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Piecing together Christmas traditions

My family has a small collection of Christmas puzzles. On snowy days, you'll find my mother at the dining room table piecing together one of these puzzles with the radio tuned to the local morning show and a cup of tea by her side.

We've had these puzzles for years and, consequently, all of us kids have helped put them together a time or two. It's a sort of Christmas tradition I take for granted.

My favorite Christmas puzzle depicts a collage of Christmas cookies. The puzzle is more than 600 pieces, and there are dozens of cookies to piece together, each one different. In spite of the missing pieces, this puzzle is my favorite for one simple reason: It was the first "grown-up" puzzle I ever put together on my own. I remember jumping off the school bus, running down the driveway and working on the puzzle in the basement in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Through the years, I've completed the puzzle several times and those cookie images are burned into my brain: a perfectly glazed Santa, pink stars with silver sprinkles and a gingerbread train. It doesn't matter the variety, the shape, the sprinkles or the color -- there is something special about Christmas cookies. There is no other time of the year when people take the time to mix, roll, cut out, bake and decorate cookies with such care as at Christmas time.

As such, I am proud to announce the second annual Christmas Cookie Swap to be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Kansas Room at Hays Public Library. The cookie swap is part of the Kansas Cooks! series, which is offered on a quarterly basis. To participate please bring one batch of your favorite Christmas cookies and one copy of your recipe. Registration is preferred but not required. To register, please visit the library's online calendar at www.hayspublib.org or call (785) 625-6014.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, I am also offering a Christmas-infused team trivia night at 5 p.m. Dec. 14. Ten rounds of trivia will be played with 10 questions in each round. As always, the categories vary, but this time there will several rounds of Christmas-themed trivia included. Pizza and prizes will be provided. Registration is encouraged, but not required.

Do you have any library fines? If so, now is the time to eliminate them. For the second year in a row, the library is hosting Food for Fines. One dollar of late fines will be forgiven for every non-perishable food item you bring to the library. Please note that this does not apply toward lost or damaged items. All food items will be donated to the Community Assistance Center.

Finally, what would the holiday season be without a cup of good cheer? In this case, beer of good cheer! I am pleased to welcome back Clayton Cutting who led last month's very successful wine-tasting event. At 6 p.m. Dec. 20, Cutting will lead participants through the wonderful world of tasting craft beer.

The event is free to the public and includes 10 beer samples, light refreshments and a complimentary brew pub glass. Reservations are limited. If you would like to attend this festive event, please contact me directly at (785) 625-9014 or email lbain@hayspublib.org. You must be 21 to attend this event. Before 2013 draws to a close, please let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy new year.

The Kansas Room is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m Tuesday through Friday and by request.

Lucia Bain is Kansas Room librarian at Hays Public Library.