Gath­er­ing Place


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.

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