Category Archives: Guest Articles

Christmas Traditions: Colorful Christmas Cookies

Submitted by: Mark Riggs, Kansas City, MO

When I think about Christmas traditions in my family (both the family I grew up with and my family of friends I’ve accumulated over the years), I think of lots of traditions that—for different reasons—aren’t long-standing ones.  The up side to this is I have twelve ideas for my blog, where I share twelve different Christmas traditions, one each day starting on the 25th.  However, this one I’m submitting here, because it’s a current tradition, and it involves food.

Four years ago, one of my students asked me if I would buy something from his Boy Scout fundraiser (or maybe it was some other organization—the origins have been lost over the years), so I bought four tubs of colored sugar cookie dough, in “Play-Doh” colors. When I bought them, I figured it would be fun to make cookies with my friend Tricia’s two girls, but didn’t think much beyond that.

(The first year’s dough, mid-use.)

The cookie dough arrived several weeks later (just long enough for me to forget all about it), and I think I put it in the freezer. On December 20, Ben and Tricia needed me to watch the girls while they did some shopping. I brought over the cookie dough, and we used them to make very colorful cookies for Santa. I taught the girls how to mix colors to get purple, orange, and brown (a Christmas tree cookie needs a trunk, you know) and we had a good time making colored sugar cookies (without sugar sprinkles). Madeline was in Kindergarten, and Olivia was in pre-school.

(Sisters Madeline and Olivia, mixing colors and making cookies!)

The next year, no such fundraiser was brought to my attention, but I figured I could buy sugar cookie mix and food coloring and we’d be in business! And we were! However, I didn’t document the event with pictures. Or maybe we didn’t make the cookies that year. The girls are convinced we’ve done this every year and have convinced me of the same, but part of my aging process is never being sure of the facts … either way, the event changed to me bringing sugar cookie mix and food coloring.

In 2008, I was actually living in the Hart home, after my fun little house fire left me “between homes”. On Christmas Eve, we made cookies for Santa using the tried-and-true method from the year before. Since I made a lot more green and red dough this year, we decided we should try to use mostly those two colors on Santa’s official plate.

Last year, it was actually the 23rd, but in the minds of the girls, it has always been on Christmas Eve. One of my favorite pictures of Maddie comes from this event.

(I’m not sure, but I think Maddie is having a great time!)

(Some of last year’s cookies, some of which went to Santa.)

In fact, they are insisting I come over to do the same thing on Christmas Eve this year. Just to mix it up, I think I’m going to make them from scratch! I have a recipe and I figure I’ll prep them on the 23rd, refrigerate them, and we’ll use rollers and cutouts to make better shapes (we learned the first year cookies don’t keep their shape when you use the dough like Play-Doh). I’m really looking forward to this change. To top it all off, I’m even going to sprinkle sugar on them. Santa is in for a real treat this year!

An invitation from Savoring Today:

Our traditions serve as ballast, connecting generations in continuity. Savoring Today is celebrating family traditions that revolve around Christmas and would love to hear yours. Stories of favorite memories, recipes, quirky habits, scriptures, sacred moments—whatever makes Christmas uniquely memorable. Post as a comment, or submit your story to savoringtoday@comcast.net.
Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as… as a fiddler on the roof!” Tevye proclaims in the classic musical.
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A Dunker’s Companion: Biscotti

By Donna Helzer, Guest Author and Friend

If you ask around there are dunkers and non-dunkers in life.  Non-dunkers just do not understand dunkers and there is no convincing them.  I am a dunker.  Of course, I dunk cookies into milk, but my coffee with cream is host to various things…toast, muffins, cookies, scones, and of course biscotti.  I admit I don’t think to buy biscotti, but if I receive it as a gift, the coffee is quickly brewing!

So, after a full day of chocolate dipping nuts, pretzels, and cookies for our traditional Christmas baking, I came home thinking about dunking some of those yummy goodies into my coffee.  Then, biscotti came to mind.  Hmm, I had no biscotti…but could I make it?  I got on-line in search of recipes.  It didn’t seem too difficult, even for the non-baker in me.  Each recipe had aniseed in it, a licorice flavor that I do not like.  Could I make biscotti without aniseed?  Why not try!

The recipe I found was on Cooks.com, which is my first stop for researching a tried and true recipe. I decided to try it, but without the aniseed.  The next morning I creamed, added, molded, baked, and cut.  I used walnuts in half of the batch and pecans in the other half of the batch.  Living in Colorado Springs, our arid climate changes the moisture content of the flour, so I added less flour than this recipe called for and an extra egg.  It was an easy recipe to follow and wasn’t time consuming.  My hubby (an occasional dunker) loved it!

There are many ways to customize this recipe—mini chocolate chips, dipping one side in chocolate, add orange zest, almond instead of vanilla—to develop a unique biscotti flavor.  Share with a friend over coffee, or give as a gift with specialty coffee or hot coco packets in a fun mug for someone’s birthday.  Whether you share or not, dunk or not, this is an easy biscotti recipe to make and enjoy!

BISCOTTI

½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped pecans
6 eggs
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
7 to 8 cups flour (till dough formed)

Cream the salt, eggs, butter, and sugar together. Add anise seed to taste, baking powder, and vanilla. Gradually add the flour until dough is formed. Divide dough into 2 equal parts and knead walnuts into ½ and pecans into the other ½.  Divide each ball into 2 balls, shape into small flat loaves, and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cut loaves while warm (NOT HOT) about 1 inch wide and lay on side in cookie sheet. Put back in the oven for about 5 minutes – until lightly toasted. Flip and toast other side for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Christmas Traditions: A Birthday Cake

Submitted by: Mary Uhlemeyer

A birthday cake

Image via Wikipedia

Our cherished Christmas tradition is to bake a birthday cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus Christmas morning. Sometimes we decorate the cake, sometimes it’s plain, but we always put candles on it and our son, Steven, enjoys blowing them out. We then enjoy the cake for dessert after lunch.

People Pennies (via Simple Seeds of Light & Joy)

A favorite expression in our house! Understanding “people pennies” has saved feelings from being bruised more than once. Thanks, Donna, for the way you share life and help the rest of us see things just a little more clearly.

People Pennies Christmas can be an expensive time of celebration.  When Jesus was born, which is why we celebrate Christmas, it was expensive; Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem so they could pay their taxes.  I then pose the question to myself and others “Are you spending your money to please yourself or to bless others?”  I have to admit much of my spending is to satisfy my desire to connect with others through gifts, my primary love language, ( … Read More

via Simple Seeds of Light & Joy

Christmas Traditions: Christmas Eve

Submitted by: Kelly

As a young, unmarried adult, I was transported into the mysteries of God come to earth in a church illuminated by candlelight and filled with the worship of those around me.  The experience was so moving I often found myself worshiping silently, though passionately from my heart, yet words and song escaped me.  In the face of life’s struggles and joys, Christmas Eve was a moment in time when I knew beyond a doubt that God is with me.

For the past eighteen Christmas Eves, I have been delighted to share this experience with my growing family; first with my husband, and soon following our two children.  Never have I taken this evening for granted, but anticipate meeting God with glee that would be more expected from a 5-year-old on Christmas morning!

As our family has grown, so has this Christmas Eve tradition.  It didn’t take long to add light displays to our special evening.  After church, we cruise through the city neighborhoods delighting in every twinkle offered.  Towering trees of northern Colorado Springs to the magnificence of Wood Avenue’s historic homes…all lit up to proclaim that the Light of the World has come.

Once we’ve had our fill, or run the risk of an empty gas tank, we head home for the final piece of the evening—the reading of two beloved stories, Luke 2:1-20 and ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.  These are stories my husband and I enjoy reading aloud to the family, but as our children have grown older they have also done some of the reading, which is a welcome addition!

We are tenderly aware that these Christmas Eve traditions will likely shift again as our teens become young adults and begin their own families and Christmas customs.  We desire to welcome those changes as they come.  In the mean time, however, we hold these times dear and those whom they encompass even closer in the hope that each one would know how much they are loved, especially by the One around whom this season is centered.

An Invitation from Savoring Today:

Our traditions serve as ballast, connecting generations in continuity. Savoring Today is celebrating family traditions that revolve around Christmas and would love to hear yours. Stories of favorite memories, recipes, quirky habits, scriptures, sacred moments—whatever makes Christmas uniquely memorable. Post as a comment, or submit your story to savoringtoday@comcast.net.

Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as… as a fiddler on the roof!” Tevye proclaims in the classic musical.

Christmas Traditions: Fun Christmas Boxers

Submitted by: Rose

We have all the regular traditions, gingerbread house, stockings, and such.  One we have a good time with is fun Christmas boxers.  I watch for them throughout the year to be sure I find just the right one for each person. They say silly things like the year I got some in Alaska that had “Stud Puffin” on them.  I didn’t buy them one year and they were greatly missed.

An invitation from Savoring Today:

Our traditions serve as ballast, connecting generations in continuity. Savoring Today is celebrating family traditions that revolve around Christmas and would love to hear yours. Stories of favorite memories, recipes, quirky habits, scriptures, sacred moments—whatever makes Christmas uniquely memorable. Post as a comment, or submit your story to savoringtoday@comcast.net.   “Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as… as a fiddler on the roof!” Tevye proclaims in the classic musical.

Christmas Traditions: Jammies Under The Tree

Submitted by: Monica Bryant

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is new jammies for Christmas!  Every year since my oldest daughter was a baby, I have made Christmas pajamas for my girls. I choose fabric that is relevant to their year i.e. ballet print when they got their pointe shoes, teddy bears when they loved teddy bears, etc.

Once made, they are wrapped and tucked under the tree.  Then, on Christmas Eve, after dinner and the Christmas Eve service at church, they get to open their Christmas jammies!  Unwrapped and ready to wear, it’s picture time in front of the tree.

I also make jammies for any other children that happen to be at our house on Christmas Eve.  My nieces and nephews have all been recipients, at least once, of our Christmas jammy tradition!  This special tradition will continue even after the girls get married and have families of their own.  I cannot wait to have my grandchildren get excited when they get the jammies that “Grandma” made for them!

An invitation from Savoring Today:

Our traditions serve as ballast, connecting generations in continuity. Savoring Today is celebrating family traditions that revolve around Christmas and would love to hear yours. Stories of favorite memories, recipes, quirky habits, scriptures, sacred moments—whatever makes Christmas uniquely memorable. Post as a comment, or submit your story to savoringtoday@comcast.net.
Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as… as a fiddler on the roof!” Tevye proclaims in the classic musical.