Of all the gifts that the holiday season bestows on us, the most enduring are memories. When our trees are stripped bare, we turn inward, toward hearth and home. The days shorten, and now we come inside for warmth and light. Here we find our memories all swirled together — almost all of them thoughts of the people we love and the foods we cherish.
When we experience this often enough, we create a tradition, and those traditions weave themselves into our personal histories. The holidays give us this complex mix of excitement, joy — and yes, at times even exhaustion. We sigh with relief when they end, and soon after sigh again, already missing those too-brief days when those we love were gathered once again around our tables. What we’ve tried to do in this holiday issue is to give you, our readers, wherever you are, a sense of the tradition, warmth, and giving we all long for.
First, tradition. In December 1982, we published a story about the Wellesley, Massachusetts, Cookie Exchange. We didn’t run many recipes then; the article was really about the phenomenon of friends and neighbors sharing their favorite sweets. We ran a short note asking readers to send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope and we’d send back a batch of cookie recipes from the Wellesley women. The envelopes came — 20,000 strong — I’ll never forget it. Twenty-five years later, we went back to Wellesley and found that the Cookie Exchange has now brought a new generation into its tradition.
Next, warmth. The irony of the holidays is that in these weeks of coming together, many of us are alone, with only the memories of loved ones who are no longer with us. I know once again I’m risking the ire of Edie Clark’s faithful readers by nudging her “Mary’s Farm” essay (for this issue only!) into the center of the magazine — what we call the “well.” I want to give this graceful excerpt from her new book, Saturday Beans and Sunday Suppers, a place to spread out with the extraordinary illustrations that accompany it. If you know anyone who loves good writing — writing that warms you as you read — this is a book you’ll want to share.
Lastly, giving. This is the second year we’ve highlighted a group of New Englanders who represent the best we can be — ordinary people, our neighbors really, helping others — not for fame or fortune, but because there’s something inside them that says it’s right to do so. We call them “angels,” and when you meet them here, I hope you’ll be encouraged to write us at Yankee and tell us about the angels in your community.
I don’t know whether a single issue of a magazine can be a gift, but in these pages we’ve tried to distill what the holidays mean to us — and just as opening the door of a loved one’s home promises good cheer within, we hope that each page of Yankee brings you special pleasure, and maybe even a memory or two of your own.