I just finished stirring up a batch of Grandma McConnell’s sugar cookies. This age-old recipe was made year after year by my maternal grandmother, in a little farmhouse in Wyoming. The familiar, sugary aroma wafting through the house as the cookies were baking, said, “It’s Christmas!”
I did not know my grandmother, as she passed away before I was born. But I am well acquainted with her sugar cookie recipe. Every Christmas when I was a little girl, my mom and I would make these traditional treats, just as Mom had done with her own mother when she was young.
We’d carefully roll out the dough and, using Grandma’s ancient cookie cutters, cut trees, angels and stars. For a child, this was a very tedious experience, but ultimately rewarding. It was after all, a tradition worth keeping.
As my own three daughters grew old enough to join me in the kitchen, I taught them about the antiquated sugar cookie recipe, and making them together became a sacred ritual for us. As the girls slathered creamy icing onto the cookies, the sprinkles would begin to fly.
Through the years, plates of these scrumptious and colorful cookies have been shared with friends and neighbors, taken to Christmas parties, and enjoyed by the girls’ friends as they came in from the cold after Christmas caroling. One spring, the cookies were cut into the shape of hearts, tied in beautiful bags, and shared with guests at the wedding reception of one of my daughters.
A friend recently told me of a gift she received one year that held similar, tradition-filled meaning for her. The gift was an apron with a pocket, and on the pocket was printed her Grandma Sherman’s cherished ice box cookie recipe, taken from the original typed and smudged index card that Grandma had used for years. What a treasure!
This Christmas, families everywhere will be enjoying the memories of those family members who are now gone, but who have passed along these traditional recipes for holiday goodness. Uncle Ted’s peanut brittle, Aunt Sarah’s snicker doodles, Grandma’s homemade caramels, each individually wrapped, and Grandpa’s hand-turned peppermint ice cream recall sweet memories of the past as well as inviting families to keep these traditions alive in their own homes.
In my mom’s later years, even though she was not able to do a lot, she enjoyed sitting on a stool at my kitchen counter so she could help decorate sugar cookies at Christmas time. She had a smile on her face as she worked, contentedly. Those sugar cookies were in her soul, a part of her for life. She liked to eat them plain, without icing.
As my family begins to arrive for the holidays, we’ve put baking Grandma McConnell’s sugar cookies at the top of our activity list. I love to listen to my three grown daughters chatter as they work together, stirring the dough, cutting the trees and stars, and then letting the sprinkles fly!
A charming book called “Christmas Cookies, Bite-Size Holiday Lessons,” uses a child who is baking cookies to illustrate important values such as “appreciation, responsibility, and graciousness.” This is a great Christmas gift for children and adults alike.
The sugar cookie “inaugural” for my granddaughter, Ivy, began when she was 3. She skipped the mixing, cutting and baking of the cookies and went straight for the decorating — and the sprinkles were quite heavily applied, mostly ending up in the kitchen sink, rather than on the cookies.
This year she’s 9 years old and we’ll be baking again. Joining her this year will be her brother Everett, sister Cora and cousin Lucia, and the sprinkles will surely fly.
You’ll find us all in the kitchen — their mommies, grammy and aunties all chattering away as we keep the tradition alive. The idea of this would most certainly greatly please my grandchildren’s Great Grandma Gordon and Great Great Grandma McConnell.
What traditional recipe is your family stirring up this Christmas? As the fiddler on the roof says, “Tradition! It’s tradition that reminds us of who we are and where we’ve come from.” Sugar cookies will do just that for our family again this Christmas.
Grandma McConnell’s Sugar Cookie Recipe: 1 cup margarine, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon soda, dissolved in 1/2 cup buttermilk, 4 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cream the margarine and sugar. Add eggs, soda in buttermilk, vanilla. Gradually add flour, adding more as dough is rolled.
Roll and cut. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. After cooling, apply icing and then decorate.
Sweet memories to you all as you keep your traditions alive this Christmas.