By Lisa Whaley

I have been in search of a magic cookie – a magic cookie bar, to be more precise.

Now, we are not talking about any magic cookie bar recipe. The internet is full of those. Trust me, I think I have pulled up each and every one.

No, the cookie recipe I am seeking has very precise components — a graham cracker base, a vanilla layer, nuts and a rich chocolatey layer. It may or may not have coconut. I’m not sure.

But I know it tastes like home. My mother served these up during my childhood Christmases – late ‘60s to early ‘70s. One bite, and I am convinced I will be transported back to Christmas in a little white house, colored lights on the tree and Perry Como, Andy Williams or Bing Crosby playing on the cabinet stereo while my little brother and I squeezed and shook every package piled beneath the tree.

As I get older, I find myself becoming more nostalgic — not just about Christmas cookies or even holiday music (I’ve always favored the classics), but anything that brings me back to past Christmas memories and traditions.

We all have them. Some families, for example, open their presents on Christmas Eve; others on Christmas Day. We have always been a Christmas Day kind of family, though we do open one small gift each on Christmas Eve.

We always had turkey, both for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mother was a wonderful cook, and I have tried to duplicate her skill.

But the one thing I seem to be unable to convince anyone of is the need to resurrect her strawberry holiday gelatin mold she served each year. Perhaps it’s the word “gelatin.”

It has Cool Whip, frozen strawberries (thawed, of course), strawberry gelatin and nuts. It went on the table with the main meal and we gobbled it up next to our turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. The one time I tried to serve it to my husband’s family, they all looked at it suspiciously, placed it on the dessert table and politely took a spoonful as if they weren’t quite sure what to do with it.

Some traditions are like that. It apparently didn’t speak to them like it did to me. I haven’t tried it again. But that’s OK, because the beautiful thing about family traditions is they continue to grow and adapt. Gelatin salad has been replaced as a holiday must-have by my mother-in-law’s oyster dressing that we all fight over each year, trying not to be greedy but quickly throwing a couple of extra spoonfuls in our to-go container as we get ready to head home each year.

I guess the thing that struck me the most in my cookie hunt this year was that the recipe, the musical selection or even the opening of the presents really holds little significance during our holiday season. What matters now, and what has always mattered, is the family with whom we celebrate. That adds just the right spice to create the perfect holiday.

So hold each other tight this holiday season. And if you see someone with no one to hold, reach out and draw them into your circle.

Merry Christmas!