The year we decorated Christmas cookies with screwdrivers is one of my favorite memories.
Every year, my aunt Karen hosted Cookie Day. We'd trip over each other in her tiny kitchen and spill flour and sugar every where and fill card tables set end-to-end in her cavernous living room with sweets. We kids tried to have our hands in everything but eventually were shoved off to small tasks -- putting the Hershey's kisses on the peanut butter blossoms, smashing up candy canes for the peppermint twists and cutting out the sugar cookies. And, of course, when those sugar cookies came out of the oven, they were ours to decorate. We used butter knives most years, slathering on icing and shaking on as much colored sugar and those little silver-bullet -looking candies as our moms would let us.
But one year, Aunt Karen came up the basement stairs and set before us kids a case full of dozens of screwdrivers, never used and gleaming. I don't know what made her think of it. Maybe we were fighting over the butter knives. Maybe we were being exceptionally bratty or exceptionally good. Maybe she was irritated with Uncle Jim, for whom the set was a gift. What I do know is those screwdrivers were like paintbrushes, and we kids were giddy with the novelty of using a tool -- and a Christmas gift that wasn't ours -- to decorate cookies. In family folklore, the year of the screwdrivers is undeniably the apex of Cookie Day.
Since leaving home, I have tried with varying success to recreate Cookie Day. Snickerdoodles, my favorite cookie, were my downfall. In the husband's first apartment, I ruined a batch by using the existing Crisco, which had gone rancid. The snickerdoodles attempted on Christmas Eve in my first apartment turned to snicker-puffs (I'd greased the cookie sheet) and led to a screaming match that ended with the husband and I locked out, waiting for the locksmith on the futon of my divorced dad neighbor.
I mastered snickerdoodles after we moved to Florida -- always chill the dough, my friends -- and have found what I believe to be the secret to Aunt Karen's always-soft sugar cookies. The husband and I have learned to make his beloved and fussy Hungarian butter cookies without threatening each other with bodily harm. I managed to bake dozens of cookies last year with a toddler under foot. I even made The Boy special initial cookies out of dough scraps.
I've decided I'm ready. This is the year I host my own Cookie Day.
I don't care if I'm ridiculously pregnant. I don't care if The Boy and his best buddies are a little too young to decorate any cookies not being eaten by them. (Let's be honest: They're going to be finger-painting these cookies.) I am having a Cookie Day. I've got recipes marked and supplies purchased. Baking cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions and one I want to give to my kiddos. I want them to remember licking spoons and smashing candy canes. I want them to burn their tongues on cookies still hot from the oven and argue over which cookies are best. I want them to have a really silly family story, like the year we used screwdrivers to decorate Christmas cookies, to tell their friends.
What holiday traditions are most important in your family?