Note: The Christmas season has always been a time when I tend to lose perspective in the midst of the hustle and bustle. So I thought that this year I would post twelve different thoughts about Christmas to help remind me not to get lost in the hype and stress.
It seems that in every culture and country special baking accompanies special occasions, such as weddings and holidays. Many traditions surround the foods we eat. For many it isn’t Thanksgiving unless there is pumpkin pie. Christmas is no different.
Somehow the preparation nourishes something in most of us. Baking creates a sense of anticipation of what is to come. And perhaps we relive our own Christmas memories and create new ones.
At Christmas time, I know that the Germans love their stollen, a sweet yeast bread with fruits. In England they have their Christmas pudding. And in Eastern Europe they bake potica. This is also a sweet yeast bread, but it is rolled out very thin and covered with a mixture of ground nuts, sugar, cinnamon, eggs, butter, and cream. It is then rolled tightly and baked.
This week my oldest daughter and I tried our hand at potica. She has lived in Bosnia the past three years, so she was familiar with this holiday bread. It took some time to make this bread, but it was absolutely delicious. But what was most important was spending the time baking it together.
Over most of the past thirty-some years, I have baked homemade, cut-out, sugar cookies—dozens and dozens of them. I would let my children help cut them out into bells, trees, stars, and such. We would all help frost them and adown them with sprinkles or other decorations. Then the grandkids came along and I included them. But then I began to notice that the schedules go more complicated. It just seemed harder to make it happen, so a couple of years ago, I decided to move this tradition to Valentine’s Day. Heart shaped cookies with pink and white frosting seem like a good way to go.
In moving the cookies to a different time of year, I made room to try something new. This year I am having each grandchild over separately to bake with Nana. Each child gets to take some of their creation home, and they also make plates to share with the cousins in the other two families. This spreads the holiday baking throughout the month, and I get one-on-one time with each child. Four have already helped with baking, and I still have two more grandchildren yet to come. I hope they are having as much fun as I am.
So I am reminding myself that traditions, even baking traditions, are not meant to make us feel in bondage. When they no longer work, we discard them or change them to suit our current situation. Whether we try something new, or stick with our traditions, holiday baking needs to be enjoyable, not drudgery. If we can’t do it with some level of pleasure, then we should just skip it.