The secret ingredient to the recipe used in the Page family’s 20-year-old cookie day tradition isn’t found in the sugar cookie dough or even the frosting but in the family itself.
One ingredient important to the family was the guardian of the recipe, Rosie Page, who died Aug. 15.
"We know she is in a better place," said Rita Page Reid, Page’s niece who helped start the tradition in her Henderson house. "She is looking down on us saying, ‘Those cookies are too thick,’ or, ‘Don’t let them burn.’ "
The family gathered in her honor Dec. 10 for its annual cookie day extravaganza.
Page had already fought a 10-year battle with breast cancer when she was diagnosed with l eukemia in June.
"She was a fighter," Reid said. "She never missed a cookie day once."
After she died, the family knew the tradition must continue without her.
"We weren’t drinking," Reid said, "but we made a toast to Rosie, raising our spatulas, cookies or whatever we had in our hand at the time. We said a little prayer for her, too."
As usual, the family set up shop in the kitchen, making dozens upon dozens of batches of the special recipe.
In the background, videos of past cookie days played, causing the family members to laugh and at times wince as they cut out and frosted princess crowns, Christmas trees, stars and breast cancer ribbons.
Also in Page’s honor, the family set up a special tree for the occasion. Pink ornaments, signifying breast cancer, dangled from the branches alongside pink roses and butterfly cut outs, two of Page’s favorite things.
Propped up at the top of the tree was a photo of Page, the family’s angel, eating a cookie.
"It has been an emotional day," Reid said. "But we are getting through it."
As the family mourned Page’s absence, it also celebrated the first cookie day for baby Rosie, who was born Oct. 13 and named for the aunt.
The cookie day tradition started in 1991 after Reid and her husband purchased their home in Henderson.
Because family members were beginning to scatter across the v alley, they decided to have an event that brought together the five youngest cousins — Matthew Ware, Sarah Burdett, Melissa Page, Monika Havens and Anthony Ozuna — from three branches of the family .
"We wanted the cousins to stay connected," Reid said.
Before the first cookie day, Page was known for baking batches of her special sugar cookies as Christmas gifts for family and friends .
"People would look forward to them all year," Reid said.
After she died and family members had to go through her box of important papers , they made an interesting discovery.
"On the top of all the important papers was the cookie recipe," said Christina Ozuna, who married into the family. "It was that important to her that she kept it there."
It was Page who decided at the first gathering that she would bequeath her cookie recipe to her nieces and nephews.
After a while, a simple baking day became an annual tradition . This year marked the 20th anniversary.
"But it means more than just cookies," Anthony Ozuna said.
The event has helped the family members form a bond that brings them back every year.
"I don’t know about everyone else, but people are shocked when I say how close I am with my cousins," Havens said.
Christina Ozuna has been a part of the tradition for 15 years .
"It was a great way to get to know everyone," she said. "It is a beautiful way to embrace a new family member."
Even as family members have moved away , they make a point to come back, not just for the holidays but for cookie day, too.
"I think everyone is here," Reid said.
Reid said people who thought they couldn’t come because of scheduling conflicts decided to rearrange their plans to be at the event.
"We had one family member who lives in Reno who said she couldn’t be here," Reid said. "She drove in last night to surprise us."
No matter the future, the family members said cookie day will remain a tradition.
"I couldn’t imagine people breaking off and starting cookie day somewhere else," Havens said. "Cookie day stays here."
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-5201.