Christmas Baking: A Pathway to Joy

For the first twenty-some years of our marriage, I had no trouble getting in the Christmas spirit when the holidays rolled around. I wrote here last year about some of the traditions that Chris and I started in those early years. Over time, however, for probably many reasons, I have found it harder to muster up the energy for all that the holidays seem to bring.

Thank goodness for children! Our son Matthew reminded me this year of the simple joy in making special treats and then sharing them with others. Chris and I began making a variety of Christmas treats the first year we were married – actually I baked, he sampled. Then we would package them all up and drive around town to deliver them to friends. Our kids started joining in on the Christmas cookie decorating fun as soon as they were able to spread frosting, which was pretty young.


As our kids grew older, they began to take over the cookie delivery process, pulling their old red wagon loaded with plates of holiday goodness to all the neighbor’s houses. I love the collective memories we share as a family: experiencing the goodness of creating, enjoying the satisfaction of accomplishing a big project together, and then spreading a little love and joy in the distribution process.

Matthew holds these memories deeply, because they fit who he is. He is all about connecting with others, and loves to bring them goodness…just because. He’s been developing a growing love for baking over the past year, turning out everything from cookies to cinnamon rolls to apple pie from scratch, all in the very limited kitchen of his residence hall at college. Last week he called and asked for some cookie cutters, Christmas decorations, and my cut-out cookie recipe. I exchanged a few texts with him, answering questions, curious about what he was up to. Sunday evening he called on Facetime as he was finishing, proudly displaying a whole counter covered with plates of decorated Christmas cookies, ready to deliver to all the residents of the third floor. His voice was animated as he explained about wanting to simply bring some joy to people, how he had learned that growing up and wanted to continue.


As my heart filled with gratitude, my mind went back to all those years of holiday baking with little kids. It took me a while to find an actual picture in our mess of family photos, but I have no trouble envisioning several scenes, and have lingered there this week. It is helping to prepare my own heart for Christmas. If you’re like me, struggling a bit to embrace the simple joy of Christmas, go find some cookie cutters, frosting and best of all, a young helper, and enjoy making some Christmas memories.

Stark’s Cut-out Christmas Cookies

3 c. flour

1 c. butter, softened to room temperature

2 eggs

1 c. sugar

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

Your favorite frosting: our family likes the Pillsbury Vanilla Cream Cheese.

Blend butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together, add to butter and sugar mixture, mixing just until dough comes together. Gather dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour. Divide chilled dough into smaller portions, rolling on lightly floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters, place on baking sheets and bake at 375˚ for 6-8 min. Remove from trays to cool, frost and decorate as desired.

Makes approximately 4 dozen, depending on size of cookies



Janet Stark is a woman learning to embrace her depth and sensitivity.  Inspired by Mary pondering things in her heart, Janet writes about her experiences here. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband of 25 years, as well as her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. She is a life-long lover of words and looks forward to reading and sharing at Red Tent Living.