It wouldn’t be Christmas for me without Spritz cookies like my Aunt Esther made. Esther Anglemyer was a wonderful baker. Besides the breads and pies she had always made in large quantities to feed everyone who ate at their farm over the years, she always had tins of homemade cookies in the kitchen near the back door.
We stopped by there at least once a week when I was a child to get our eggs, milk in gallon galvanized cans with tight – fitting lids (we took our empties back each time), and sometimes apples or fresh bread, or some of those cookies.
As I would step through their sort of “mud room” entry into the kitchen, there was a smell of earth, apples, and spices all at once. My aunt would hold out an opened cookie tin.
She was my grandmother’s sister – my great aunt. For her family to give us these things was “just the way it was” when I was little. Now, I realize how wonderful it was for them to share so much with us.
When I was probably 11 or 12 (my Kathie’s age, now), Esther gave me a cookie press just like the one she used to make her Spritz cookies. She knew I loved them. That was before electric cookie shooters existed; it cranked by hand. If the dough was too cold, the press handle was hard to turn. If the dough was too soft, the cookie didn’t hold its shape. Pressed cookies aren’t quick or easy, but their shapes look special and the Spritz dough made with butter and almond flavoring is delicious.
Since then, I’ve made Spritz cookies shaped as light red or pink poinsettias, light blue snowflakes, yellow stars, green trees, and tan camels. Almost every Christmas I used the press Esther gave me until it finally broke when the crank twisted away from the lid. I have one now that pushes the dough out like a gun, but it’s not electric! That’s cheating.
Part of Aunt Esther is with me every time I make Spritz cookies. This means so much to me that when my cousin, Greg, her grandson, was married, I gave him and his wife, Laura, a cookie press like the new one I have. I told him this story about his Grandma Anglemyer, hoping it would mean a lot to him, too.
That’s what our traditions that go with Christmas are all about. We repeat things we’ve done in the past; we get out things we’ve stored away that remind us of someone who is no longer here. By remembering we have them back with us. This is one of the most special Christmas gifts we can have.
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