Christmas baking has begun, and I do a lot of the traditional cookie baking for my family. Peanut butter star cookies, sugar cookies, and Ritz cracker cookies are on my list (as usual) this year, but I keep an eye out for new things to try, which is why I noticed Nigella Lawson's Nigella Christmas: Food Family Friends Festivities containing both recipes and guest-entertaining advice.

In her introduction to the book, Lawson refers to the pagan holidays that took place around Christmastime, writing that Christianity cleverly centered our celebration of Jesus' birth during this time of year "to reassure [pagans] that their fun is not going to be taken away." That's not a new thought, but Lawson also writes, "the Christmas we celebrate in our kitchens is not the Christmas that is celebrated in church."

Whoa. It kind of sounds like Lawson is drawing a line between "home Christmas" and "Christian Christmas," and the latter is not coming across very … fun. In an interview with the Minnesota Star-Tribune, Lawson explained that although she adheres "to the Judeo-Christian morality," she feels that "the Christmas rituals of the home are, even if not based around faith, essentially an act of good faith." So I guess faith can be fun, just not the church-y kind.

Keeping to the theme of good faith, I stopped to think about my own "Christmas rituals of the home." For me, baking cookies is nothing like the soft, musical TV ads where the young, dressy mom shares her mixing spoon with children whose eyes glisten from the reflection of Christmas lights. In fact, there are ingredients involved that could end up being not fun.

Funny how modern culture sets us up to miss an imaginary ideal, because this is how it goes for me in reality: I ...

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