DAY 6: Manual students ring in holidays with Christmas cookie traditions


Kaylee Arnett

Photo by Kaylee Arnett


Lilly Jensen’s (12, HSU) favorite Christmas tradition is convening every year with all of her aunts and cousins to decorate her mom’s homemade sugar cookies. For the past 10 years, her mom has made around four dozen sugar cookies from scratch every winter, and Jensen is finally old enough to help decorate.

“When I was younger I used to eat all the dough, so my mom would kick me out of kitchen,” she said. “Now I’m old enough to help so that we can be more efficient.”

She and her cousins look forward to this day every year, and Jensen said that the holiday season wouldn’t be the same without it.

“Even now that we’re older and my cousins are in college, they still come home and don’t consider it Christmas until we have our cookie party,” she said.


Photo by Kaylee Arnett
Photo by Kaylee Arnett

Every winter, Shelley Williams’ (11, MST) mother makes a unique kind of cookie called a springerle. Springerles are traditional anise (licorice) flavored German Christmas cookies. Williams’ mom has been making these treats as long as she can remember, and, though the specific recipe is a secret, Williams did disclose that it does involve a very unique process. The dough, made with a dozen eggs, is prepared first. Next, the dough is chilled, rolled out and pressed with springerle molds. The molds typically have very intricate designs, and the cookies are cut along the edges and left to harden overnight. Finally, the hardened dough is baked so the designs hold their shapes while being cooked.

“My mom learned how to make springerles after she married my dad, and his mom makes them too,” Williams said. “My mom doesn’t actually like them, but everyone else in the family does, which is why she continues to make them every year.”


Photo by Kaylee Arnett

Hannah Phillips (12, J&C) and her family had a different kind of holiday tradition when she was younger, as her parents owned the now-defunct Thornberry’s Bakery on 3rd Street. Every year, Phillips spent the week leading up to Christmas working at least 12 hours a day to fold pie boxes, place customers’ orders and arrange baked goods. Her family spent a huge amount of time at the bakery preparing for the huge influx of people who ordered holiday cakes, pies and cookies.

“I enjoyed it so much because Thornberry’s was basically my family,” Phillips said. “I loved the people there, and enjoyed those days so much. It was a tradition–it’s weird now that it’s gone and I have those days free.”


Photo by Kaylee Arnett

Though Nick Brewer’s (12, HSU) mom is not even Christian (she’s Jewish), she still bakes hundreds of Christmas cookies every year. Brewer said that he’s not quite sure how the tradition started, but every year, his mom makes about a dozen different kinds of cookies from recipes she finds online or in cookbooks, tweaking each recipe to make it her own.

“My favorite kind [of cookie] is this little oatmeal ball,” Brewer said. “It’s really soft, and it has chocolate chips in it–it’s good stuff.”

The cookies aren’t just for Brewer and his family–his mom divvies them up into tins as holiday presents for relatives, friends, neighbors and teachers.

“The most popular kind is called a thumbprint,” Brewer said. “It’s a sugar cookie filled with raspberry jelly and covered in icing. Everyone always demands thousands of them.”


Photo by Kaylee Arnett

Every Christmas season, Lauren Traylor (11, J&C), along with all of the women on her mother’s side of the family, come together to bake hundreds of cookies for the holidays. The tradition has carried on for as long as Traylor has been alive, and the family meets about a week before Christmas to start baking.

According to Traylor, her family doesn’t have any special cookie recipe, but each cookie is uniquely iced and decorated. Instead of eating the large quantity of treats they prepare, the Traylor family distributes them as gifts.

“By the time we’re done baking, we’re sick of them,” Traylor said. “That’s why we give most of them away.”


ellie cambron
Photo by Kaylee Arnett

Ellie Cambron (11, HSU) and her mother, grandmother and sister all get together before Christmas to prepare her mom’s special chocolate chip cookie recipe, along with some fudge. The Cambron family has been making chocolate chip cookies since Cambron and her sister were young, and her mother participated in the tradition since childhood. Cambron’s mother originally created the recipe when she was about 10 years old, basing it off of a traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe and tweaking it to make the cookies perfect.

“I love this tradition,” Cambron said. “I usually eat like half of the cookies before Christmas even gets here.”