Written By Jill Biggins Gerbracht
Just because this year will not be the same doesn’t mean you have
to cancel the honored traditions and celebrations you engage in each year
amongst family and friends. You just might need to get a little creative
in their execution and delivery.
Whether you host (or attend) a large Thanksgiving dinner or your own highly-anticipated
annual holiday soiree, the dynamics of COVID-19 will likely preclude you
from moving forward on auto pilot and maintaining the status quo. In fact,
many people don’t expect to spend the holidays with their family
this year. According to a survey of 3,000 Americans and Brits by Christmas.co.uk,
a website dedicated to all things Christmas, 51 percent of Americans don’t
expect to spend Christmas with family, while 59 percent of Brits said
the same. It might all be different this year -- maybe no trick-or-treating
at Halloween and maybe smaller gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas
It is no surprise we have already begun making many changes in the way
we communicate. More of us are sending cards in the mail, singing “happy
birthday” over video calls, dropping food and gifts on front porches
and arranging physically-distanced gatherings in driveways and backyards.
For the Seaside Ranchos area a.k.a. “the Christmas lights neighborhood”
in South Torrance, a virtual winter wonderland of holiday lights and custom
front yard displays which draws hundreds of cars and visitors during the
month of December, plans are still underway. According to Tricia Blanco,
former president of the Seaside Ranchos Neighborhood Association, “We
are having meetings and tweaking some things but moving forward. Through
a small sampling of inquiries, we found most households plan to decorate
as they always do, if only for themselves and their families. It’s
really up to the neighbors as to what they decide to do,” said Blanco.
At Torrance Memorial, the 37th Annual Holiday Festival has had to be reimagined
to an “In Spirit” all virtual event.
“The decision to take our popular Holiday Festival virtual this year
was made in conjunction with the COVID-19 guidelines set forth by L.A.
County limiting large gatherings,” said Laura Schenasi, Executive
VP of the Foundation for Torrance Memorial. “While it is disappointing
to have to forgo the annual tradition of setting up the big white tent
for our week-long parade of holiday festivities, we have re-imagined this
year’s events on a virtual level and plan to bring a high level
of excitement to the community in this new format.”
Locally, the Mollenkamp family of Manhattan Beach, has hosted an annual
cookie decorating party for the past 40 years. Each year dozens of cookies
are baked to perfection in festive shapes to be decorated by “kids”
of all ages providing a special time to gather with family and get creative.
With seven grandkids under 12 and one on the way, the cookie decorating
tends to be a delightful mess of sticky fingers, little nibbles taken
out of gingerbread men and icing everywhere. The finished masterpieces
are sent home to be enjoyed. This year will likely look different with
each family unit decorating cookies at home and sharing photos on their
family Zoom. Find the recipe below!
While gatherings will be smaller this year, a tip to make them safer might
include having a buffet-style menu with one person appointed to serve
the food to allow for fewer people touching the same serving spoons. For
those for whom travel is not advisable, Zoom calls will likely fill a
void for not being able to celebrate the holidays in person. Holiday cards
will likely be a big deal this year with people wanting to connect through
photos, holiday letters and messages. And what about the mad rush of shoppers
buying presents? We’ll probably be doing a lot of that online.
Hard choices will have to be made by all of us this holiday season in order
to balance common sense during a pandemic with beloved holiday traditions,
for which compromises will likely need to be made. So what can you do
salvage the most wonderful time of year? Here are few ideas:
Noni’s Italian Walnut Shortbread Cookie Recipe
Recipe contributed by Aida Mollenkamp, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Salt
& Wind. | Visit
saltandwind.com for more holiday recipes.
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 pinch Sea salt
- 3/4 cup unrefined granulated sugar
- 8 ounces cold Earth’s Balance Buttery Sticks cut into small pieces
- 8 ounces (about 2 ½ cups) finely chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup canola oil, grapeseed or coconut oil
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons vanilla almond milk or favorite nut milk
- Frosting for decorating
- Turbinado or sanding sugar for decorating
- Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk
until well combined.
- Add the butter and walnuts and rub the butter between thumb and forefingers
to incorporate into flour mixture until butter is in lima bean-sized pieces
and rub into flour mixture until mixture forms pea-size pieces (some big
chunks should remain) and comes together in fist-sized clumps when squeezed,
about 1 minute.
- Make a well and add the oil, vanilla and almond milk and mix until the
dough comes together and is moist but not sticky.
- Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Scoop the dough into 1-Tablespoon balls and form into oblong cookies.
- Place at least 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and press a thumbprint
into the center of each cookie, about 1/2-inch deep.
- Heat oven to 375°F, arrange a rack in the middle and place cookies
in the fridge until the oven heats up, at least 10 minutes.
- Bake until cookies are golden brown on the bottom, about 12 to 15 minutes.
- Let cool at least 15 minutes before frosting.
- Frost and serve.