Sunday, December 02, 2007


It sounds like a strange Post-Title for a Jewish blogger, but there it is. Christmas cookies.

I have many fond memories of the Christmas season, despite its having exactly zero ritual or religious significance to me. For when one is surrounded by friends and neighbors who are in a celebratory mood, why should one not enjoy that happiness as well, even at a slight remove? My Christian friends enjoy the holiday because it commemorates the birth of their Savior; I enjoy it because they are happy.

[Just don’t ask me to put up a “Chanukah bush.” Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.]

Back in my Snot-Nose Days, one of the ladies who worked at my Dad’s business - Julia, by name - would present us with a package of Christmas cookies every year, a week or so before the holiday. Perhaps, to her, it was simply a nice thing to do for the Boss-Man. But for me, it was more than a little gesture of seasonal generosity. It was a little slice of Heaven.

In the package would be a remarkable variety of cookies, perhaps ten or more different kinds. All of them were lovingly made by hand...none of that store-bought crap. And they were beautiful.

There were pairs of green leaf-shaped cookies with bittersweet chocolate sandwiched between them. There were butter cookies, sand tarts, and shortbreads aglow with sparkling colored sugar crystals, ashimmer with the glint of silver dragees. And there were rum balls. Gawd, how I loved those rum balls.

There was no Seasonal Event more exciting, more pleasurable, than opening up Julia’s annual Cookie Package and seeing what wonders awaited us. Lighting the Chanukah candles was fine, and all, and Mom’s potato latkes were great, but...Cookies!!!

Many years later - I had long been an adult with my own family - I received word that Julia had passed away. The annual packages of Christmas cookies were, by this time, a faded memory; nevertheless, I could not help but think that a little bit of sweetness had left the world.

This holiday season, when you’re stuffing your face or otherwise celebrating and that tray of cookies gets passed ’round, pop a rum ball in your mouth and think kindly of Julia. You may not have known her, but surely you know someone like her. Someone who makes the season a little brighter for everyone, regardless of their faith or traditions.

I can still taste those cookies when I close my eyes...and Julia lives again.

No comments: