When I was old enough to bake, the one thing that I could bake pretty well was a cookie. As I got older, it became something I loved to do every holiday. I baked cookies as gifts for my job and my mom’s job and we put them in pretty gift boxes and decorated them. My mom and I would be so excited talking about new cookie recipes and we would purchase everything ahead of time and set a date to bake cookies. One of our favorite cookies to make was a Stained Glass cookie. We would crush various colors of hard candy and press down into the center of a sugar cookie. When it baked, the candy would melt and you get the most beautiful shiny stained glass look. I would get my children involved and we would make a day out of baking. We prepared festive snacks and we would take a break to eat and listen to Christmas music. My mom loved telling the kids stories and they listened to every word she spoke.
In November 2009, my mother passed away after a brief illness. As you can imagine, a part of me also died inside. My mother and I were inseparable and we loved doing anything together. My mother loved the holidays, especially Christmas. She had a glow about her when the family was together and always made time to do special things that brightened our spirits.
Shortly after her death, I thought now what are we going to do? How will we continue our family traditions? The answer was within me and I knew I needed to think of ways to keep our family close and together around the holidays. I thought of a few things but what stuck in my head was how much fun we had baking cookies before the Christmas holidays. That’s it ,I thought, A Cookie Exchange and I will call it, MawMaw’s Annual Cookie Exchange.
Each family brings 3 dozen homemade cookies or 2 dozen cupcakes since cupcakes have become so popular. We gather at my home on the second Saturday in December. The house is decorated with lights, Christmas trees, the tables are set and everything is shiny and bright. While everyone is gathering, my husband and I have already prepared good holiday food and drink. Everyone has a time to set their cookies/cupcakes up before the judging begins. Once everyone has arrived, the Cookie/cupcake presentations begins. Each person is asked to stand next to their cookie/cupcake and describe what they have made. They all try to persuade the audience that theirs is the tastiest and best cookie/cupcake of all. My brother, Anthony is the MC and keeps everyone entertained while keeping the Cookie Exchange moving. Each year we change it up a little. We have had a tasting segment added because sometimes, cookies that look good may not always taste good. The categories are Most Creative, Most original, Best captures the holiday spirit and Overall best in show. Each year the entries get better and better and more elaborate. There is heavy competition going on, especially with those who have won in previous years. The ballots are counted and everyone waits anxiously for the winners to be announced. Each winner is presented with a gift bag and gets bragging rights until the next year. Afterwards, everyone gets to take as many cookies home as they want that can fit in their containers.
As I watch family and friends gather, I think to myself, this is what momma would have wanted. We just celebrated MawMaw’s 7th Annual Cookie Exchange. It is such a blessing and a tribute to a woman who we all loved dearly. We will always keep her sweet spirit in our hearts, not just during Christmas but throughout the year.