By Lindsey Baird
Every year it’s the same. We arrive at the house a little later than we originally planned to and then the kids and the adults separate – kids in the basement with the video games, adults upstairs with the large television and the wine. My grandma is always sitting at the glass kitchen table rolling cold cuts and placing them on one platter next to another one already displaying crackers and cheese. If there is one thing about Christmas that I love, it’s the familiarity. We are always in the same place, with the same people, eating the same food, year after year. Our Christmas traditions are a comfortable routine and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. My favorite tradition is also a delicious one. Although we always have an abundance of packaged and homemade desserts ready for us when we finish eating dinner, the kids always make fresh desserts. That tradition has been going on for as long as I can remember but it is so important to keep Christmas smooth-running. Every year it’s the same dessert, butter cookies in the shape of Christmas trees.
The butter cookies are made from an original recipe by my grandma, kept sacred on a laminated index card. It is a recipe for thick, doughy, buttery cookies that always leave us satisfied after the first bite. You’d think eating the same thing over and over again would get old and tiring but somehow it is always refreshing. The tender caress of the sweet dough over our taste buds brings on a wave of nostalgia and memories of past conversations and presents. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without our butter cookies.
One year we tried switching it up. Usually there was no color to the cookies, just the golden brown tinge around the thinner edges. My cousin had the brilliant idea of adding green food coloring to the dough to make the evergreen cookies more festive. It took a lot of dye to get the cookies all even light green but we were determined to get them a deep green color. It should be common knowledge that the more food dye you use the more it will taste like the dye. Getting the butter cookies to the color we wanted obviously came at the price of the delicious flavor, unfortunately in that moment we were focused mostly on the appearance, not thinking about how they’d taste. No one wanted to eat more than one and more likely than not everyone only made it through a whole cookie because we had put so much work into them. Although we had a year of disgusting cookies it just added a new memory held in the first bite of cookie for the next year, and it is not an experience I regret.
Another year we tried making the cookies from memory, partly to see if we could do it, partly because we had misplaced the note card with the recipe. We gathered basic ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, eggs, all your essentials to a fresh batch of cookies. We put a lot of butter into the mix, as was suggested by the name “butter cookies” and then added flour and liquid ingredients accordingly. Essentially we had started a science project, adding ingredients to test out our hypothesis of possible cookie outcomes. We went back and forth between flour and water-milk dilution we had created (keep in mind we didn’t remember the exact ingredients to put in these cookies) mixing them together trying to reach that perfect cookie dough consistency. When we had assumed we reached it we made the cookies accordingly, making them the preferred Christmas tree shape, placing them on a baking sheet, and sticking them in the oven. We carefully monitored them hoping they wouldn’t burn. It was the most stressful experience four kids have probably ever had on Christmas, but our stress and hard work proved fruitful when we unveiled almost perfect butter cookies at the end of the night.
Most years our baking goes off without a hitch. We are pros when it comes to Christmas tree-shaped cookies. This dessert is a tradition that always bring nostalgia and a new memory, every year. While it is simple and normal on Christmas to make cookies and place them in the oven just to pull them out and eat most of them in one night it is a special event for my family. One other year, with lack of a disastrous issue to turn into an interesting story, we made the cookies. We mixed the ingredients in minutes finishing the dough and craving the sweet bite already, then we put them in the oven and awaited the obnoxious but cherished buzzing of the timer telling us our creation was ready. Even though the act of baking the cookies was the same as every other year, the conversation about my first boyfriend who I had just started dating the month prior was new and memorable. Making and eating the cookies brings us together and gives us memories we might not otherwise have had a chance to make.
People dread the same mundane routine of daily life, but with holidays it’s different. A holiday wouldn’t be right if anything was different. Maybe it’s so people can be comfortable but in the case of my family and our cookies it is so we can relive memories and cherish the past. We have so many memories with our cookies and our Christmases in general. It is something I hope everyone can experience because the warm feeling that comes from sharing memories with people so special and close as family is a sensation unmatched by anything.