by Susan Maunula from Calgary, Alberta
Our family is big on traditions, especially at Christmastime. One of my favourites is the baking of my mother’s famous “Christmas Tea Rings”, a wonderful wreath-shaped yeast bread that she baked every Christmas for as long as I can remember. My Mom loved to bake, and every December she would spend many days baking her special tea rings drizzling icing over them to look like snow and red and green cherries to resemble holly.
Most of the wreaths were given away in appreciation to family or folks in the community who had helped her out in some way. Many in our community of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia came to look forward to Mrs. Rogers’ Tea Rings. They were usually delivered on Christmas Eve and set aside to enjoy with Christmas morning coffee.
As the youngest of six kids, and the only daughter, I helped with the baking of these special breads, and much later, when I found myself living far from home, learned to bake them on my own.
So, for the past twenty years, I have carried on the tradition in Calgary. And on trips home to visit my elderly mother I have often made tea rings for her freezer, so that when Christmas came, my mother would still have tea rings to share. My own wreaths are given away to friends, colleagues, our pastor and surprised “strangers” who have done some random act of kindness through the year. The baking of that bread has kept my mother and I close in spirit even though we have spent many Christmases on opposite sides of the country.
My Mom died in the spring, after a long and happy life. I miss her a lot.
I baked the first of this year’s wreaths last Saturday. As I gathered all the familiar ingredients, followed my mother’s detailed instructions, kneaded the dough, and shaped the wreaths, it occurred to me that many of the lessons my mother taught me – to take time doing things worth doing, to share with others, to say thank you– were all rolled up in this simple act of baking Christmas bread.
No wonder it tastes so good.