Traditions Matter: It's Not Christmas Until Max's Coffee Cake is Ready

yourlifestorymatters Jan 18, 2021

We're happy to turn the

Don Ebberts

for his story,
"Traditions Matter: It's Not Christmas Until Max's Coffee Cake is Ready"
as part of the Your Life Story Matters Challenge 2020

I have had the same thing to eat, one day out of the year, (and, truth be told for a few days afterward, depending on how long the leftovers last!) every year of my entire life, that I can remember.
It is our special Max's Christmas Coffee Cake.
There is just something about it that says “It’s Christmas!”
It isn’t anything fancy, just some flour, sugar, (white and brown!), butter, buttermilk, dates, walnuts. When I make it, I leave the walnuts out. I like nuts, just not mixed in with other foods.
It takes a little effort to mix it all together since it’s a fairly dry mixture, so stirring can be a challenge. The effort is worth it because when I take a bite, I know it’s Christmas.
Just to check,  I have tried making it in March or April and it just doesn’t taste the same. It's our traditional Christmas cake, and that's it.
I was the first grandchild born into our family, so my grandparents, aunts and uncles, everyone, would come to our house for Christmas morning. I assume that was so that I and later my sisters could all have Christmas morning in our own house.
For breakfast we always had oven-broiled grapefruit halves, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, (runny or not runny, it was a constant debate in my family), and Christmas Coffee Cake, my mother’s coffee cake. We now call it Max’s Christmas Coffee Cake.
As my sisters and I got older, we started going to our Aunt and Uncle’s house, so their smaller kids could have Christmas morning in their own house. My Aunt would make the coffee cake following my mother’s recipe. There was usually plenty, so we got some to take home. If we didn’t my mother would make us one the next day.
My mother passed away in 1977 but we kept making it. After I got married and started having Christmas mornings with my family, my wife started making it or we went to another relative's house where they would have it.
Over the last few years, I have started making it. That’s when I realized I could leave out the nuts!
I regret never asking my mother where the recipe came from. It’s something that never even occurred to me until I started making it as an adult.
My mother was raised on a farm in Kansas with her three sisters, and I just assumed that it was a family recipe. When I finally got interested in the origin of this wonderful memory, I mean, recipe, I asked my mother’s surviving sisters and no one had ever heard of it before. So, it wasn’t an old family recipe.
I asked my aunts and uncles on my father’s side of the family. They were the ones who started making it after my mother passed, but they didn’t know the origin either. I never thought to ask my dad before he passed. He probably wouldn’t have had any idea anyway, he didn’t spend much time in the kitchen. He was the grill master.
Maybe it was something my mom found in Good Housekeeping or a similar magazine, or one of her friends or a neighbor gave her the recipe. I don’t think I will ever know.
Just for kicks, I tried Googling the ingredients, to see if anything comes up with that recipe and I get some that are close but nothing that is a match. I will probably never know and I am OK with that. I plan to continue to make it every Christmas and think about my mother.
It just isn't Christmas in the Ebberts family until Max's Christmas Coffee Cake is ready.

What signals a family tradition or holiday in your family?

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