A Glimpse Inside One of Martha's Famous Holiday Cookie Parties
Come December, Martha's Bedford farm is everyone's favorite home for the holidays. Trees light up each corner, cups brim with her famous eggnog, and cookies are stacked as high as the crowd's spirits.
On a brisk winter afternoon last December, Martha's Bedford farm buzzed with warm laughter, delicious drinks, and enough cookies to feed an entire production of The Nutcracker. "I've been throwing holiday parties since about 1980, when I was living in Westport, Connecticut, and writing my first book, Entertaining," says Martha. "It's a great way to see a lot of people in a friendly atmosphere." She loves to make the classics that always please a crowd, and throw in some new surprises.
Her guest list has grown to more than a hundred attendees, who are all invited to stroll the property. (This year she'll be celebrating more quietly.) "We decorate three homes on the farm, which makes it easier to accommodate everyone," she explains. Revelers greet old friends and meet new ones, and enjoy a different scene in each setting. Many start at the main house to fill their glasses with punch or Martha's epic eggnog. Little ones and big ones alike look forward to scampering down the stone path to the tenant house, where her daughter, Alexis, and the grandkids stay. There, they'll find faux woodland creatures, whimsical trees, and towers of colorful cookies. Others head to the summer house, where they're greeted by soft music (and sometimes live caroling!), and encouraged to slip treats into bags to take home. "When I was growing up, we made hundreds with my mother every year," Martha says. "Many, like the Noël nut balls, still make appearances, and disappear fast."
To bake enough cookies for her open house, she cranks up her professional sheeter, a recent Christmas present to herself that flattens dough balls evenly and saves hours of hand-rolling. "My food editors help me cut, bake, and decorate them," says Martha, who plans out the afternoon and the menu so that she, too, can relax and catch up with guests. And after the last merrymaker has left, she steps into the tenant house for a bite of an extra-large sugar confection—a little ritual you could call the icing on the cookie. "We always decorate sugar cookies in different colors," Martha says. "This time, we did white, gold, and silver." They vary in size as well—some are as small as coins; others measure seven inches across.
Food styling by Jessie Damuck and Molly Wenk; prop styling by Tanya Graff.
Set to Fête
Martha, with her close friends Kevin Sharkey and photographer Douglas Friedman, is all set to fête.
Pine Cones, Galore
Comfort and Joy
Books editor Susanne Ruppert warms up by the outdoor fire with her husband, David Caplan.
Sugar-cookie wreaths are sprinkled with ground Sicilian pistachios and silver and gold chocolate pearls.
Martha's nieces and nephews huddle in with their families.
Strike a Pose
Martha and her longtime pal and publicist, Susan Magrino, pose in their holiday best.
Darcy & Co.
Martha Stewart Weddings editor at large Darcy Miller with her daughter Ella, niece Emma, and sister Jenny Symonds.
Kevin chats with Martha's granddaughter, Jude, in the kitchen.
Fun For All
The tenant house is cookie-palooza for the underage crowd. "We go all out for the children, creating landscapes with dozens of varieties," says Martha.
A tree bedecked in new and vintage ornaments anchors the woodland theme, and stacks of sweets, like Alexis's brown-sugar chocolate-chip cookies, four-ingredient sables bretons, bourbon-spiked Noël nut balls, raspberry-and apricot-jam-filled pecan linzers, and chocolate-dipped gingerbread reindeer, abound. "Many of these are classic sugar or gingerbread cookies from our archives, but we get creative and try new decorating techniques," says food director Sarah Carey.
Martha's Bedford neighbors, Dolores and Merril Halpern and Muffin Dowdle, join in the festivities.
Pretty in Pink
A metallic pink tree casts a warm glow in the winter house: "I love to put it in a formal room, because it glistens so beautifully," Martha says.
Friends Gather Round
Former video executive producer and longtime friend Lisa Wagner enjoys the fresh air with her husband and son.
Editor in Chief
Living editor in chief Elizabeth Graves arrives with husband Jeff Young and son James.
Gingerbread foxes and raccoons are embellished with tinted royal icing and nonpareils.
Sharing with Truman
Kevin shares a bite with Martha's grandson, Truman.