The Aroma of Christmas Tradition

The aroma sends me back to my childhood.

Standing in the kitchen with my mom, rolling dough.  Cutting it into shapes with trees, candy canes, snowmen, and stars.  Sprinkling green, red, and white sugar crystals over each shape, trying so carefully to get just enough onto the snowman’s hat to make it stand out, with a few sprinkles for buttons.  Placed into the oven for the fragrance to irrigate the house.

I didn’t grow up in a house where we really celebrated Christmas by way of looking to Jesus for our hope.  (That came later in my life.)  What I remember about Christmas is moments like this .  .  . lots of baking, flour stuck on our noses, Christmas music blaring.

Christmas with my extended family has changed over the years, even before I grew up and started my own family.  Some years it was difficult to accept . . . that we wouldn’t be at my uncle’s for Christmas Eve with all my cousins there, because some family members chose not to be a part of it anymore.  Then the house would be sold so we no longer had the same environment.  On Christmas day, the corner where my same-aged cousin and I grew up sitting in to open gifts would soon become too small to hold our adult-sized bodies.  We’d squish our way in as long as we could.  Then I’d get married and start my own family and no longer would be the days of Christmas day at my Grammy’s.  My mom would have a face of me printed, attached to a stick, and pictures taken with various family members to make it seem as though nothing changed.  Hilarious?  Yes.  Reality?  Unfortunately not.

It’s not easy when traditions are no longer just that . . . when seasons of life change and require us to follow.  I’m not adverse to change (ask my husband . . . I’m a change-lover to a fault).  But Christmas was different.  Maybe it’s because I don’t remember having too many traditions from my childhood so the predictability of Christmas was one I could tightly hold on to.  But nevertheless, life asks us to loosen the grip and release.

I’m always on the lookout for traditions I can start that suit my family (like these ideas for celebrating birthdays, because my husband and I want to make birthdays a big deal in our family).  But sometimes they don’t need to be started . . . they can be passed on.

Like crispy sugar cookies.

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This week, I was able to share with my daughter my love for baking these treats with my mom.  As soon as they started baking, Lily sniffed the air and said, “Mmmm it smells soooo good, Mommy.”

Yes it does.  It smells like a beautiful tradition passed on from one generation to another.  Here’s to many more years of rolling dough, cutting shapes, sprinkling sugar, and eating the “broken” pieces.

What is one tradition you grew up with at Christmastime that you hope to continue to pass down?

And if you’d like the recipe for these delicious cookies, here it is (borrowed/adapted from Taste of Home).  Note: how many it yields depends on the size/shape of your cookies.  I made about 5 dozen trees from the batter.

crispy sugar cookies

{Crispy} Sugar Cookies
  • 1 cup butter, softened (important!)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • Colored sugar for decorating

In a small bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add creamed mixture with dry mixture alternately with milk. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or until easy to handle.  (Note: my family swore by refrigerating the dough at least a day in advance but at least with this recipe it only needs about a half hour).

Preheat oven to 350°.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-in. thickness (thicker if you want a little softness in the middle or your arms get too tired). Cut out cookies into desired shapes.  Sprinkle sugar on top of cookies (as much/little as you want).  Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Eat the broken ones, save a few, and give the rest away. 🙂


  1. […] she’s here).  I got to thinking and realized I desired that time with her because it was something we always did growing up.  I have really fond memories of making cookies with my mom and want it to continue and to pass it […]

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