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Gathering to spread yuletide cheer

In the past few weeks, I've discovered the late fall mornings of Hays are a bit colder than those I was accustomed to in Missouri. But, despite the cold, December is a month that seems brings a certain warmth along with the below-freezing temperatures. Just thinking about a mug of hot chocolate or seeing a Christmas tree aglow in someone's window makes me feel cozy. Doubtless, the holidays have a lot to do with this unexpected warmth.

Almost everyone seems to have a favorite tradition associated with this time of year, whether it's hanging a special ornament, lighting an Advent wreath or watching "Frosty the Snowman" on television. For the past several years, my favorite holiday tradition is the annual baking day my siblings and I do together.

Baking day started about seven or eight years ago when my oldest sister decided to contribute some baked goods to our annual Christmas Eve celebration. Since then, my siblings and I gather every year for a day of confectionary fun. It just wouldn't seem like Christmas without my brother battling me for the responsibility of stirring the caramel or my sister icing 10 cookies in the time I can ice one. We laugh a lot, we eat a lot and we make new memories that encourage us to keep the tradition going.

Maybe it's because of my favorite tradition or maybe it's a sincere love for baked goods that inspired the upcoming Cookie Swap event. The Kansas Cooks! Cookie Swap will be at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in the Kansas Room of the Hays Public Library. All ages are invited to attend. Each person who attends the event is asked to bring his or her favorite variety of cookies as well as a copy of the recipe. Attendees will then swap cookies and have the opportunity to write down the recipes they like best. Please register for this event by calling the library at (785) 625-9014 or through the library's online calendar ks.evanced.info/hays/lib/eventcalendar.asp?ag=.

Amid the cookies, turkey dinners and parties it is also important to remember not everyone has the benefit of plenty of food over the holiday season. This is why the Hays Public Library will be doing a "Food for Fines" food drive until Dec. 14. During the first two weeks of December, the library will be accepting non-perishable foodstuffs in lieu of cash for late fines. Each canned good or non-perishable food item will forgive $1 in library fines.

Please note food items will not be accepted for library materials that are lost or damaged. If you don't have any library fines, there still will be an opportunity to give. Food drive boxes can be found near the public entrances to the library. Food items will be donated to Community Assistance Center of Hays.

In other news, Marla Matkin will be giving a "Christmas on the Frontier" program at 10 a.m. Dec. 17. Stop by the adult gallery for some yuletide cheer and to learn about how the pioneers might have celebrated Christmas more than 100 years ago. All ages are welcome.

The Kansas Room is located in the basement of the Hays Public Library and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Lucia Flaim is Kansas Room Librarian at the Hays Public Library.