As a youngster growing up, I saw our Christmas decorations as an eclectic mixture of traditional Christmas with a big dose of Santa Fe and Taos thrown in. We had strings of chili peppers around the Christmas tree in the den, decorated with little pots and basket ornaments; red chili ristas hung by front door; and luminaries lining the drive, helping visitors easily find our house. Navajo rugs were on the floors and two large katsina dolls stood on each end on the fire place hearth.
One of my most cherished memories was the baking of biscochito cookies. Whether you call them biscochitos (northern New Mexico) or biscochos (southern New Mexico), these cookies are just simple short bread cookies sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar—but their taste is quite unforgettable. There are several variations of this recipe, but the flavors are the same… cinnamon, sugar and anise.
These delightful little cookies are the official State cookie of New Mexico – which is the only State to have an official cookie. In fact, during the 1989 State legislative section, battles erupted over the correct spelling of this wonderful delicacy introduced to the area by Spanish conquistadors back in the 17th century. Quite a history, indeed!
As an annual Christmas tradition Mom would make biscochitos by the dozens – and there were never enough, as far as I was concerned. They were revered and savored by folks who came to call during the holiday season. Special friends might even end up with a small box of them to take home on their departure.
Mom would always cut some into special shapes for me — cowboy hats, cowboy boots, and even cactus shapes. Texas stars and the small round shapes were always popular. She even had a special “cookie tin” to keep them in. These southwest cookies, to say the least, were at the top of the Christmas goodies list at our house.
Traditions are special to each and every family, and ours is not any different. After Mom passed away, it was a few years before I got biscochitos freshly baked without a visit to Santa Fe or Taos. Now my sister, Katie, has rekindled this tradition of heavenly goodness by baking biscochitos every year using Mom’s recipe. So visits between our homes during the holidays mean two things to me: happy times to reminisce of family and Christmases past, and a cookie tin of biscochitos just for me. Of course I share with my amazing wife, but you can bet the count is carefully monitored.
I hope for you this Christmas is filled with family traditions that rekindle joyous memories, and blessings beyond measure in the coming year.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours,