This home cook keeps tradition going with aprons and cookies.
My mom’s Christmas cookie recipe has been the centerpiece of a family tradition for more than 40 years. I remember being a little girl, cutting and rolling dough next to my twin sister and Mom, and now I’m happily continuing the ritual with my children and grandchildren.
When I baked with my mom and sister, we used powdered sugar icing and dropped a dot of food coloring in each bowl to watch the magical colors appear as we stirred. Christmas hymns played in the background as we made the cookies, decorating them with colorful sprinkles, some shredded coconut for Santa’s beard and Red Hots for Rudolph’s nose.
As time went on, I eventually had my own family and carried on this ritual, but I wanted to make it even more special by creating aprons for my daughters, granddaughters and sometimes even their dolls. My grandson got one, too, early on, but now he gets to wear a chef’s hat.
The aprons, which I design freehand, have become quite a tradition, now almost two decades later. I pick the fabric and add the trims using my imagination each time. Mom also knew how to sew, so I give her credit for my ability there.
When we all gather on our baking day, I know it’s going to be messy, so it’s on with the aprons and out with the dough. Everyone has a rolling pin, and the kids each get a portion of the dough. They flour the workspace and cookie cutters first, blowing the flour and patting it in their hands to watch it fly. I chuckle to myself, knowing these memories are to treasure and the mess can be cleaned up.
Everyone rolls and cuts before carefully lifting the cookies with a spatula to put on the cookie sheet to be baked. I always remind them: don’t roll too thick and don’t roll too thin. You have to get it just right to have a good cookie.
While the first batch is in the oven and the carols play, we
❝The aprons, which I design freehand, have become quite a tradition.❞
continue to cut and roll more cookies. I start the powdered sugar icing, dropping the food coloring in each bowl, like Mom did, to let the kids stir to see the colors appear.
Once the cookies cool and the icing is ready, we start decorating. The kids usually decide they have iced enough after we get halfway through, so I have to finish up. But I will share a secret: There have been times I have tossed a few because I got tired of the decorating, too. Yes, it’s an all-day project, but one that’s worth it.
There are always so many cookies, we like to give them away. Over the years we’ve given them to teachers, bus drivers, mail carriers, family, church members, veterans and nursing home residents.
All of the credit for our special tradition goes to my mother, Marilyn McMillen, who is now in heaven. She taught me to live my life, make memories and enjoy my family, making the most of what God has given me.
Diane Bowman cherishes the annual baking day with her family. Granddaughter Olivia (right) cuts out cookies while wearing one of Diane’s handmade aprons.