Holiday Traditions

I love dessert. It’s my favorite meal. In fact, if I could eat sweets instead of real food, I would. My sweet tooth lends itself to my fancy for baking. If you ask me to bake you anything, I will. If you ask me to make you dinner, my skin starts to itch, my eye twitches and suddenly the idea of cutting the grass with a pair of scissors becomes very appealing.

These are my Tarallis. 

Christmastime provides me a good excuse to stretch my baking wings. All the possible cookie choices! Some years I make more than others, but every year I make Tarallis. Those are Italian buttery cookies my family has made for decades. The Tarallis are a popular southern Italy cookie (my baking family is from Calabria) and can be made in varying ways. My way is best. Just so there’s no confusion and also why I won’t link you to someone else’s site about them. So, if you’re interested in learning more about these or other Italian cookies, you’re on your own this time.

Why are mine the best? Because of my grandfather. Pop-Pop was a baker by trade and an excellent one. (I’m not showing favoritism either. Anyone who ate his pastries and cakes would have told you the same.) He was also one of my favorite people in the whole world. He taught me how to bake. (Among other things like how to drive and to stay away from boys.) He taught me to bake by marching over, assessing my progress, grabbing whatever was in my hand and saying in his heavy Italian accent only strangers heard and with complete love, “What are you doing? Let me do that.” That was when I took a step back and handled the clean up.

Me and Pop-Pop maybe 1997ish

I lost him seventeen years ago. Christmas and those Tarallis give me an excuse to bake and when I bake I feel like I’m spending time with him. He is the person I think of as I crack an egg, or line a pan with parchment paper, or make sure I stir in only one direction. I don’t like to let this time of year go by without baking something. If I had my way, he’d be baking with me (though he’d be 95 now. Not sure how much baking he’d be doing.) But that’s not the way the story goes. Instead, my holiday tradition has been to bake in his memory and hopefully the results would do him proud.

(Here’s a little irony, I think the original recipe for those cookies that I, my mother, my sister, and my aunt use might be from my Aunt Genny on my grandmother’s side. But who cares?? I’m still baking. sticks tongue out here.)

What are your holiday traditions? What makes your holiday complete? Who do you share them with?



11 thoughts on “Holiday Traditions

    1. First of all, you’re hysterical! What’s with the wet dough? You must add flour so the dough doesn’t stick to your hands when you roll. I’ll send you the recipe. But I bet yours taste pretty good too!!! xoxoxo

  1. What a great photo of you and your grandfather! You’re lucky to have that, Stacey. Kids nowadays don’t realize that precious few moments like that were actually preserved in perpetuity before the Digital Age!

    My favorite holiday tradition (when I’m back in New York) has nothing to do with bagels on Christmas morning with the neighbors or beers with my old schoolmates on Broadway or meeting up with the cousins at Rockefeller center (all of which I enjoy immensely), but rather a solitary walk I take through the winter woods on the banks of the Hudson River not far from where I grew up. I’ve recently come to realize that my most cherished holiday moments are always the ones I manage to steal for myself, like pausing on my way back from the avenue on Christmas Eve to admire the town’s fieldstone bell tower against a perfectly bleached lunar backlight. Those are the instances when I’m most in touch with myself; when I have my artistic epiphanies; when I divine, to borrow a lame cliché, the true meaning of the holiday, at least insofar as it means to me. I mean, if you can’t get a minute to yourself at Christmas, how silent or holy a night can it really claim to be?

    Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thanks for all the support you’ve shown, Stacey, and see you on the blogs in January!

    Sean Carlin

    1. I think your traditions are great. If we don’t fill up our spiritual wells we have nothing to offer others. If a walk through the winter woods is what helps, then have at it. I like to make a cup of tea and sit quietly in front of my tree. I never seem to get to do that as many times as I’d like during the season, but as long as it happens at least once, then mission accomplished.

      It is funny how kids take for granted the ability to snap a photo anywhere, anytime, and can do a redo if the photo doesn’t come out right. Back in the day, we waited with anticipation as we drove to the store to pick up the film we dropped off hours or days earlier in hopes of wonderful pictures to memorialize fleeting moments. Sometimes I miss that. But since I’m a perpetual blinker, I kind of enjoy the redo too.

      Happy holidays to you and yours, my friend.

  2. Buon natale and Happy Hanukkah! Your cookies look beautiful and I hear you about going straight to dessert! I too, love sitting in front of the tree, especially after Christmas. (It’s quieter and no pressure to get things done.)

    My mom calls it “torrone”, but it’s actually a form of almond bark. She stirs roasted almonds with sugar and a little water until the sugar turns liquified and turns dark brown; it almost looks like brown glass around the almonds. Haven’t taken up that gauntlet yet, but I most likely will one day. (I definitely don’t do the strofoli -?-the tiny dough balls with honey and sprinkles, either. My cousin has that one lol.)

    Happy new year!

    1. My Aunt Genny also made the strofoli. No idea how to spell it. LOL!! I haven’t had that in probably 20 years. She got sick years before she died. She wasn’t able to make her goodies. She used to make some kind of dough around a hard boiled eggs for Easter. She’d even dye the eggs!

      Happy New Year to you!!

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