As the day fades into the night on Christmas Eve, flour and laughter fills the kitchen. Hands reach over hands, kneading the soft dough, then rolling, rolling, rolling into balls for the next day. Raisins and sugar come next, and we nestle the balls, covered in the sugar, to rise for the night. The next morning we pop the bread into the oven and munch on it as we open presents, laughter filling the room yet again, this time accompanied by the warm smell of bread and the crinkle of wrapping paper.
In this time of year, family traditions start to appear. Whether someone bakes a family recipe, goes on a certain trip, or just spends time with family, traditions show up left and right in the holiday season. Traditions are comforting. It is a consistent event that happens every year—something that will never change.
For our family, making Monkey Bread has always been our Christmas tradition. My grandpa first started it when my mom was only old enough to toss flour around the kitchen. The tradition continued down through our family, all the way until I was helping my grandpa, and finally until my sister joined us. Of course our grandpa was watching over the whole production, running it all. The making of Monkey Bread has always been one of the highlights of the holidays for my family—something that makes us think in the middle of the summer, only five more months until we make Monkey Bread again!
My grandpa has always been one of the main reasons I love the holiday season. His presence with us, hilariousness, and general love made the holiday season the best time of the year. Even after he died a couple of years ago, the holiday season has little slivers of him weaved into it. Tradition brings him back. When I cook Monkey Bread it feels like he is standing next to me, correcting my mistakes, gently teasing me, loving me through and through.
My grandpa died only a couple of weeks before Christmas, and even though we were still going through the shock of his death, we hunkered down on Christmas Eve and made Monkey Bread. That day, it eased the pain that we had been going through. It showed us that it was okay, that life could go on, that his ideas and memories were still alive in us.
Next time you experience a tradition, think back to what or who started it. Was it your great-great-great-great ancestors, your religion or culture, your close family, or you? What does this tradition mean to you? Why do you do it? Do you have a tradition that means something to you? If so, please leave a note about it in the comments. I would love to hear about your traditions.
For me, tradition is sweet. It is a window back into good memories and into the lives of people I love. I can’t wait until it is time to make Monkey Bread again.
Note from the editors: Here is a link to a Monkey Bread recipe from King Arthur Flour. This is a very good flour company and their recipes are trustworthy. However, you do not have to buy their flour to make this recipe. Any unbleached white flour will work as well. This bread is leavened with yeast. Instant yeast that is called for in the King Arthur recipe is kind of dried yeast that can be added directly to the flour. It doesn’t have to be mixed with water first. To be honest, most dried yeast these days will work if you just add it to the dough. However, if you buy a yeast that suggests first mixing it with water, then do that. Compensate for the water you add for the yeast by adding less liquid from the recipe.