The meaning of Christmas?
As a mere tourist in the land of Baby Jesus, I will gladly defer to you True Believers out there on the meaning of Christmas. I’ve heard tell that Baby Jesus looms large in this holiday, but so far I’ve come to know it as the bust-down-doors-and-trample-to-death-whilst-getting-to-that-flatscreen-TV holiday. The holiday that makes little attempt to hide its capitalist bottom line.
Are you crying for us, Baby Jesus?
But I think he’d be okay with our tree-decoratin’. After all, it is a tradition meant to honor him. Harkening back to a 1500’s legend that has Martin Luther decorating a tree with lit candles after being overcome by the sight of trees framed by a night sky full of stars. He wanted his children to be reminded of the “starry heavens from whence their Saviour came” (Barnes, 2005).
By the time we got a Christmas tree, I was in college. And like Charlie Brown, our tree was the runt of the litter. But that didn’t bother us, we deck-corated-the-halls out of it. Most of my friends grew up decorating trees, one friend, in particular, strung up cranberry and popcorn with her family to dangle around a tree (only Paul Bunyan could have chopped down). What an intriguing ritual to watch. I didn’t realize it, but I was witnessing American-ness at its core, up close in my friend’s living room, behaviors of the ruling culture that were foreign to me as I was foreign to it.
So “celebrating” this holiday in adulthood is a bit awkward. I’m a stranger in a strange land, stumbling into the country of Christmas, ever unprepared for the frenzy about to be set upon me. Good thing I have guides to help me traverse the unfamiliar terrain––the Boyfriend and Baby Leo (okay, more the Boyfriend).
I think Baby Jesus would also have approved of fresh-baked cookies, as they are joyous and a hallmark of good will when you give them to your fellow man and woman, especially these chocolate wafers with a Korean twist:
Chocolate Wafers with a Korean Twist
(adapted from Alice Medrich’s recipe)
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (nonalkalized)
1 cup 2 tbls sugar
1/8 – 1/4 tsp cayenne or other red chili powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
14 tbls unsalted butter, softened
3 tbls milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
about 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
This recipe calls for a food processor, but I don’t own one so I just used my muscles and lots of elbow grease.
Supplies: greased cookie sheets, wax paper
1. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, sugar and spices, and baking soda in a big bowl with a whisk.
2. Cut butter into 12 chunks and add to flour mixture. Combine together with a spatula and fork until butter is incorporated into flour. You’ll have big clumps.
3. Combine milk and vanilla extract and pour into flour/butter mixture and keep mixing until your clumps of dough holds together.
4. Roll the dough into a log about 14 inches long and 1 3/4 in diameter. If the log is longer that’s okay. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 3 days.
5. Preheat oven to 350° F. Slice dough using a real sharp knife into 1/4 inch thick disks and dip them into your small bowl of sesame seeds*. Place the slices on your sheets 1 inch apart with seed side facing up. *Alternate dipping slices if you’d like to have half with seeds and half without.
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Rotate sheets from top to bottom racks, back to front halfway through the baking time as this will ensure even baking.
7. Cool cookies on a rack or remove them with metal spatula on to a plate. Cookies are fragile so treat with care when taking them off your baking sheet. Store them in airtight containers once they are cooled.
Yield 50-60 wafers.