One of the more challenging aspects of being a parent is figuring out how to incorporate traditions from each others upbringing. For the most part my wife and I have compromised well since first becoming parents three and a half years ago.
As an example, her family exchanged all of their Christmas presents on Christmas eve, whereas my family exchanged ours on Christmas morning. Before we had kids it really didn’t matter to either of us where or when gifts were exchanged, but we decided to take things from both of our experiences and mix them into one once our son was born.
For the last few years we’ve opened one present on Christmas eve and finished our evening with a little bunte teller (a “colorful plate” of fruit, nuts and candy). This left the whole Santa routine and the rest of the present giving for Christmas morning. It has been a good compromise and gives the kids something they will hopefully reflect on fondly when they are older and have their own families.
This year our son is very much into the Christmas spirit and loves to help out in the kitchen, so it was time to introduce him to some other traditions like making holiday cookies. My wife’s mother makes a whole range of traditional German holiday cookies and since we won’t be seeing them this year my wife set out to make one of our favorites, vanilla kipferl, for the first time.
After she had finished a small test batch she asked me if there were any particular holiday cookies that I grew up with that we should make so we could share them with our kids as well. It had been a very long time, nearly two decades to be more specific, since I’d had my mother’s holiday cookies, but I distinctly remembered a lemon scented sugar cookie that she would make for nearly every holiday.
Not long after that conversation I asked my mom if she still had her recipe, which turned out to be nothing more than a basic sugar cookie dough where she exchanged the vanilla extract for a combination of lemon and orange extract. Also, she would roll the dough out a little thicker than normal so they would stay softer after they had been baked. As luck would have it she was able to find the big bag of cookie cut outs she used to use.
Not having a sugar cookie recipe that I’d used before, I went to one of my favorite baking blogs and found a soft sugar cookie recipe that sounded perfect. We swapped out the extract flavors as my mother had done, but then we went in a slightly different direction.
When my wife was younger she and her sister would paint some of the cookies that her mother would make during the holidays with a mixture of milk and confectionery sugar. In an effort to meld our respective traditions, my wife made up a few small batches of this “paint” in white, green and red. We also happened to have two small jars of colored sugar that we thought would be a fun final touch.
Our son had an absolute blast painting the cookies he helped his Mama make. When they were finished he proudly walked away from the table a sticky green mess.
As fondly as my wife and I remember the Christmas cookies our of youth, I’m pretty sure we will never forget the first time our son made his soon to be famous triple sugar Christmas cookies.
Do you have any Christmas baking traditions that you’ve shared with your children?