I almost lost my Christmas spirit on a recent Friday when I ventured into the mall. There was so much noise, so many grumpy shoppers, and so few things that I actually wanted to buy. The only things I left the mall with were a cup of coffee and a bad attitude.
That’s not the way it should be.
When I was a little girl in the ’70s, Christmas felt like magic to me. I loved going to church and learning about the birth of Jesus in my Sunday school classes. I loved going with my little sister to our grandparents’ house on Ponce de Leon Street and setting up the nativity scene on Grammy’s hutch. She let us do it every year, a job that felt very important to us, and now I have both the hutch and the nativity scene in my house.
We perused the TV schedule in the newspaper carefully to make sure we didn’t miss Frosty, Rudolph, or Santa Claus is Coming to Town. We’d sit much too close to the big television on the floor and take in every claymation second. It was magical.
I could hardly wait to make cookies with mom each Christmas. She would make icing for our rollout sugar cookies in several different coffee cups, dropping just the right amount of food color into each one, to create the perfect green for the trees or red for the Santas. We’d create our edible works of art while listening to Mom’s Christmas records, like Elvis’ Blue Christmas. We also loved Julie Andrews, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis and others singing the holiday classics, their pictures featured on burning pillar candles on the cover of an album called The Joyous Songs of Christmas put out by Goodyear. We still love to listen to it every year.
On Christmas Eve, we’d place several of the prettiest cookies we’d baked on a Christmas plate, and we’d set it and a glass of milk out for Santa to enjoy when he visited us that night. I’d lie in bed, trying to figure out how Santa would get in, since there was no chimney on our house. Somehow, though, he always did! There that plate would be on Christmas morning, with nothing left on it but a few crumbs.
Those are the things that stand out in my mind when I think about Christmases past. I don’t remember many specific gifts, and I doubt my parents spent the hundreds and hundreds of dollars that we parents often do now. Christmas was about the traditions, the lights, the magic, the baby in a manger. Make sure that you don’t lose that part of Christmas, for yourself as much as for your children. Long after the new phone or game system is dead and cast aside, the child in your home (and in your heart) will remember the experiences that you shared together. That’s the important part.
If, instead of buying gifts for some important people on your list, you’d like to make them something, this recipe gives you a lovely batch of the most delectable homemade cookies you’ll ever eat. Feel free to substitute pecans for the walnuts, and dried chopped cherries for the dried cranberries to make them your own. They are truly wonderful.
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph.” She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home. She is married and has three sons who are substantially taller than she. You can email her at [email protected].
Cranberry-White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts
1/2 cup salted butter, softened slightly
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars until smooth.
Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Combine the flour and baking soda; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries.
Use a cookie scoop (I use the OXO Good Grips medium-size scoop) and place scoops of dough on a nonstick cookie sheet, or use parchment paper to line sheets before placing and baking cookies.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still soft, being careful not to overcook.
Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.