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One thing that NEVER fails to make Christmas special

One thing that NEVER fails to make Christmas special
tradition 
\ trə-ˈdi-shən  \

“an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behaviour”

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been the prime time of the year where there was no shortage of joy and festiveness. Some of my favourite childhood memories are Christmas-related and I can chalk it up to the fond memories/cozy atmosphere my parents cultivated, time spent with closest family and friends, and… Christmas traditions!

Although things have changed throughout life (as they do), there were certain traditions that remained a staple in our lives.  I no longer live at home, but in the spirit of keeping the magic and nostalgia alive there’s one special tradition I’ve kept up with — and have even created some new ones of my own!

Baking with mom & grandma

This one is huge. Every year we set a day or two in December where we bake more cookies than we can imagine. I can’t quite remember when this all started, although I do have memories of (poorly) decorating sugar cookies with icing as a kid and making a huge mess. We’ve come a long way since then – and now more than ever – we always make time to bake up a storm right before the holiday madness.

It all starts with ~the list~ of what we want to make. Year after year the staples include:

      1. Sugar Cookies + Royal Icing 
      2. Cranberry Orange Shortbread
      3. Ginger Molasses Cookies
      4. Rougelach (we swapped raisins and apricots for cranberries)
      5. Snowballs (we swapped pecans for almonds)

Once we get going, we work out a rhythm of chopping, mixing and shaping until we’re too tired to keep going. We can never get it all done in one day BUT we do what we can and finish the rest later.

Truth be told my mom and I don’t actually like baking all that much, but we love the time we get to spend together. When the three of us (+ sometimes Dom) come together there’s always some bickering, fighting over counter space, and duking out who’s going to be the one to run out to the store to grab what we’ve forgotten. But that being said, the memories created each year are priceless. And being able to share these small treats with family & friends hopefully spreads a little bit of Christmas joy 🙂

Here’s some tips & tricks I’ve learned:

  1. When baking the sugar cookies, take them out just before they brown and let them continue to cook outside of the oven on the pan. This makes for a more chewy cookie!
  2. Prepare to spend a good chunk of time not only decorating the cookies – but making the royal icing. My first round left me frustrated after all the time it took, but once you get the hang of it, it’s smooth sailing!
  3. This is my favourite recipe & video that explains how to make the icing and use it. It’s long, but worth watching!
  4. I found that even though I got my outline consistency right with the white (step 1), once I added food colouring I then needed to add water to compensate for the gel. With my first batch, I found that after adding gel, my perfect outline consistency became more of a detailing/cement-like consistency. 

Some of these items are staples and others you can do without, but I’ve found that this combination works for me! See links and descriptions here:

  1. Food colouring: with gel, the colour comes out so much stronger and you only need a little! My favourite brand of FC that I’ve worked with so far is AmeriColor. I’ve struggled with Wilton in the past as some colours come out weak – for ex. the red is more pink and the black is just dark purple.
  2. Piping bags: I use 12in Wilton bags. I use these for the outline and detailing.
  3. Wilton squeeze bottles: you’ll use these for the “flood” icing. They have a great size tip for this.
  4. KitchenAid stand mixer: when these go on sale, you can’t go wrong! We got ours at The Bay during their boxing week sale. If you’re a member, you also get an extra 10% off.

New Year’s Eve

I totally recognize and appreciate the fact that I have some traditions to carry on (#grateful), but whether or not this is the case new traditions can always be made! The longer Dom and I have been together, the more I’m realizing that we come from different experiences and Christmas rituals. While it can be frustrating at times when he just doesn’t get why I like or do certain things, I try to keep an open mind with where he’s coming from. And what’s been special in light of this is our creation of new traditions that work for the both of us!
 
Luckily Dom has had this and last year’s NYE off work (which is rare). AND coincidentally it’s been our first two years in our own place together. We’ve never been the type to do much on NYE – never going out or partying – and usually he’s asleep by 10:30 at least (lol). But a new tradition we started last year was putting all our Christmas decorations away that evening. The first time we did it my heart cried a bit inside because I just love Christmas so much, but once we were done it was the BEST feeling. Everything was clean, tidy, and gave off the sense of a fresh new start. As long as he’s off on this holiday, I think this is something that we’ll keep doing!
I wasn't lying about us never having NYE plans - we have no NYE photos so here's a random photo of Dom and I 🙂

so what’s the consensus on Tradition?

Living away from home & in an apartment means that things aren’t quite the same as they used to be (if you love Christmas you’ll understand my disappointment with having a tiny, 4ft tree). But it’s all about making do with what you’ve got and finding happiness in the things that mean the most. I’m so grateful to have spent time and made memories with family and friends this holiday and wouldn’t change that for the world. And keeping on with my favourite traditions is just one way I’ve been able to keep the magic alive, even if it means adjusting a little.