November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada. A day to remember the heroes in our lives, in particular those who made great sacrifices to ensure we can have the lives we live. My parents and parents-in-law all served during World War II, three in uniform. My mom was never in uniform, but she served the war effort and the country by making sure that other people’s children were taken care of when they were far away from home. There are so many family stories of a ship arriving in port and her suddenly finding herself with a houseful of hungry young men. She would calmly cook up whatever was available and provide a meal for everyone before serving the plates and plates of baked goods that were always on hand. My mom is one of my heroes.
Throughout my life, my mom baked thousands of cookies, especially at Christmas time. It was the tradition at our house to spend many hours icing the cookies. My mom died at Christmas time in 1987 and there were no cookies that year…just her nine kids devastated at her passing.
Since she died, more grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been born including my granddaughter, Edda Melkorka, who lives in Iceland. With Edda living so far away and me missing my mom at Christmas time, I started Cookie Day one year and invited all my nieces and great-nieces. Nephews and great-nephews were always welcome too.
Cookie Day became a tradition and a really wonderful way to get everyone together at least once a year and my mom was always there in spirit with people remembering her impressive baking prowess and telling stories of the years they helped ice the Christmas cookies.
If you want to start a Cookie Day tradition, decide on a day not-too-close to Christmas…the end of November is usually good. Choose a weekend day so you can get maximum attendance. Let everyone know the date and set a start time and an end time for Cookie Day. The end time is important because you will be happy but exhausted by the time everyone leaves.
The next step is to bake hundreds of cookies….the cut out kind that need icing. I like to use lots of different cookie cutters so there is lots of variety. It’s fun to watch as Cookie Day proceeds to see how the creative little minds of children work, deciding if Christmas trees can be purple and angels can be green.
It’s important to have lots of food colouring on hand and make lots of icing. Icing and food colouring is an opportunity to teach kids about colours and how to mix them to get other colours. Having lots of sprinkles, smarties, gum drops and other little candies on hand is important too.
When Cookie Day first started I would spend hours making snacks for people to nibble on throughout the day but soon learned that buying boxes of frozen snacks…sausage rolls, mini quiches, tiny spanakopita etc….to stick in the oven and have ready for snacking on throughout the day was way easier and works just as well. The snacks are secondary to the joy of being together for the day.
In the early years of celebrating Cookie Day, I provided brown paper lunch bags and had crayons and stickers on the table for the kids to decorate their own bags to carry their cookies home. In later years, I took trips to the dollar store for special bags or boxes for the cookies to travel home in. Either plan works.
When Cookie Day arrives, clear off your counters and put down plenty of waxed paper. I always had step stools and kitchen ladders handy for the teeny kids so they could reach the counter for the icing activities. I also put out wooden popsicle sticks for applying icing instead of knives as these sticks are easier for little hands to use.
As people arrive, the sole rule to Cookie Day rule is explained…If you ice it, you take it home. This is an important rule if you do not want to be left with mountains of cookies with way too much icing on them.
Some Cookie Days, everyone will fit into the kitchen at the same time. Other Cookie Days, the kids have to work in shifts. Sometimes, moms or dads help their kids, other times, it’s the grammas, grampas, uncles or aunties who do the helping. It really doesn’t matter so long as the kids have a good time.
Over the years, my Cookies Days have seen lots of amazing creativity and the mess to match. Cookie Day is noisy, chaotic and most of all, fun. I have had a great time watching the kids grow and mature and eventually bring their own kids to Cookie Day. The day has always been a pleasure.
I’m retired now and moved away last year so there was no Cookie Day and no prospect of one unless everyone travelled the 300 kilometers or so to my new house. I thought Cookie Day was just an activity that meant something to me and I had to let it go…but no!
It seems Cookie Day is an important tradition and so this year my nieces have set the plan in motion and enlisted the help of other nieces, nephews, grampas and grammas…one will provide the house, several will bring the cookies to ice, one will make the snacks and Cookie Day will go on!
I won’t be able to make it to Cookie Day this year, but the important part is that the kids in my family have remembered and the tradition will carry on. And like every year, my mom will be overseeing the whole thing from her rocking chair in heaven.
Until next time…