Inspiration /Holy Cookie Cutters
by Marta Felber

“What does a camel have to do with your story?” asked Sue, my household helper in Indonesia . My answer was a long one, describing the wise men, who came a long distance to find the Baby Jesus, and offered their precious gifts to the newborn King. Sue’s eyes were filled with wonder and excitement as I continued the story…

Making Moravian molasses cookies was a tradition in my family, going back to my mother, her mother, and probably her mother. My earliest memories were of watching the cookie dough being mixed and formed into a huge mound. It had to be made before Thanksgiving. It was covered and allowed to “rest” for a week before the dough could be rolled out to make cookies. The cutters were also passed down for generations. The cookies were baked in a just-right-temperature oven. I was given the very first one and found it hard to wait until it cooled. That first cookie always tasted better than any that followed. Baking lasted for weeks, until a huge metal tin was filled to the brim. This was supposed to last until the next before-Christmas baking and, surprising me, it always did.

This tradition was taken with me, into my own family. My cookies were nowhere as thin as they were supposed to be, but they tasted just as good. And they did not last much past the Christmas season. It was a constant tradition in my life, for years and years, through births, deaths, and moves.

In later life, the move to Indonesia found me carefully hand carrying, on the plane, a jar of Sorghum molasses needed for the traditional cookies. Sue, an excellent cook, had been trained by a previous expatriate family. The children had taught her to read and speak American English. It was a delight to work with her. She helped me mix the Moravian molasses cookie dough my first Christmas season in a Muslim country. Rolling out the dough was more difficult for her, since it was not typically done in her country.

Something, I don’t know what, caused me to use only the cookie cutters from the Christmas Story. I fished around in the huge box of cutters until I found all of them and laid them out on the counter in order. We began with a star. In her inquisitive manner, Sue asked me questions as the story unfolded. At the end, I spoke about her faith, as I had come to know it through her holy days. “Today you have heard how my Christian faith began. I respect your faith and your faithfulness. I hope you will respect mine.” We smiled at each other, and I remember there were unshed tears in our eyes. I felt so close to Sue.

Every year on home leave I brought back Sorghum molasses, and every year Sue and I made cookies at my holy season, with holy cookie cutters. Our last cookie making time together Sue told me the story.

Notes from Marta:

Think of a holiday family tradition from your childhood.

Describe it to someone unfamiliar with it.

How might you use objects to share your faith with someone from another culture?

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