This Christmas, Baking Is All I Need

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While I baked occasionally as a child, especially around the holidays, my obsession began in college when I lived in on-campus apartments and my resident adviser, a friend of mine, gave me a baking budget. She said I could make treats to leave in the common room for the building and she’d give me some money for ingredients. I was thrilled. I loved baking but didn’t always know what to do with all of my creations. You can only eat so many cookies with your roommate before they lose their appeal.

I began experimenting with new recipes, playing with childhood favorites, and learning techniques from reading cookbooks as if they were novels and watching baking reality television. During the holidays, a friend of mine made gift baggies for our friends and dropped them off at their doorsteps. We were heroes, especially to our friends who didn’t have kitchens in their dorms or didn’t know how to bake.

For graduation, I received a stand mixer and a cookie cookbook and kept baking, sending batches with my boyfriend to leave in his job’s break room and again giving baggies of cookies away to friends at the holidays.

Through several moves and lots of experimentation, I have kept up my holiday baked good gift bags. Some years, a friend or friends get in on the adventure and we combine our efforts and favorite recipes to concoct huge batches of fudge, bars, cookies, and/or something the internet calls “Christmas crack.” Some years, like last year when no one was vaccinated, I made fewer cookies and gave them to only my closest contacts.

The thing is, even though I am making something for other people, baking is really a gift for me. I love baking. It’s relaxing for me.

I know not everyone wants to receive copious amounts of sweets during an already sugar-laden season, but I’ve gotten good feedback, and I’ve refined my offerings to include things that freeze or travel well for more sharing capacity. Nowadays, I give cookies every year to my kids’ teachers and a bunch of our family friends.

The thing is, even though I am making something for other people, baking is really a gift for me. I love baking. It’s relaxing for me. I turn on a podcast or some Yo Yo Ma and enjoy turning my thinking, writing, intellectual brain off for a little while to focus on a physical but not taxing task. I don’t craft or knit or draw. I bake. Baking is self-care and self-soothing for me.

The fact that I get to make someone happy and show my people that I appreciate them is honestly the secondary benefit for me. If I just wanted to make people happy and show them my appreciation, I could give everyone gift cards or socks. I do still give my kids’ teachers gift cards and socks, but the cookies on the side give it a personal touch.

I put “Cookie Day” in my calendar every year, a holiday just for me to spend a whole day making cookies. Yes, I do taste-test and enjoy cookies, but I also love giving them away. My kids are old enough to help now and seeing them get excited about one of my favorite things is a whole other gift.

To me, the holidays can be overwhelming with stressors, obligations, the pressure to be perfect, and too many things to do. But, I always make some time to bake and enjoy the smells and tastes of my kitchen, and think about the people I love while doing something that brings me pure joy.

Tags: Christmas, Desserts, holiday baking, holiday season, Self Care

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Written By

Laura Wheatman Hill

Laura Wheatman Hill lives in Oregon with her two children. She has been published by CNN, Real Simple, Parents, and others. See Full Bio

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