Celebrating Holiday Traditions

During my growing up years, the holiday traditions in my family were part of what made the Christmas season so wonderful.

The first tradition came Thanksgiving evening. My sister and I would haul out leftover Christmas wrapping paper from the previous year, cut strips and glue them together into a paper chain. It hung on the fireplace in our living room and we took turns removing the paper links, counting down the days until Christmas.

On the second Saturday in December, regardless of the weather, we piled into four-wheel drive vehicles and headed to the woods to cut down our Christmas tree. A few times, my dad and brothers took advantage of being up there to cut a big truck load of wood. Other times, they brought the snowmobiles and zoomed around the mountains in search of the perfect tree. One of my favorite tree-hunting adventures was the year my oldest brother brought an assortment of soda pop and made snow cones. The craziest expedition to the woods would be a tie between the year the snow was so deep, only Dad, brother #2, and me were brave enough to make the trip. I think I was eleven that year and the snow was so deep, Dad couldn’t get off the road. Since everyone else was smart enough to stay home where it was safe and warm, he parked on the road and we waded (the snow was waist deep on me!) to the first tree we could find and cut it. The second crazy trip was the year I had a broken foot. Instead of staying home like a normal, sensible person, I pulled on three pairs of Dad’s wool socks over my cast, wrapped it in a garbage bag, and went along for the fun. When the cast came off in mid-January, it was full of pine needles. Huh! Wonder how those got in there!

Mom had a big box of Christmas decorations she got out as soon as the tree was set up in the living room. If I close my eyes and draw in a deep breath, I can almost smell the scent of bayberry that lingered in the box and wafted out each year when it was opened.

We always sent Christmas cards ( a tradition I’ve also kept each year).

One family tradition my grandma passed to my mom and she passed to me is making holiday goodies. Grandma made the best fudge with Hershey’s bars. My mom made so many yummy treats like divinity, peanut brittle, hand-dipped chocolates, and toffee. I tend to make more cookies than candy for sharing during the holiday season, but each creation is baked with love.

I loved to bake when I was a kid and received my first Easy Bake oven when I was 5. That was a great Christmas. I remember whipping up something to give to my grandma who had come to stay with us for the holiday. Experimenting with recipes was something I did, and still do, enjoy. It was this love of experimenting that led me on a quest for the best sugar cookie when I was in my early teens. It had to be soft and moist, light and flavorful. After many, many trials and errors, I came up with this recipe that never fails to deliver soft, delicious cookies. I’ve been baking it every Christmas since I was 17!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of lemon juice

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 1/2 cups flour

Frosting

Cream together butter and sugars. Add in eggs, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix dry ingredients together and gradually add into creamed mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Generously flour a flat surface and your rolling pin. Scoop out half the dough and roll until about 1/4 inch thick. You want to work fairly quickly at this point because the warmer the dough gets the stickier it becomes and you don’t want to add more flour. Cut into shapes and bake about 6-8 minutes or until cookies are just set. You do not want them to get brown at all. Cool in pan for one minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Frost and decorate then watch them disappear.

You can use a royal icing if you are of a mind to stir up a batch or, if you are a lazy slug like me, I whip out a can of Betty Crocker vanilla frosting and frost away. I also like to use decorator gels, especially the sparkly variety, along with sprinkles!

NOTE: If you are in a rush, you can press the dough into a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes until the edges are just barely starting to brown. Remove from oven, cool, frost, and cut into bars.

 

Gingerbread Bars

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 ¼ cup butter, softened

1 ¼ cups packed light-brown sugar

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

1 bag white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a 17×12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment cut to fit and coat parchment with spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and spices.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and molasses. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars or use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Store in an airtight container.

 

The first time I tasted these, my taste buds did cartwheels. My aunt made them for a holiday gathering and I probably ate far more than my share, but they were so good. When she shared the recipe with me, I started making them every year for Christmas. They were one of my mom’s favorite treats!

Nut Goodie Bars

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 bag butterscotch chips

1 bag peanut butter chips

1 large bag mini marshmallows

1 small can (about 1 1/2 cups) cocktail peanuts

Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish and set aside. In a large microwave safe bowl, mix chips. Microwave 45 seconds. Stir. Continue heating in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until chips are melted. Stir well. Mix in peanuts and marshmallows then spread in casserole dish. Let cool and cut into bars.

 

 

As 2021 comes to an end and we look forward to a new year with anticipation, I thank you for reading our blogs, commenting on our stories, cheering us on, and offering encouragement and friendship. Here’s to a fabulous 2022! May it bring you happiness, health, and abundant blessings and love!
Happy New Year!

 

 

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After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky western heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

23 thoughts on “Celebrating Holiday Traditions”

  1. Well now I’m hungry Shanna, all these treats look Devine. I’ve ate way too much this past week, but my sweet tooth says that I HAVE NOT! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and thanks for making me giggle, pine needles in your cast. I wonder how that came to be?? LOL!!

  2. I want to try your recipes. They sound so yummy! What a brave soul to go tree hunting in such deep snow and then with a cast on. I can imagine my daughter doing that. She would not want to be left out of the fun for any reason. ?

  3. I enjoyed reading your post. It’s always great receiving a real Christmas card in the mail. The recipes sound really good. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and have a Happy New Year.

  4. Shanna, thank you for sharing your memories and the recipes. I look forward to getting home and trying them out. We, too, went out to cut our tree, but we only had to go across 2 pastures behind our house to reach the woods. With our own children, we have cut our own trees many years. We cut them while in NY, Colorado, Virginia, and TN. For several years, our son’s Boy Scout troop had a tree lot, so we would go up and cut the trees for the lot as well as select our own. We haven’t cut a tree in quite a few years but will when we have grandchildren home for Christmas.
    We try to start decorating for the holidays on Thanksgiving weekend. The outdoor decorations are first and then we start inside. If we have a real tree, we wait a week or so to put it up so it will stay fresh through Epiphany. I miss the chaos of little children helping and adding their own special touches to the decorating.
    I hope you have a wonderful 2022.

    • Hi Patricia,
      You have some lovely memories and traditions. I’m so happy you shared them with us! There’s nothing like a fresh cut tree to make the house smell like Christmas! Have an amazing and beautiful New Year!

  5. I will have to try your recipes sometime. Those ginger bread bars sound awesome. I usually try to make some candy to give out to the family on Christmas. I usually make chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge, peanut butter balls and peppermint patties. Sometimes I try some new recipes also. Hope we all have a great year ahead.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. Your recipes always look fabulous. You are so sweet to share them. I enjoyed reading about your Christmas memories. God bless you. Happy New Year.

  7. Shanna, those recipes look marvelous. Thanks for sharing them–I’m printing them out. I hope you had a fabulous Christmas! Loved reading about your days of yore, cutting down trees! That must have been a lot of fun. I have never done that. Have a wonderful NEW YEAR! Hugs!

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