Christmas Traditions

In my family it wouldn’t be Christmas without Stritzel. Stritzel is a sweet bread made with slivered almonds, raisins and aniseed. My favorite Christmas treat. I just pulled 6 loaves out of the oven and my house is enveloped with the smell of home baked bread. The smell of this bread baking takes my memory straight to my grandmother’s kitchen. I remember as a little girl mesmerized as she magically worked the dough, braiding and twisting it into perfect loaves. I could hardly wait for it to come out of the oven so I could spread some butter on top and enjoy every bite. It was something I looked forward to every year.

When I was in college, I decided I should learn how to make this bread so one day I could make it for my family. My grandma didn’t have a set recipe written down… just a pinch of this and a handful of that. Her mom had taught her how to make this bread and when my grandma passed away at the age of 94, she had never had a Christmas without it. We spent the whole day together measuring everything carefully so I could try my best to duplicate it. I soon married and moved away but I would call her every year the day I made bread asking her questions, clarifying if I was doing it just right. I would joke and say, “ Calling the Stritzel Hotline.” We both looked forward to those calls. My grandma has been gone for many Christmases now but each year that I pull out the recipe, I wish I could call her and chat. She always had a way of making me feel loved and special.

I am teaching my kids how to make this family favorite in the hopes that one day they will bake it for their children. Christmas traditions are fun and unique to each family, grounding us to our heritage and loved ones. Thinking of my grandma today and thankful for our many years of baking bread together. What is your favorite family tradition?