What says, “Christmas” to you? Is it the sound of the Salvation Army bell-ringers outside the grocery store? Maybe the smell of pine or a ham baking in the oven. Or maybe it’s the glow of candlelight inside the church for the Christmas Eve service. We all have certain memories associated with this time of year, and I asked our authors to share some of theirs, either an annual tradition that they look forward to every year or a particular Christmas that stood out to them. I hope you enjoy their stories!
“My kids and I make Christmas cookies together every year. I typically let each of them pick a recipe that they’d like to make with me individually. Then we have a few (like gingerbread) that we either a) make together or b) I make alone if the kids have lost interest and wandered off. Once all the cookie baking is done, we divide the cookies up, attach a ‘Merry Christmas from the Wades’ note, and deliver the packages to our neighbors and friends.”
—Becky Wade, author of Meant to Be Mine
“Before my parents passed away, it was my tradition, no matter where I lived, to travel back to my hometown of St. Clairsville, OH. Even after my son, Dominic, was born, we would fight the crowds at the airport and fly from Denver to Ohio, braving the weather and delayed flights, and even having the supreme enjoyment of flying out on Christmas Eve one year–something I would not recommend doing with a three-year-old. But, once arriving at my mom’s house, a sense of peace would wrap itself around me, and there was always a great sense of being home as I gathered with my brothers and sisters in the living room, a room that certainly seemed to shrink as all of us married and had children.
“Those children allowed us to share the traditions of our youth—ice-skating on the little pond, sledding down the hill behind my parents’ house on an aluminum toboggan (which was never very comfortable but always had to be done), or setting up the trains my mother loved as a child, and watching the awe on the children’s faces as the train smoked and chugged its way around the track.
“After my parents died, I found it next to impossible to dwell on those memories, and Christmas changed for me, not for the worse, mind you, but it was just different as I started new traditions in Denver, having no reason to travel back to Ohio. I had not been able to pull out those memories, nor pull out the boxes and boxes of pictures until just this year. To my surprise, (and I must admit, relief), I was not sad in the least over what each box revealed, but thankful to have tangible proof of some of the fabulous Christmas memories that I’ll always have to cherish, even if my parents are no longer here on this earth to cherish them with me.”
“The real meaning of Christmas comes in unexpected moments for me, no matter how hard I try to focus on it. Last year it came in a century-old, candlelit church I visited with my oldest daughter. After a sermon about Immanuel—’God with us’—it was time for communion. As I drank the symbolic wine, the image of Christ’s blood mixing with my own overwhelmed me, followed by the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. I’d never felt the story of God—born as a babe, sacrificed as a man, risen as a savior, and always with me in spirit—so acutely. It was God’s best gift to me last Christmas and one I’ll always treasure.”
“It wouldn’t be Christmas without my grandmother’s almond crescents. Each year she made hundreds of them and gave them as gifts in special foil boxes. I remember being five years old and helping her. They’re delicious, but the best thing about these cookies is the fun of making them with people you love.”
Nana Bylin’s Almond Crescents
1 lb. butter or margarine
1 c. sugar
4 c. flour
2 tsp. vanilla
½ lb. whole raw almonds
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Use a food processor or blender to grind the almonds into a coarse powder. Add ground almonds and vanilla to the bowl with the butter and sugar. Mix well. Add flour. I usually start mixing with a spoon and end up mixing with my hands. Shape into small crescents. Bake 25-30 minutes.
Bottoms are usually light brown. I let them cool on the cookie sheets, and the bottoms brown up a little bit more. Let cool, then roll in powdered sugar. This makes about 10 dozen, but it varies tremendously with “crescent” style.
And, if you’re looking for more Christmas recipes, Anne Mateer is sharing some quick-and-easy holiday bars on her website, and Dani Pettrey has some delicious-looking coffee drinks based on some of her characters’ favorites. Check them out!
Your turn: what first jumps to mind for you when someone asks for a holiday memory?