I don't remember a childhood Christmas without piles of gingerbread cookies to decorate. (Well, actually they were mostly molasses crisps, but we don't need to get technical about it.) I don't remember any sugar cookies, just gingerbread. The cookies came in many shapes and sizes - Christmas trees, rocking horses, little men. We were as attached to those cutters as we were to the ornaments on the tree.
This family tradition was born, or so I've been told, when my older brother who was 3 at the time wanted to send Christmas cards to his friends. My mother suggested that he decorate cookies instead, and so the tradition was born.
Each year a table was given over to the decorating. Wax paper, toothpicks, spoons, paper towels or napkins were our tools. Confectioners sugar, water and food coloring became simple icing. Some cookies were decorated with great care. I can clearly remember my sister bent over a single cookie for what seemed like hours. I remember her cookies as the most intricate. Other cookies did not get so much attention.
Once enough cookies were decorated the packaging and distribution began. We carefully chose which cookies would go to which recipients - frequently cookies were decorated with a particular person in mind. We packed the cookies in layers of wax paper and nestled them into boxes. We would walk to the neighbors to deliver theirs, and then head out in the car to deliver others.
The cookies were always received with great enthusiasm. Oohs and ahs were common.
There were always a few of the cookies left for us. But, here's the confession portion of this post, although I would eat a few I didn't really like them. I'm not a great fan of molasses. And yet for a few Christmases when I was on my own I continued the tradition using the same molasses crisp recipe.