Sharing A Christmas Eve Tradition

Growing up, my house was filled with the smell of baking cookies during the month of December. The Christmas of my childhood has the smell and taste of spritz cookies imprinted in my memory. For several weeks leading up to Christmas, my mom would bake batches of several different kinds of cookies. She stored the ones that didn’t get immediately eaten and would not fit in the freezer outside to chill.

One of the dearest family traditions was heading across town to grandma and grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve for cookies and cheeseball. My family, aunt and uncle, cousins, and grandma and grandpa would eat and open presents—and every year, without fail, the gift from the grandparents was a wad of cash, wrapped inside an old check box. This tradition felt as meaningful, if not more, than the other traditional festivities on Christmas Day.

As an adult, I’m no stranger to living abroad and being away for the holidays. This Christmas in China was the 5th time (in 4 different countries) in my life I’ve been out of the country to celebrate, and each time I have had a unique experience. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am present to teach English and live out cultural exchange. So it felt natural to invite some students over on Christmas Eve for cookies and gifts.

Like my mom, I spent several weeks ahead of time baking (small) batches of cookies. Unlike my mom and grandma, however, I had limited access to supplies here in southwestern China and ran into quirks using a heavier sugar and my small toaster oven.

But oh, did those cookies taste good anyway.

In all, we ate out fill of cookies, snacks, fresh baked pumpkin scones (my new tradition), chili (made by another foreign teacher), and hot cocoa. I orchestrated a white elephant gift exchange and introduced the students to the concept of a party where people just chill out.

My grandparents have both since passed away, and I’m out in the world far from family–yet the tradition still lives on. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share tradition, home, and hospitality with this wonderful group of students.

 

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2 thoughts on “Sharing A Christmas Eve Tradition

  1. Hi, Megan,

    Wow! You were baking up a storm there, in your little toaster oven :*)! That’s what Kristi has, and it seems challenging thing to bake enough cookies so slowly–perhaps they taste better that way. What a gift you are to your students, sharing with them your traditions and yummy goodies, and your own joy in life. (Did you bring a spritz cookie maker with you??!)

    Here we were fortunate to have snow falling off and on all day on Christmas Eve day, and it was cold enough to last through Christmas (it’s all melted by now). For many years I baked cookies with friends, so that we had lots of different kinds, but this year we were all too busy to get together, but I made several kinds, added to the Norwegian goodies I pick up in Ballard at Larsen’s Bakery (lefse, fattigman, and saffron buns, Sten’s tradition).

    The week before Christmas Andrea had a caroling party at her Ballard house, with friends and family and children walking through the streets of Ballard, singing (I was playing the accordion as we walked). It was very fun, and good to go back to the warm house afterwards to munch on goodies. The annual Christmas Eve service at our Methodist church is always lovely, with the church filled with people and kids of all ages, and the nativity scene acted out by children wearing shepherd and angel costumes, and Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, very sweet. Were you able to find any sort of Christmas celebration there, perhaps in a church?

    And now I must cease my procrastinating and take care of a few items on this desk. I send love and a prayer that you will know yourself to be surrounded by God’s loving care, and by the love of your family and friends,

    Jackie

    ________________________________

    • Hi Jackie,

      Good to hear from you. I used a small cookie cutter in the shape of an xmas tree for my spritz. I used it also for some sugar cookies. It wasn’t quite the same as a real spritz press, but it still worked well enough. I had a harder time getting soft butter without completely melting it. No indoor heat here means my apartment is like a fridge. The toaster oven actually gets hot like an oven and has a nice temp control, but it’s still got its own character, so I tested and adjusted recipes accordingly. I had to soften the butter using a bowl on top of the oven to get it warm enough to soften.

      Peace and joy and happy new year!

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