were still diligently baking our treasure trove of cookies. The Christmas trees were actually starting to look like trees, the candy canes began to take shape, but the snowmen, unfortunately, looked like a cross between Frosty and a scarecrow. They would have to suffice.  The little ones had dozed off into a restful sleep, probably lulled into “sugar comas!”  As the cookies cooled, we added Christmas sprinkles, and other decorations.  Finally, the task was completed. We cleaned up, sat down with an air of satisfaction, and enjoyed some tea and cookies. The guilt dissipated as we surveyed our trays and trays of Christmas treats. We were exhausted, but very pleased with ourselves, especially since the “rejects” had already been disposed of or eaten. Only the good ones remained.

We divided the trays between us, and I packed up the car and headed home. I was flush with excitement at even the thought of presenting my family with these treats. I put the Christmas music on, put the tree lights on, setting the mood for Christmas. The cookies were arranged in such a way that the children would be able to immediately see the diversity. There were Christmas wreaths and trees, snowmen, candy canes, and even Santas. I heard the school bus approach, and my excitement mounted. They came in, settled down, and looked at the cookies. They seemed excited at first; they smiled politely, ate a few, feigned interest, and then asked, “Where are the chocolate chip cookies?”

The chocolate chip cookies?  I was stunned, and I humbly protested. “But there are trees, wreaths, Santas, and snowmen here!” “But, we like chocolate chip cookies,” they replied.  I was close to tears.

I quickly called Judy, inquiring about her experience.  Believe it or not, her children had the same response! It seemed that chocolate chip cookies superseded all else. How come we didn’t know that this was true, even at Christmas?  Was this how Julia Child felt when her first soufflé collapsed? That was the last year Judy and I baked Christmas cookies; we recognized defeat when we saw it. From then on, it was chocolate chip only. Actually, the chocolate chip cookies tasted much better than our Christmas sugar cookies anyway. And, if I had to bet, I would say that none of the children even remember all those trays of Christmas cookies. The knowledge that we had good intentions has to suffice.  It was back to the books!

“A balanced diet is a chocolate chip cookie in each hand.”
- American Proverb   

Tagged as: ,

Comments are closed.