All this baking was in preparation for our annual Winter Solstice Party. I know it looks like a lot, but can you believe I took this photo before I was done setting up the table? Crazy, I know. It was getting dark as I set up the table, and I wanted to get a few good photos before they got all grainy and had weird coloring to them. This pile of cookies, bundt cakes and coffee cakes should explain why I was absent from blogging last week. It does, doesn’t it? I was elbow deep in dough all week long, and I like it that way. Each year I intentionally set aside the second week in December for holiday bakery. I enjoy baking so much (my gift to me!) and it’s a Holiday Gift that seemingly everyone enjoys being the recipient of.We invite friends in for dessert, coffee, champagne and my Aunt Judy’s homemade eggnog each year on the second Saturday night of December. I’ve been doing a rendition of this St. Lucia’s Day ‘cookie party’ practically every year since I moved to New York City in 1999. I think I skipped 2001 (for obvious reasons) and 2010 (no kitchen in Connecticut yet – I baked in the City but didn’t throw a party) but other than that it has been a tradition of mine.It’s the biggest party I throw each year. I always called it a St. Lucia Party because December 13th was thought to be the shortest day of the year – the darkest day – the celebration is centered on the struggle between light and darkness. It coincides with the Winter Solstice, which is just 8 days later. (Many say before the shift in the calendar that the two were the same.) I am not religious, but do love baking and sparkly, colorful, glittery Christmas Decorations so this seemed like the right event for me to celebrate and throw a party for during the holiday season. As I said last week, there is something so hopeful when you think about the fact that each day from here on out will become lighter and brighter – it’s only getting better from here.In Connecticut we ended up with Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish friends – straight from their home countries – and I realized when they asked if we celebrate the tradition of Lussevaka (This means to stay awake through the Lussinatt to guard the household against evil – AKA – to throw a party until daybreak!) I was a little out of my league calling it a ‘St. Lucia’s Party.’ My parties never made it that late in the night! However, we always call for arrival at 8pm, so that is a pretty good start. Let’s just call it the Americanized version of a St. Lucia’s celebration. This is such a great way to entertain. There are no dirty dishes laying about. I have no worry about over cooking dinner or burning dessert while I’m also simultaneously serving appetizers and providing cocktails. All the mess is made and work is complete well before the guests arrive so you can truly enjoy their visit. Not to mention, everyone fills themselves a box of ‘to-go’ of cookies on their way out the door – what better party favor could you ask for?Each year I try to re-imagine our Christmas Decorations in a new way. I make an effort to display the cookies in a different way as well. Not only do I have a fun time thinking creatively this way, but it also gives our party guests something fun and exciting to look at. I say this because they always express how they enjoy seeing how different it is each year.You’ll see from the photos that I basically make the same four Christmas cookie recipes, pumpkin bread, and two coffee cake recipes each year. This year, I also added an eggnog cake. It was an easy recipe that tasted amazing, so I will certainly keep it on the menu for years to come. (I’ll share the recipe with you in a separate post!)I set up four separate bars in the kitchen and encourage our guests to help themselves. We had a tea and coffee station, an eggnog bar cart, a flat and flavored fizzy water area, and a champagne set-up. In years past I have combined the bar into one space, but there tends to be a back up of people waiting in line for drinks and have found giving each drink their own space improves the flow of the party.It was a wonderfully snowy evening on Saturday and I half-expected that we’d end up being the only guests at the party. Thankfully our friends are of hearty stock and were good sports about braving the bad weather. Now that the party is behind us, I am spending this morning making tins of cookies to mail out to loved ones this afternoon.I have some Christmas Gifts to wrap and will head into New York City this afternoon to do a bit more shopping before we head to Michigan. We’ll spend Christmastime with my Family and visit with the Mister’s Auntie, Uncle, and Cousins. I hope that your holiday preparations are going along beautifully – I’ll check in again later this week after I brave the post office.