Holiday Traditions

When I opened my eyes that morning, the day already felt magical. It was December. It was my birthday. My best friend was in town from California and my mom and I had a standing baking day—making cookies and breads for all of our friends for Christmastime. My best friend was staying at my apartment while I was gone for a few hours (she was a late sleeper anyhow), so I figured it’d be no big deal to leave her alone while I baked. Before I left, I told her that I’d be home late afternoon, early evening and we could grab a pizza and watch a holiday movie. I walked outside and clutched my coat closer to me as I walked to my car. As I drove to my mom’s house, I noticed that it seemed to be snowing a fair amount, but didn’t think anything of it.

When I arrived, Char was busy at work, browning sausage and prepping dough for our bake. I took my coat off and we went after it. We had previously discussed what types of cookies we wanted to make and we had all the materials laid out in an array of sweet goodness. There are two staples in our family every year at Christmas time amongst all of the cookies that we decide to make. The two staples are: Sausage Bread and Aunt Cara’s Sugar Cookies.

To appreciate one of our baking staples, you’d have to know my sweet Grandma Tillie. This lady taught all of us to bake and cook…and we ASPIRE to be at her level some day. She taught us how to make Sausage Bread and it’s one of our favorite holiday things. It consists of browned sausage, and a mixture of cheeses—that get braided into homemade dough. It’s a long process, but it’s fun to do and try to be better with each time. Once they Sausage breads are completed, it’s time to hand them out to our closest family and friends when they’re warm. We give each recipient instructions for reheating—it’s a whole thing, but so fun!

Then, there’s Aunt Cara’s Sugar Cookies. Aunt Cara doesn’t fall far from the Grandma Tillie tree, and she’s perfected this recipe over the years. Her cookies aren’t just ordinary cookies… they’re the best sugar cookies I’ve eaten. Time after time, she blows everyone out of the water with the texture, taste, and pure consistency with each bite. They’re thick, chewy, and downright perfect. Aunt Cara uses different cookie cutters: some round, bell shaped, candy canes, or Christmas trees and they’re all frosted with such delicacy and intricacy. She’s careful to put the proper amount of sprinkles or pearls atop and each one looks incredibly magical, like that out of a magazine.

That night, we got over two feet of snow and I didn’t make it home until late. I actually had to call my older brother to see if he would come get me and drive me up to my apartment— where my best friend and neighbors had gathered to wait for my return. I arrived with arms full of bread and cookies and my friends were elated. That day was declared a state of emergency because we had gotten so much snow that the plows couldn’t keep up and the roads were treacherous. But, it was also the day that my mom and I started our tradition of Holiday Baking for friends and family. We do it every year and even if we can’t get together we both do it independently and still make those same breads and those same cookies. I’ll never forget that the plow had plowed an eight foot pile of snow that my friends and I all played on that day and it was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had and it all started with the beginning of a holiday tradition.

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