Christmas Cookies – The Culinary Stars Of The Season

Today I’m adding my “decorating cookies” ornament to our

Partners in a Pair Tree

Christmas cookies

Sometimes Annie liked to decorate with a theme.

Is there any better aroma that the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven?

This time of year, cookies take center stage. Whether it is baking for a cookie exchange, decorating cookies with your kids or building gingerbread houses many of us go through a lot of flour, sugar and eggs in December.

For years and year my friend, Clare, hosted a cookie decorating party for our kids. She would bake all the cookies ahead of time – stars, angels, reindeer, Santas, Christmas trees – then have icing and decorations galore at their disposal. I’m sure she was mopping up sprinkles for months.

Cookie decorating

Clare organized one last cookie decorating party the year that our dear friend Joanne passed away. We all went over to Joanne’s house with our then college-age girls, helped her daughters trim their Christmas tree and, for old times sake, decorated cookies.

It was a bittersweet day but a memory I will always cherish.

When our kids were young we had a tradition of decorating gingerbread houses with our friends Ellie and Archie. I have to admit that we cheated a little and left out the whole “gingerbread” part. Instead we used milk cartons or small boxes, slathered with icing and adorned with assorted candies.

The highlight each year was seeing the stunning structure created by Archie. A gifted architect, he took the project quite seriously. Wielding an exacto knife, Archie would transform your basic milk carton into a Frank Lloyd Wright –esque masterpiece. The rest of us were just playing for second place.

I’m not much of a baker but during the holiday season it almost seems to be compulsory.

Plus, I love cookie exchanges.

For many years, I made the same seven or eight different types of cookies during the holiday season. These were the cookies that I would arrange on pretty platters to give to neighbors and friends.

Virtually every recipe came out of this cookbook that is barely holding together and shows the battle scars of years of my messy baking.  The turned down corners mark the pages on which my favorite recipes can be found.

Cookie cookbook

As I look back now, I see that each recipe was selected because it met the guiding principal I strive for in all kitchen related endeavors:

high impact, low effort.

There were the pretty red and white candy canes (made using a basic sugar cookie recipe), melting moments which include a grand total of 4 ingredients – 5 if you include the red and green sprinkles the cookies are rolled in, and s’mores squares which are almost as easy to make as real s’mores and equally delicious.

I was so much a creature of habit with my holiday baking that I put together this cheat sheet showing which page each recipe was on and the necessary ingredients (including quantities) for my grocery list.

cookie shopping list

How is it possible that I was more organized when I had small children at home than I am now in an empty nest?

Also, how hilarious is it that I still have my notes stuck in the cookbook. As if I’m going to start baking again. Hahaha! That’s a good one!

I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and say that the reason I stuck with the same recipes was for the sake of tradition. These were the cookies my kids looked forward to.

Just as they always looked forward to the cookies baked by my mother-in-law. Whenever grandma and grandpa visit us for Christmas, grandma brings cookie tin upon cookie tin filled with her specialties including pizzelles, turtles, baklava, ricotta cookies and Annie’s very favorite, buckeye balls.

Peter’s youngest sister, who grew up learning from her mother then became a pastry chef, contributes to the Christmas cookie extravaganza with her own fabulous creations. As a professional, she is constantly trying new recipes and we get to be the guinea pigs – not a bad deal.

Peter’s other sister and her husband, PJ, (but mostly PJ) also love to bake. So you can imagine the abundance of mouth-watering treats we have in store for us as we join Peter’s side of the family for Christmas this year.

I’ve decided I’m going to step back from the oven and let the, shall we say, more expert bakers do their thing.  I’ll participate in the really fun part – eating the Christmas cookies.

But I promise to share with Santa.

Are you a baker? Where do you get your recipes? Pinterest? A cookbook? Secret family recipe?

Partners in a Pair Tree Day 12

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Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Love it Mo! We were totally on the same wavelength with you today! 😉 Every Christmas morning for my entire life we eat the cinnamon pull-apart recipe from my aunt. It is delicious, and I often dream about it the other 364 days of the year.-Ashley
    thedoseofreality recently posted…The 5 Best Recipes For Christmas Cookies Ever!My Profile

  2. My heart just melted when you mentioned the cookie decorating party you held at Joanne’s house Mo. What a wonderful thing to do – I can imagine it was bittersweet.
    While I love to bake I’m certainly not in the same league as Peter’s sister. You are very blessed to have a pastry chef in the family! My Christmas efforts run to the basics – shortbread, shaped sugar cookies and chocolate bark.
    Great job today Partner – now I’m hungry. Hmmm… what’s calling to me from the freezer …
    Kelly McKenzie recently posted…Christmas Cookies – The Culinary Stars of the SeasonMy Profile

  3. Hi Mo, I am a neighbor and friend of Kelly’s. Thank you for the sweet memories this morning. You have no idea how very important those notes you write about will mean to your family one day. I lost my Mom two years ago and last year was the first time I attempted her famous shortbread. Her handwritten notes still make me well up with tears. Also a huge smile of remembrance as the cookies bake and the house fills with that unmistakable aroma I know my Mom is not far away.
    Thank you and Kelly for the daily trip down memory lane this holiday season.

    • Oh, Janice, I’m getting teary reading this. I never thought about what my silly little note might mean to my kids in the future. But you are so right – to see that familiar handwriting and to know your mom wrote the words would bring warm but emotional feelings.
      I’m so glad you are enjoying our series. It has been lots of fun strolling through December with Kelly!
      Mo Lux recently posted…Partners in a Pair Tree – Day ElevenMy Profile

  4. Mo, I’m pretty sure the holiday cookie aroma waft got me. And yes, by golly, you were organized with that list of batches to bake.

    Now, envy is showing because how lucky are you to have that kind of delicious talent in the family? So yum.

    Me? I make cookies like your friend Clare (and how tender that memory at Joanne’s house is). I bake and then the nieces and nephews come over to decorate. It’s sparkle madness. Those sugar cookies–they are a downfall–I simply do NOT know how to eat just one. Or two. My family hides them.
    Susan Michael Barrett recently posted…Folding cranes for Clare and how talking about being bald is healingMy Profile

  5. I love your story about the cookies. My mother used to bake my dad’s favorites for Christmas, I never attempted them because they were hard! I have a set of cookie cutters and a cookie sheet that came from my grandparents bakery. The cookie cutters are in a shadow box(can you tell I have no plans to make cookies!) and the cookie sheet was our sled when we were kids! I do bake cakes in pans that came from the bakery, though! When you get to your in laws sneak a cookie in the mail for me!

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