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Family Favourite Christmas Cookies

Linking Generations Through Baking

By Kelsey ClareyPublished 8 months ago β€’ Updated 8 months ago β€’ 3 min read

I don't remember exactly what year the 12 Cookies of Christmas tradition began, but I do remember what kicked it off. We still got our provincial newspaper every day at the time, and one day in November there was an insert tucked in between the folds. This insert was filled with recipes and pictures of beautifully decorated Christmas cookies, and my dad took it and ran with it. Determined to make 12 kinds of cookies for our family before the holidays were over, he pulled both from that newspaper insert and from the various recipes he had collected over the years. As far bake as I can remember, my dad has loved to bake things and loved Christmas. This challenge that blended the two was perfect for him. Since I also loved Christmas and loved to help him bake, I guess it was perfect for me too.

I also don't remember if we actually made it to 12 cookies that year, but I do know my Dad has continued the challenge every year since then. As I got older, I continued to help him. When I reached the point of being able to bake by myself, rather than just holding the mixer while my dad did most of the work, my help began to come in the form of making cookies myself, taking some of the pressure of baking all 12 off of him.

My go-to recipe for my contribution to the challenge was a gift from my Great-Grandmother by way of one of my Aunts. Years ago, Great-Grammie Clarey compiled a collection of "Family Favourite Recipes" that was printed and given as a gift to her granddaughters. When my aunt learned that I like to bake, she photocopied her book to give to me. I've made many recipes from that book over the years, but the page with the most creases and stains of leftover batter is for Great Grammie's shortbread. With only three ingredients, it was pretty straightforward for a young baker. Grammie's margin notes told me that this had been a favourite Christmas recipe for her. It quickly became one of mine, too, and was my yearly contribution to Dad's 12 Cookies of Christmas.


A batch of Grammie's shortbread, sans icing, cooling on the rack.


  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar


Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream butter very well. Add sugar and blend well.

Gradually add sifted flour. Knead with hands until smooth (a lot of kneading is required).

Turn out on a lightly floured surface and roll out 1/4 inch thick.

Cut into desired shapes with floured cookie cutters.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

For Icing:


  • 1/2 cup of shortening
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 4 cups of icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp milk


I don't live at home anymore, and my Christmases currently tend to alternate between my family and my partner's. Because of this, I don't really get to help my Dad with his cookie challenge the same way I used to. That doesn't mean I've outgrown it though. For the past few years, I've taken up the challenge myself, usually starting in mid-November and trying to make as many kinds of cookies as I possibly can for New Year's. At the time of writing this, there's still about a month before I'll start working on this year's round, but I've already started to think a bit about what I might want to make this year. Of course, Grammie's shortbread still makes the list every year. They're joined by many other favourite recipes -- some I've collected on my own, and some more taken from Grammie's cookbook. I love the way this tradition and these recipes connect me to my family, reminding me of where I come from and the people who love me. It's comforting to carry them with me as I get older and move further away from everything that seemed so unchanging when I was little. Sometimes some simple shortbread cookies are just what is needed to chase away the loneliness and remind myself of all the people I'm connected to.

Whether you're baking something from your own family recipe collection or trying out this taste of mine, I hope they also bring you a sense of comfort and knowledge that you're not alone in the world. Even if you don't have your own traditions to take shelter in, now you're included in one of mine.


This article was written for the Nourished challenge. Find out more here:


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About the Creator

Kelsey Clarey

She/Her/Fae/Faer. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. I mostly write poetry and flash fiction currently, a lot of it fantasy/folklore/fairy tale inspired. I also like to do a lot of fiber arts and design TTRPGs.


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Comments (2)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock3 months ago

    What a wonderful tradition! I may have to take this one up.

  • Shirley Belk3 months ago

    great story!!!

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