Ginger Funny Faces and Memories

I love traditions and the way they ground us. The Advent traditions from our childhood have been added to, tweaked and tucked to make them a perfect fit for our own family. Baking is a big one. 

Any time we visited Oma during Advent and Christmas, she had a plate of baking on the ready. They were always special treats, not the ones she would serve any other time of year. The plate would be deftly arranged with a variety of made-from-scratch sweet things, from candied nuts to pressed cookies, thumbprints and shortbread, decorated Christmas trees with lots of icing and sprinkles, and ginger funny-faces. 

We would sit down with milk while she had her coffee, and listen to stories or tell her our own. These are precious memories. The gift of hospitality and conversation is so often anchored in food.  

We made a huge variety of Christmas cookies at home, too. With a family of 8 who was always hosting people, we made sure to bake in bulk. There were ice cream pails of each kind, and we proudly shared them with guests and nibbled on them over Christmas movies and milk… sometimes even hot chocolate or ginger ale. 

When I married, I asked for copies of all the recipes for my first Christmas. We packed pretty  baskets full of baking and drove them to Oregon with us to give to Jim’s family, and I felt like I had come into my own in a new way. 

I’ve since baked an abundance of things with my own children each year, sharing with guests or taking them to gatherings. Food says so much, especially when it is crafted with love and care.
When Oma passed away, I asked if I could have her recipe box, and I was honoured to be given it. Everyone had copies of the recipes, of course, but these were in her beautiful cursive or blocky printing, or were recipe cards she’d created with her typewriter. They had her spelling mistakes - English was her second language after German, after all - and are worn on the edges; some are faded or have bits of spattered ingredients or smudges here and there. And they are absolutely precious. When I pull one out, I am filled with memories that reach back into the fabric of who I am, and how I became who I am. 

Ginger Funny Faces

Here is Oma’s recipe for Ginger Funny Faces. They expand quite a bit, so do give them space in the pan. And don’t over bake - 12 minutes will seem very soft when you pull them out of the oven but they firm up with cooling. Longer will give you a crunchy cookie, if you like. 

Bake at 350F for 12 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


2 cups sifted flour

3/4 cup shortening (I use lard)

1 tbsp. ground ginger

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

1 egg, unbeaten

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup molasses

1/2 tsp. salt


Granulated Sugar


Maraschino Cherries

Measure flour, ginger, soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Cream lard until soft, and gradually add sugar, creaming after each addition until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses: sift in dry ingredients and blend well.

Form teaspoons of dough into balls and roll in sugar. Press in raisins for eyes and maraschino cherry strips for the mouth.

Bake on parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets for 12 minutes. Tops will be slightly rounded and crackly. Remove at once from cookie sheets and let cool. 

Store in airtight container.