For me, November 1st has long been the first day that I allow myself to publicly express my excitement for the holidays. I’d start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas around the middle of October (Halloween has never been my thing), but I’d keep my mouth shut about it until the next month. After November 1st, all bets are off and you can assume that our conversations may involve gift ideas and seasonal recipes.
Baking has been a hobby of mine since I was little, though I didn’t really start to educate myself on techniques and start making things from scratch until after college. I eased myself into it by recreating some of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes by myself (I always baked with my mom as a kid), and I quickly realized that I loved trying new recipes too.
There’s something special about baking in November and December–something about filling your house with the scent of warming spices and heating your kitchen with an oven instead of a radiator. But it’s about more than just the sensations. Baking takes care of you when the weather is cold. It fulfills some needs that I think everybody has, so here’s why I think everyone should bake during the fall and winter.
Baking Encourages Generosity
For me, the most special thing about baking around the holidays is that I’m almost always making something to share with others. It feels less indulgent and more generous. In particular, I love trying new recipes to bring to family gatherings. If you ask me to bring a side dish, I’ll be nervous and scramble to find something to bring. But if I can bring a dessert, expect something that I thought long and hard about and tried to tailor perfectly to the event. There’s a kind of love that baking brings out and something so sweet about sharing treats with others.
Baking Brings Back (or Creates!) Memories
Baking around this time of year makes me think of my childhood. Every year, my mom and I would make cutout sugar cookies for Christmas. We’d usually make one or two more types of cookies too–something like peanut butter blossoms, or these peppermint candy cane-shaped cookies that I’d always want to make, even though the recipe was finicky. Since I moved out, I’ve tried to make one of those types of cookies every Christmas to keep with the tradition.
If baking was never a tradition for you growing up, make it one! Or at least try it out and make some funny memories if you come to the conclusion that it’s not for you. Sometimes (alright, ever year) I feel like the holiday season goes by too quickly. Having special activities like this helps me to slow down, enjoy the time that I do have, and it also gives me something to remember in the new year.
Baking Fosters Creativity
In last week’s post I talked about how having a creative hobby has positively impacted my mental health. Even if that’s something you don’t struggle with, your creative side is a great part of your brain to work! Whether you’re writing your own recipes or just looking for a unique treat that you’ve never tried before, baking is a form of expression. Plus, it’s expression that you can eat. How cool is that?
Baking Helps You Connect with Others
We have all seen depictions of (or have personally experienced) baking with Grandma. There’s a reason it’s such a popular idea, especially around the holidays. Baking with a buddy is so much fun, because you’re creating something together. You’re making something to share, and you’re also making memories.
During the holidays, I sometimes feel a strange mix of thinking only about others while also not giving them the time of day. I get so myopic about finding the perfect thing for someone that I forget to spend time with them or the others around me. I’m sure that there are people in your life who would love to just share your time, and baking is the perfect way to do that and have something for them to take away.
I know that baking is not for everyone. Baking is in my blood, so it’s hard for me to imagine not wanting to create sweet things around this time of year. You already know that it’s something that my mom and I shared, but baking is also very important to my dad’s side of the family.
My paternal grandmother baked a few times a week while my dad was growing up. She’d feed a family of 9 and make sure they had something sweet to enjoy after Sunday dinner too. My aunts have continued on in this tradition, and the Kitchenaid mixer in these photos was a wedding gift from them. They gave it to me in the hopes that I would use it to bake for years, and it has been one of the most special gifts I’ve ever received.
I believe that there’s a recipe out there for everyone that will make them feel how special the holiday season is. If you have no experience, start out simple, and have fun trying! Pick up some premade Pillsbury dough and you can whip out some cookies with very little skill needed. Or try making some chocolate-covered pretzels or Rice Krispie treats! Just get in your kitchen and treat yourself and your loved ones to something indulgent for this wonderful time of the year.
For this post, I made pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. You can find the recipe here!