It’s the special little moments with my family that I cherish the most every holiday season. Sure, I love ripping open brightly covered packages wrapped with glittery ribbon, but there’s more to Christmas than material objects and glitz. It’s about enjoying the company of friends and loved ones, making memories, and slowing down to soak up every ounce of holiday bliss.
There’s something magical about the month of December. Maybe it’s the twinkling lights, hot chocolate by the warmth of the fire, and lazy visits with family and friends that make this time of year so special. Or, it could be trimming the tree while recounting the story behind each ornament before gingerly hanging it from the perfect limb, building a gingerbread mansion with your siblings, or rolling out cookies with your grandmother.[/columnize][blockquote type=”left”]“It’s the special little moments with my family that I cherish the most every holiday season.” – Jennie Phaneuf[/blockquote]
My family and I celebrated several holiday traditions as I was growing up. We decorated the tree together—each of us in charge of hanging our own ornaments—baked cookies, and took rides around the neighborhood in our pajamas as a family to look at the Christmas lights. My mom even went so far as to make us matching sweaters that she decorated with decals, glitter, and puff paint—something my siblings and I will never let her live down.
Over the years we’ve kept some old traditions and added some new ones. Now that I’m married and live with my husband, we get to celebrate twice as much. After I got married (almost 8 years ago), we started decorating two trees, baking twice as many cookies, and making homemade gift baskets full of goodies to give to friends and family. It sounds like a lot of work, but I consider the effort to be double the fun. Who doesn’t love twice as many cookies?
My favorite tradition is one I came up with just a few years ago. Instead of fighting the crowds on Black Friday, the entire family gathers at my house to trim the tree and deck the halls. The best part about the tradition is that we all wear matching holiday pajama bottoms. It’s a goofy tradition that we look forward to each year. We eat cookies, drink wine, and exchange Christmas ornaments.
One of my favorite cookies to serve each year is my grandmother’s recipe for pecan sandies. It’s a butter cookie loaded with a generous amount of chopped pecans that get rolled in powdered sugar after they bake. They’re crunchy, buttery, and slightly sweet. I like to pair them with hot tea and coffee for dipping.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 and ½ cups powdered sugar
- Cream butter and sugar using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add water and vanilla. Mix to combine. Scrap down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour. Mix in the pecans. Chill the dough for at least 4 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cookies are a light golden color. Cool completely on a wire rack. Roll each cookie in powdered sugar. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Meet Jennie Phaneuf
Jennie Phaneuf is the baker, photographer, recipe developer, and mess-maker behind The Messy Baker. Making a mess in the kitchen is highly encouraged and licking the spatula is an absolute must. In her world, cookies are a nutritional breakfast option, sprinkles taste good on just about everything, and sangria is best served daily.