We have a family Christmas cookie recipe that's been handed down through at least five, probably six generations, starting with ancestors from the Alsatian region of France. Just reading the recipe will clog the left ventricle of your heart, that's how much fat is in it (it's got giant helpings of both sour cream and butter in the dough: we won't even talk about what's in the buttercream frosting).

Dear Columbus Parents,

We have a family Christmas cookie recipe that's been handed down through at least five, probably six generations, starting with ancestors from the Alsatian region of France. Just reading the recipe will clog the left ventricle of your heart, that's how much fat is in it (it's got giant helpings of both sour cream and butter in the dough: we won't even talk about what's in the buttercream frosting).

Making just one lousy batch of the stuff takes a good four hours, what with sifting the flour, mixing the super-thick dough, chilling it, buttering the baking sheets and sprinkling anise seeds on them. Then there's rolling out the cold and now-combative dough, followed by cookie-cuttering it into the shapes of trees, stars, angels, violins, hearts and St. Nick with a sack. From there it's onto baking, cooling, frosting and then decorating with sprinkles and other edible doo-dads. Just thinking about the baking ahead of me this month makes me ready for a long winter's nap.

And yet would I ever dare take it off my seasonal to-do list? I think we all know the answer to that question. I would sooner tell the family that Christmas has been cancelled due to lack of interest. It's a tradition - and a darn tasty one at that - and you don't mess with tasty traditions at holiday times.

In this issue, we honored two more of these tasty traditions with stories about cookie-exchange parties (a competitive sport in some neighborhoods but, in our story, a delightful get-together for moms, daughters and the dolls in their lives) and making gingerbread houses. The latter tradition is one of the few that has a higher degree of difficulty than my family's cookie baking. In fact, a couple of years ago, we went to all the trouble of creating and baking the architecturally correct walls and roofs for a gingerbread village, only to lose steam and pack it all in the freezer with promises to get it assembled by New Year's Eve. We ended up thawing the pieces in June and just eating them plain.

Sometimes you have to pace yourself with these traditions. Or get some extra help, as we did with the gingerbread houses in this issue. Between our expert baker Judy Tipton, her assistant Cynthia Adkins and our expert candy smasher Antoine Vermette (taking time out from his day job with the Columbus Blue Jackets), we whipped together some mighty fine houses and trees and ice ponds. And be sure to check our website for the detailed recipe and slide show to make your own.

Because, let's face it - all these traditions, they're just an excuse to spend more time with the people in our lives. So, Columbus parents, go do just that with your families this holiday season!