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The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall, a Christmas Story About the Magic of Giving

Updated on March 1, 2023
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Carolyn writes about children's literature for library, preschool, and homeschool settings. She has a BA in English literature.

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by Debrah Chabrian
The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by Debrah Chabrian

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie Story Summary

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall is a realistic Christian fiction story set during the Depression-Era 1930s. Jack and his mother face a pained separation from a beloved husband and father when he hops a train west to find work to support his family. For months, the separation weighs upon the mother and her son while they make do with very little money, cutting back on all but the necessities while they save everything in a cookie jar in the kitchen. Cookies are a special occasion treat and they've been a missing part of the loving family atmosphere since Jack's father went away.

On Christmas Eve Jack comes home to the wonderful smell of licorice (anise) and sweet bread, and he rejoices to think that his mother is making cookies for them, but she apologetically explains that THESE cookies are for the needy at church.

"Jack tried to hide his dissapointment. He had been feeling pretty needy himself lately ."

Jack's mother instructs him to unpack the cookie boards, old-fashioned molds shaped like nativity figures. As he helps his mother make the cookies, she explains that Christmas cookies like these were originally made in the Old Country to share the story of Jesus' Birth with hungry peasants.

On Christmas Day Jack's mother rewards him with the largest cookie, an angel that Jack "could make last an entire week." He cherishes the cookie, but his heart leaps when he hears a knock at the door. He and his mother both hope that it is his father who has arrived to celebrate the Christmas holiday, so they are dissapointed when they see a hungry beggar standing in the doorway. But Jack's mother has compassion on the man and offers to share their breakfast.

I will let you read the rest of the story to find out if Jack's father comes home, and to know what happens to the angel-shaped Christmas cookie. This story will have your heart leaping into your throat. I am a bit sentimental but I love a good story like this for Christmastime.

Making Christmas cookies to share is an important tradition in many families.
Making Christmas cookies to share is an important tradition in many families.


  • Christian Christmas
  • Giving
  • Sacrifice
  • Family
  • Birth of Christ
  • Christmas Traditions

Why This Book Is A Favorite

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie tugged my heart in several directions, all of them positive, and left me with a desire to keep our own family's tradition of giving cookies and baked goods to our neighbors and friends.

This story presents appealing characters that we can relate to. Nobody wants to be separated from their family at Christmastime. And during times of financial hardship, our desire to draw close to our loved ones increases dramatically. I related closely with Jack and his Mother, who were trying their hardest to do the right thing even during a time of financial stress.

I loved the gentle, motherly wisdom displayed by Jack's mother, but I like the way that the author Dandi Mackall subtley humanized her by admitting that she was a little disappointed too when the beggar shows up at the door instead of her dearly missed husband.

This book shows a struggling family drawing strength from each other and holding to values that keep them centered in their faith. As the mother gently tells her son the story of the origin of the Christmas cookies called Springerle that originate in Germany, the author also reminds the reader that generations of people have endured difficult times, only to look to the beautiful promise of the Savior and His birth for comfort and strength.

The story ends abruptly, without showing the result of Jack's decision. The gift of the Christmas cookie is the main point of this story, and not the way the gift was received. The lesson of this book is clear, it is far better to give than to receive. This is a timely message for Christmas celebrations, and sharing the sweet message of this book with your family before you do some of your own baking and cookie decorating can be a wonderful way to bring a holiday spirit into an already wonderful Christmas tradition.

Artwork by Deborah Chabrian

Deborah Chabrian's beautiful watercolor images bring this story to life and give the story a nostalgic feeling. Chabrian depicts a simple home and kitchen filled with baking tools. The cover image of the book shows a red and white checkered flour sack towel strewn across a well-worn farm-style tabletop with a wooden rolling pin, ceramic mixing bowl, and a flower sifter with a worn, red handle and yellow, red, and blue painted flowers. Metal measuring spoons and cups filled with flour show a little bit of a mess and a red and white ceramic plate topped with warm-hued angel-shaped cookies, bathed in golden light, make this book an enticing visual treat.

Debrah Chabrian's watercolor images contrast the cold, impersonal world of her Depression-era hometown, perhaps somewhere in the Midwest, blanketed by blue-white snow and buried under the soot-filled smoke of a black locomotive with the warmth of Jack and his mother's spare, but inviting kitchen. Make sure to spend a little extra time gazing at the details in these marvelous illustrations. You'll find Jack's drawings on a wall and paper snowflakes in the kitchen windows.

Each page blends Christmassy reds with rich pine-colored greens. Jack's mother's red, white, and green Christmas apron features prominently in the illustrations, visually reminding us that Jack's mother anchors her family to the Christmas traditions that help bring the Christmas Spirit that finally dispells the mood of the family's somber circumstances.

Chabrian is an award-winning watercolor artist whose still life pictures focus on home and hearth, food and family. On her personal web site, she states that her inspirations were Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and Janet Fish.

Read This Next

Christmas Cookies, Bite-Sized Lessons
Christmas Cookies, Bite-Sized Lessons

© 2010 Carolyn Augustine


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