When I was 12, my siblings and I decided to make Hanukah stockings. I hefted my Singer out of its case and stitched up boot-shaped pieces of red and white felt. As a final touch, I embroidered each of our names along a stocking in two shades of green thread.
At a young age, we were already Jews-Who-Are-Sort-of-Secretly-Jealous-of-Christmas.
Case in point: this year when I arrived home from college, I found our presents stacked around a wrought-metal side table in a suspiciously tree-like formation.
It’s not Christmas itself that appeals to us. It’s not the midnight mass and it’s definitely not the Jesus bit. It’s not Santa, and it’s not even Rudolph and his rouge-nosed cohort. For me (maybe it’s a Jewish atheist thing?), Christmas represents a wintry spirit in a way that potato pancakes and waxy chocolate coins do not. It’s the difference between “merry” and “happy”; the difference between nostalgia for snowball fights and hot chocolate and nostalgia for infantry battle and the hot Middle East.
I love the Christian-turned-secular holiday season: the endless loop of Christmas radio drifting out of my suitemates’ room, the intricate diorama of a happy family skiing in the windows of Lord & Taylor, the lit orbs hanging from the trees along Locust Walk, and watching “Love, Actually” not once, but twice.
And, speaking of Hanukah stockings and a side table Hanukah tree, there are gifts! When else do you get to make a list of the people you care about, think about what they care about, and decide what you can give them to show that you care about them enough to keep track of what they care about? As an added bonus, you may get a macaron key-chain or pair of those super awesome socks that have toes.
But the main reason I’m not-so-secretly jealous of Christmas is the cookies. Yes, Jews have do have hamantaschen, but 90% of the hamantaschen I’ve eaten have been lacking in major ways. (And that’s not even counting the ones that slump open in the oven, oozing slimy cherry pie filling or that poppy seed stuff that gets between your teeth.)
On Christmas, I’ve been told, families dedicate entire days to baking tray after tray of cookies. Now that’s my kind of religion.
The designs on these cookies are a mashup of several designs that The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle featured in her roundup of Christmas cookies. I usually use shortbread cookies, so I thought I’d mix it up a little with a Chocolate Rolled Cookie recipe from The Decorated Cookie. The flavor was fantastic, chocolaty with a hint of salt, and the deep color contrasted beautifully with the white and blue flood icing. The cookies were a little too chewy for my taste (I’m a crunchy cookie person), but I did make them relatively thick for chocolate cookies, so a couple more minutes in the oven might have done the trick.
To decorate, I used three consistencies of icing: outline in white, blue and red, flood in white and blue, and 20-second icing in green. (Think of the blue as an honorary Christmas color borrowed from Hanukah.) I used white or blue outline icing and then flood icing for the base of the cookies. I used green 20-second icing for the major designs (trees, gifts, wreath, and Christmas ornaments…which are not balloons, mom!), and outline icing in every color for the details. This was my first time working with 20-second icing, and I’m proud of how they turned out!