Our years are punctuated by holidays. Holidays keep us going; they give us something to look forward to and something to look back at. Holidays are memory makers. They are full of tradition, and tradition is often tied to special foods, most of the time, baked treats.

When I reflect on my history of holiday baking, I feel very grateful for my simple Finnish heritage based on immigrant cuisine. Holidays didn't have to be ten thousand things on the table. One or two fine specialties were enough. Usually there was a bread, but often there were cookies, and maybe a cake, too. At Christmastime we baked Pulla, perhaps a Swedish Tea Ring or Finnish Prune Tarts, and some butter cookies. Around Easter, there was always a symbolic braided bread wreath with eggs, and a seasonal sweet, such as a strawberry pie.

As I grew up, I met people who weren't Finnish or even Scandinavian, and found that for special occasions they baked specialties that were far more elaborate than what I had known. This was exciting! Soon I had added volumes of cakes, pastries, breads and cookies to my repertoire. After the examples from friends came the inspiration for the world of cookbooks. I love the fact that whatever your heritage, whatever the occasion, there are a multitude of baked goods, either traditional or innovative, that make the holiday memorable and special.

Beatrice Ojakangas lives in Duluth and is the author of 29 cookbooks. Her latest book, "Homemade" is a memoir of her life and career with recipes. beatrice-ojakangas.com
Editor's Note: This excerpt from Beatrice Ojakangas' "Great Holiday Baking Book" is reprinted with permission. © 1994 by Beatrice Ojakangas. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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