Dear friends ~~ it’s been a few days of sugar cookies and gingerbread baking in our home. It’s the first time in years that I baked at Christmas time. My mom always made amazing favourites over the years–gingerbread, hazelnut, chocolate, and more, but I never picked up the tradition. In the last couple of months, things changed a little … it started out with baking pies. First pumpkin, then apple. How much more simple it felt to mix flour and butter and sugar, and knead dough with my bare hands, than to go through everyday life stresses and worries. Once I had pastry started, the mood continued, as I kept looking for new recipes for pastry crusts and fillings.
Then we got our Christmas tree up, and my one housemate surprised us with lots of Christmas decorations (which totally brightened our hearts and living room) and my other housemate made all kinds of colourful ribbon-lace bows for our tree, and soon the merry cheer of the holiday spirit hit me in a way I have not felt for years. Also, it really helped that I’ve been running this year (5 km runs), and when I run at night watching the snow fall under street lights and over Christmas lights on beautiful brick houses, the spirit of Christmas is under my feet and in my heart. I’m not running ‘in’ the snow, but rather ‘with’ the snow.
But most of all, what lifted my spirits last night, was having two of our neighbours over to decorate gingerbread cookies with us. We had made the icing (white, red, and green) and we were planning to take some cookies next door as a gift, when we suddenly realized how much nicer it would be to have our friends over to decorate their own cookies. Shortly after, they joined us with a box of clementines, and our housemate shared bowls of ice cream, and many gingerbread cookies were decorated and eaten.
One of our neighbours has been through a lot of struggles in his life, and is particularly happy this holiday season to be living in his new-found home. He has seen his share of hurt and loneliness, and having him with us felt right. It made our house feel a little bit warmer and cozier. Especially when, as he was decorating his first gingerbread man, he looked up at us with trust in his eyes, and said “I’ve never done this before.”
His words took me completely by surprise. How could this even be possible?
“What?” I responded. “Never?”
He was serious. He said this was the first time he had sat and decorated the face and hat and buttons on a gingerbread man like this. And my heart felt a collage of emotions–sad, surprised, nostalgic–as I thought of year after year after year of growing up with my parents and my brother and holiday baking, and Christmas traditions, and gingerbread cookies to decorate and eat over the holidays (I still remember the wonderful smell of that gingerbread and icing when I took my first bite). And it was so hard for me to comprehend that here my friend was in our home, decorating his gingerbread man for the very first time ever.
This was a blessing I wasn’t expecting, and it deeply touched me. I was reminded of all I take for granted, and all that I have to be thankful for. This year I am so grateful that I got to sit at the table while our friend decorated his cookie for the first time, and gave a unique personality to that gingerbread man, and thoroughly enjoyed it. These simple things keep me going, and they remind me that I have an abundance in my life that I cannot even begin to understand, and that there is still hope in our world for new and better things, and for hurts to be healed, and for loneliness to be replaced with family and home.
Merry Christmas everyone. May you spread your gingerbread love this year anywhere and everywhere you can. I promise you, it will come back to you one hundred fold.