The Queens of Christmas

The Queens of Christmas

Holiday traditions run deep in the Scott family. | Illustration by Jessie Hynes

I take the holidays pretty seriously.

From making sure to always uphold our family’s oldest traditions, to listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving is even over (today is Nov. 15; of course I’m doing so right now), and putting some serious thought and planning into each and every one of the gifts I’ll give. Yes, I’ll admit my December devotion is more serious than most, but to clarify this personal level of cheesy cheer, I do not actually own an ugly holiday sweater, and I do not go as far as wearing a red Santa-style hat, just because. (I did do this, however, as a child.)

I credit my grandmother and mom for this lasting sentimentality. Christmas was as magical a time as ever in the Scott household growing up, and I try to make it still feel just so.

It’s why I roll up my sleeves and break out a storage bag bursting with vintage cookie cutters to personally prepare dozens and dozens of holiday-shaped sugar cookies, made from the exact recipe my great grandmother used in the early 20th century. These instructions were passed down from my Gramma Scott, who rallied her little helpers to the kitchen as soon as we could stand on a kitchen chair and grip the rolling pin.

My little brother Andrew helped carefully measure out cup after cup of flour. Sister Erica and I used all our tiny arms’ strength to push the mounds of dough flat with the rolling pin to then be cut into scalloped stars, snowmen, church bells, evergreen trees and candy canes. The three of us would all try our hardest not to lick the same butter knives used to frost the baked cookies, lest our Papa catch and scold us for sharing our “kid germs.” When the frosting had set and all the flour was dusted from our clothes, we’d pack up the cookies into gallon-size ice cream tubs to be enjoyed up until Christmas Day or later. On Christmas Eve, we’d each pick out one of the prettiest and fluffiest cookies to leave for Santa.

In between batches of cookies going in and coming out of the oven, the three of us would occasionally sneak off to Gramma’s “sewing room” to work on our own handmade gifts for each other, and Mom and Dad. Keeping not only our own presents (which ranged from handmade clothing to blankets and doll clothes) secret from each other, while also avoiding innocent discoveries of whatever Gramma was working on for us that year, was a serious challenge.

Each year she’d wrap up the most lovingly made gifts, from beautiful and elaborate princess dresses to tiny, handmade Barbie clothes and other sewn items that mirrored our latest interests, like pioneer girl dresses á la Little House on the Prairie.

As far as my love of Christmas music goes, I credit my mom for that.

Before I even went off to kindergarten, she’d taught me all the words to the most traditional songs like “The First Noel,” “The Little Drummer Boy” and “We Three Kings.” I even knew every stanza of “Joy to the World.” We played a couple of compilation cassette tapes so many times the sound warped and warbled in a few songs.

To this day, I’ll only pick tunes from Frank, Bing, Andy, Johnny, Perry, Ella and Nat. These classic crooners are where holiday music is truly at. For being raised in an atheist household, my love of Christmas songs, even the hymns, runs impressively deep. Thanks, Mom!

(Alas, I ran out of space before getting to mention the family’s obsessively snowman-themed Christmas ornament collection.) ♦

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