Everlasting Christmas Cookies?

If the city can keep its tree up after Jan. 5, surely I can make Festive Cream Cheese Cookies

Editor's Note: In a truly Knoxvillian spirit of drawing out the holidays, we present a January 5 column on belated Christmas celebrations Jan. 21. Hey, the City's tree is still up, too...

Our Metro Pulse offices are sort of tucked into a garret on the second floor of the Tennessee Theatre building, and one of the guys could see the outrage from his window that overlooks Gay Street. "They're already putting up a Christmas tree," he sputtered, his voice cracking a little, "and it's not even Halloween yet."

He wasn't even exaggerating. October 30, and they were assembling the guy wires or steel bars or whatever it is that forms the 38-foot base of the First Tennessee Foundation tree.

But here's the funny part. It took almost a month to complete the tree, with its bold blue lights and sophisticated silver globes, cheery but striking—a design statement worthy of an up-and-coming downtown area, an on-the-move city. Most every day you'd see a guy and a ladder out there, adding artificial foliage, tucking in a few new lights, until it was lighted Nov. 28. as part of the Regal Celebration of Lights.

And the truly East Tennessee finish to that story: This morning I came in to work on still-dusky streets, and there was the tree, alight with blue warmth, defying the calendar, which plainly states, "January 5." But that's how we are in these parts. We rush the holiday—even Halloween—weeks, months ahead, as if we may not live to see the day. And then we zoom to the next festive possibility—there was a Valentine crafting display in Wal-Mart Christmas Eve—but without abandoning the bygone decor, instead savoring it long past its prime. Are we procrastinators? Sentimentalists? Plain old lazy?

I can only speak for myself. Even though I'm not that ambitious, there is just never enough time to work in all I'd like to do during the holidays. I try to work in a morning at the Empty Stocking Fund, we play board games on Christmas afternoon, make a toast New Year's Eve, and then blam! It's done and I haven't even sent Christmas cards.

This year, though, I had a special wish go unfulfilled. Early in December, my sister Amy scored my sister Joan's recipe for Festive Cream Cheese Cookies, food of the gods. But once in possession of the mythic directions, I dawdled. I hoped one of my two daughters would bake them, or that Joan would when I saw her in late December. It didn't happen. But seeing that tree confidently alight this morning, I got a crazy idea. Would it be so wrong to make those cookies now? Can't I just celebrate Christmas, winter solstice, etc., on my own timetable?

I guess I could bake the cookies for Valentine's (with, say, red and pink sugar), or for Super Bowl Sunday, pressing the dough logs to yield neat oval football shapes.

But I may make these tonight, just so those of us leftover from the holidays—our lights packed away, jobs resumed—can have another taste of the season just past. Yes, I think I'll bake these this evening.

If I have time.

Festive Cream Cheese Cookies

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. pecans, finely chopped
  • red and green sugar crystals

Cream together butter and cream cheese in large mixing bowl. Add sugar and vanilla, beating until light and fluffy. Combine flour and salt; add gradually to creamed mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in pecans. Shape dough into four 6-inch rolls, 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Mold a sheet of foil to each roll, press out the air, fold short ends up, crimp to seal. Chill overnight. Coat roll with red or green sugar crystals before slicing into 1/4 inch slices. Bake in 325 oven on ungreased cookie sheet 15-18 minutes or until bottom of cookie is lightly browned.