Christmas Bread

Handwritten Recipe for Christmas Bread
Handwritten Recipe for Christmas Bread

 The Joy of Christmas Bread 

What makes a recipe a family recipe? Does my ancestor have to be the creator? Is making it for generations enough to make it ours? My family has baked “Christmas Bread” for four generations, starting with my great-grandmother in Oregon. Her descendants now bake in kitchens scattered from the west coast to the Midwest, but a cooperative spirit endures. Bakers share tips and substitutions via phone and email. When small-town stores have shortages, savvy shoppers might pop candied cherries in the mail. We commiserate and share epic tales that grow grander with time. Was a dish rag really baked in the bread one year? Rebels brag about controversial substitutions. Clever cousins candy their own fruit during a global pandemic. 

Although this bread is our Christmas family tradition, the recipe did not originate with my great-grandmother. It comes from one of the most popular American cookbooks of the 20th century, The Joy of Cooking. Irma Rombauer called it Stollen or Christmas Loaf, and suggested a milk or lemon glaze, which my family never bothered with. We slather slices of the bejeweled bread with butter, and broil them until golden brown. We gather when we can. But even when I’m in my home 1600 miles away, I feel connected to family, those who have passed, and the memories of time together. 

Thousands of American families must have made and shared this recipe over the years and I have often wondered if we are not alone. Is this your family recipe too? 

Place(s): Oregon

– Laura Mooney

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more