The Joy of Holiday Giving
When the days grow short and cold, my thoughts turn to baking. A warm blast from a hot oven on a chilly winter night, even better if it carries the aroma of baking cookies, is enough to make even Scrooge smile. And nothing fills a wintry home with more cheer than the clatter of a busy kitchen. Did I mention the smells that waft throughout the home? Maybe this is part of why I bake so much when it’s cold and dark. Another part is the lovely tradition I grew up with of bringing Christmas baskets with homemade foods to friends, neighbors, and relatives.
My mother was the driving force. From an early age she’d been creative, starting at Roosevelt High School in Portland, Oregon, where she joined a social club called MyPhidias. The group remained friends until my mother was well into her 70s. They were the most artistic group of gals I knew. They did toile painting, made theatrical backdrops, choreographed entertainment, and created all kinds of handmade cards, tags, and preserves that they sold at holiday bazaars.
This creative streak made its way into our Christmas baskets. Starting with jam, which we made all summer. We bought freshly picked strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries from local farm stands and made freezer jam, the favorite in our house because of its brighter color and fresh-fruit flavor. We certainly ate our supplies down throughout the year, but always saved plenty to give away.
Just after Thanksgiving we started baking holiday cookies—lefse, fried rosette cookies, and many other family favorites, all in preparation for our holiday baskets. We had boxes lined with paper towels for the rosette cookies and tins–o-plenty for all the other cookies. When it came time to assemble everything my mother lined the baskets with colorful tissue paper, arranged the cookies and jars of jam and wrapped the basket in clear cellophane with a wire edged ribbon. They were beautiful.
I have carried on this tradition of making jams from local berries, plum bbq sauce, plum & quince paste (see our blog and video for plum paste), roasted tomato sauce, and holiday cookies (see our blog and video for holiday cookies)—both old family favorites and many new recipes I’ve discovered. This year I even made bitters. When the time comes, I buy a bunch of baskets and fill them with my handmade treasures, much as my mother did. The baskets are synonymous in my heart with festivity, giving, and joy. They are also the perfect antidote to the gloomy weather we get this time of year, both in the making and the giving. Delivering them to friends and seeing the smiles on their faces brings me such happiness. To me, this “giving from your heart” is the true spirit of Christmas.
If your life has just been too crazy to make any of your traditional specialties, Macrina does have a selection of artisanal handmade delicacies, both savory and sweet. We make many of them, but we’ve also curated a few of our favorite local artisanal products, such as Ayako and Family Jam. Drop by one of our cafés and we can help you put together a gift basket.