What’s the first sign that Christmas is coming in your house?
“For many people one of the first harbingers of the coming holy season is the great baking day. Traditionally, Scandinavian homes became virtual bakeries from the middle of December and on. People believed one must have a plentiful supply of treats, for during the Christmas season, every visitor to one’s home must be fed lest he or she ‘bear the Yule spirit from the house.’ That would be a tragedy, for you cannot recapture the Yule spirit until next year.”
So begins one of the 50 delightful essays in The Family Christmas Cookbook: Best-Loved Recipes from “The Christmas Annual” (Augsburg Books, 2005; www.augsburgbooks.com), which tell the ways and customs of celebrating the birth of the Christ child in countries around the earth. This book harkens back to the tradition of The Christmas Annual, which Augsburg introduced in 1931 and published for 65 years. Among its fans was Eleanor Roosevelt, who wrote to the company in 1954: “I always find that this adds much to our enjoyment during the holiday season.”
Many of the brief stories about Christmas customs tell of special foods—mostly sweets—and give recipes suited for 21st century kitchens. Here’s the rest of the essay about baking day and a recipe for the special cookie it describes:
“A popular cut-out cookie—gingersnaps—are known as Pepparkakor in Sweden, Brunekager in Denmark, Piparkakut in Finland, and Pepperkaker in Norway. Traditionally a variety of cookie cutters are used; each shape has meaning. Bell-shaped cookies represent the proclamation of good news, ‘Christ is born!’ Star-shaped cookies either represent Jesus as ‘the bright morning star’ (Revelation 22:16) or they represent the star that led the magi to the infant Jesus.”
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers