The smell of fresh baked cookies . . . images of my mom in the kitchen with her apron covered in flour . . . me at the kitchen table decorating cutout cookies, icing and holiday-colored sprinkles everywhere. This is what my Christmas memories are made of.

Christmas baking is one of my favorite traditions. Not only because I love cookies, but also because it is fun and has always been a special tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. Every year we made decorated cutouts and snowballs, and grandma always provided the chocolate crinkles. To add to it all, family friends dropped off a little something, too. Louise made her famous toffee, and Auntie Cindi made rocky road for dad. These were the annual treats we enjoyed year after year. And, if we were lucky, we would also get to have some crullers from our Croatian side if we happened to visit Teta Anne.

Baking holiday treats is special because we made everything with family and shared them with family and friends. On Christmas Eve, we sit around the tree and eat all the goodies while opening presents—and trust me, I ate a lot because I really was hungry again. You see, I couldn’t open presents until Grandma finished eating dinner, and that took FOREVER! All the waiting and whining made me hungry all over again. Back to the point: holiday baking brings all this back each year. In our family, holidays are usually happy times full of memories. Bringing those great memories back every year is a wonderful thing. We get to remember spending Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa, and Uncle Gary definitely loved partaking in our sweets with his cup of coffee. It is this type of “side-effect” that makes a tradition special: the memories that conjure the past that make you want to laugh, cry, or smile—maybe all three. In any case, these memories are something special we get to cherish and build upon and carry on with our own children.

Grandma & Grandpa, Teta Anne, Uncle Gary, Louise, and other loved ones are no longer with us but the times they shared with us, and their recipes and love are with us always. My sister and I bake everything now using the original recipes. As a matter of fact, we make more than we really need; so much, actually, that we often have some left in February. We do it because it is fun and special and brings us and our family closer.  We make tons of cookies, toffee, and various types of fudge, rocky road and other treats. Over the years we have added new items, which have become as traditional as the snowballs, cutouts, and crinkles. We’re so excited about our holiday baking, we start talking and planning the weekend after Thanksgiving.

I can’t think of a more fun tradition to share with family, especially the kids. Although Karen and I do the majority of the baking, Kerry gets involved and most importantly, Nolan and Davan get involved and have a blast carrying on the traditions, as well as getting hopped up on sugar during the process. Even just being in the there during the baking process is being part of it; after all, someone has to sneak in with a spoon to steal a sample of the cookie dough!

Happy Baking!
– Kevin Williams