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This is a sponsored post by the TYLENOL® For What Matters Most™ campaign from McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., the makers of TYLENOL®. However, the opinions stated are 100% my own. 

I’ve already mentioned a few of our family’s holiday traditions here, but there’s one I haven’t shared much of in the past: baking our family’s Christmas cookie recipes.

polish kolache

I’m not much of a cook – in fact, I purposely wrote it in my author bio that I can’t – but when it comes to baking, I’m actually not that bad. I think it’s because baking requires more discipline than talent, and I’m good at following directions: one cup of this, two tablespoons of that, etc. It always tastes the same, no matter whose kitchen we’re in or what utensils we have on hand.

Maybe that’s why, when it comes to family traditions, baking our family’s cookie recipes just work for us. I have lots of memories around it, though it’s never quite the same from year to year. Sometimes, I’m at Mom and Dad’s house with Mom, my aunt, Granny, and my sister… all of us talking at once and getting flower everywhere (we are a loud and messy people). Dad’s walking in and out, trying to stay out of all of the chaos, but also sampling a few of the cookies fresh out of the oven.

The very next year, I’d just moved into a tiny apartment, but Mom saved a portion of frozen dough for me to bake on my own (where I’ve had to improvise with no roller and no cookie cutters… oops). It seems like no matter what, there is always at least one batch that comes out perfect. The rest are a hot mess, but hey – that’s tradition too!

Recently, TYLENOL® #ForWhatMattersMost campain. In it, they are celebrating the holidays by taking a look at the dynamic definition of “family”, what brings people together, and the traditions that carry on through generations. But perhaps it’s easier explained through their YouTube video:

It’s not often that I think an ad is actually worth watching, but this one immediately made me think of my Granny. Now that I’m done with school and the house is inching closer to completion, it seems to have become more important for us (or at least, for me), to make a few more of these holiday memories with my family. My grandmother has been living with Alzheimer’s for these last few years, so the opportunity to cook with her in the kitchen is long gone. But as a kid, there were rare occasions where she’d let my younger sister or I sit at her kitchen table and help her roll dough. She taught us how to hand roll gnocchi, how to make her favorite “thumbprint” cookies (spoiler alert: it involves your thumb), and the importance of crimping the edges in her handmade ravioli (so the ingredients don’t spill out of the pasta while boiling… not as obvious as you would think to a ten-year-old).

Even though I wish that she were still able to do those things with us, Mom has carried on in her place and still makes our family recipes. And for me, none of them are quite as memory-filled as Christmas cookies.

Last weekend, Mom announced that it was cookie-making time, so I offered to come over and help. She had already made some of the dough the night before (a few of our recipes need the dough to be cold before baking), but she was glad to have me come over and take a few pictures for memory’s sake (she likes having my DSLR around). I’ll save the recipes themselves for a future post, but my afternoon with Mom was a re-education of our family’s history. There were lots of crazy “that time when your Granny” stories, a few new ones, and a reminder of just how far our cookie tradition goes back:

great great granny's recipes

Those pieces of paper were handwritten by my grandmother, and the recipes belonged to my great-great-grandmother. We also still have (and use) my great-grandmother’s old cookie cutters, mixed in with ones from Granny and Mom.

You can still see just a tiny bit of the red paint that used to coat each handle. Pretty cool, right?

As the cookie baking went on, Mom and I got a chance to catch up over our most-often celebrated tradition: coffee. Also a tradition: Mom telling me about her using malted milk in her coffee (she mentions this every time even though I drink mine black). But catching up is kind of the point of these types of activities, anyway. When I was little, it was about decorating cookies for Santa. Now, it’s about making sure my sister and I know how to pass these recipes down.

While my nutty family may not be the spitting image of Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Want, our traditions do encapsulate what matters most to us. We may not eat the same meal every year on Christmas Eve, or drive to see the holiday lights like we used to, or even see the same people sitting around the dinner table, but it’s good to have reminders of family and home that still persist no matter where we are.

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  1. What a beautiful post and reminds me of my own family. We have those same age-worn handwritten recipes and those same cookie cutters. A favorite is a donut cutter that we use to make wreaths.