You Have My Permission To Bake One Batch Of Christmas Cookies This Year. Or, Maybe None At All

On Sunday, I set out to bake pfeffernusse. They’re little round spice cookies, covered with powdered sugar, and a tradition in Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, as well as the United States.

After I’d baked a couple of dozen, I waited for them to cool, and rolled each one in a plate of icing sugar. Then, I stopped.

I brushed the sugar off my black Eileen Fisher dress (pro tip: don’t wear black when you make pfeffernusse), boxed up the cookies, and left the kitchen. My Christmas cookie baking for 2020 was finished.

Instead of the four or five kinds, or even more that I tasked myself with in past years, I decided to bake only one type of cookie this year.

This essay is your permission to do the same — and to change any type of holiday tradition that you always have followed.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas cookies. I eagerly read the recipes in the annual Chicago Tribune cookie contest. I have a wooden box filled with my mother’s holiday recipes that I normally haul out every year.

I admire Melissa Clark for presenting such a great cookie box idea. And the wedding cookie tables of Pittsburgh are absolutely enthralling.

The pandemic has knocked the stuffing out of me and millions of other people.

I’ve avoided getting sick, but every day brings a new story of someone I know who has come down with the coronavirus. Three of my closest restaurant friends have gotten sick.

Many of the restaurants that I’ve always patronized have had to close for deep cleaning after staff members tested positive.

And that doesn’t even touch on the people who have died this year, whether because of COVID-19 or from other causes.

I’m just worn out, from worry and from balancing everything that’s going on around me. I take care of my 92–year-old aunt, and her world has shrunk to almost nothing.

Gone are the days when she spent hours at the bridge table. She gets her hair done once a week, and that’s her only regular outing.

I’m steeling myself for the day when Michigan closes salons again, although her hair stylist and everyone else in the salon has been diligent about observing sanitary protocols.

My writing income has been slashed, although I’ve offset that by working on a book that’s set to be published in 2022, if my publisher sticks to their schedule (so many authors are getting bad news in that regard).

I have to carefully think about every move I make, whether it’s to get groceries, stop in at CVS or swing through the Starbucks drive-thru.

I’m trying to stretch gasoline fill ups as much as possible because as well-behaved as people here in Ann Arbor tend to be, I’ve found that very few people wear masks when they’re at the pump.

That doesn’t mean we won’t be eating cookies. This is the year when I’m seeking out store-bought versions of some of the cookies we’ve had in the past.

My brother was kind enough to drop off two decorated sugar cookies. I found a box of springerles, one of my other favorite Christmas cookies, from my neighborhood bakery.

If I wanted, I could take virtual class in holiday cookie baking from Zingerman’s Bakehouse, which is selling a bake along kit to go with the recipes. There are multiple bakers on Instagram who go live almost every day with instructions.

But I’m sincerely not in the mood to do more. And, you don’t have to be, either.

Over the years, I’ve watched various friends and relatives get absolutely frazzled over the holidays. The joy was gone. Shopping seemed more of a chore than anything pleasurable.

Cookie baking had turned into a competition. How many different varieties could they fit into the plates that they dropped off? All were delicious, but honestly, it simply isn’t necessary this year.

Which are the ones that you nibble on after lunch, with a cup of tea in late afternoon, or enjoy in front of TV?

Just make those. And take lots of short cuts. You don’t have to make peanut butter blossoms — the cookies with the Hershey’s Kisses in the middle — from scratch, even though the recipe is on the Kisses bag.

Buy some peanut butter cookie dough in the dairy department. Bake up the cookies, and plop the Kisses into them as they’re cooling. Voila! You’ve made a batch of Christmas cookies.

Wasn’t that easy? Now, try that with the rest of your holiday. Don’t feel like hauling all the ornaments out of the closet? Just hang tinsel on the tree and have done with it.

Don’t feel like putting a bunch of roping and lights on your porch? Get a nice wreath with a bow. Finis.

Want to give a food gift anyway? Citrus fruit has always been a festive holiday idea. Isabelle Cossart can ship you a big box of oranges, lemons and grapefruit from Louisiana.

If you decide to bake, make that one batch of Christmas cookies stand in for all the cookies you’ve baked in the past. You can bake them all again next year. (I’ve bookmarked the Fluffernutter cookies that won the Trib’s contest.)

But in 2020, be good to yourself. You’ll need that energy to get through this winter. Now, just don’t eat all the cookies at once.

Micheline Maynard publishes the CulinaryWoman Newsletter and tweets @mickimaynard

Journalist. Author. The Check blog on Forbes.com. NPR and NYT alum

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