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Allan Klassen savours one of Renata Klassen’s fresh Christmas peppernuts. (MCC Photo/Chai Bouphaphanh)

Allan Klassen savours one of Renata Klassen’s fresh Christmas peppernuts. (MCC Photo/Chai Bouphaphanh)

Snowflakes, peppernuts and family values

Gladys Terichow
December 14, 2011

SASKATOON, Sask. – When the first snowflakes flutter to the ground, Renata Klassen heads to her kitchen to bake peppernut cookies – a tradition that was started by Renata’s mother many years ago.

Her seven grandchildren, ages eight to 18, often call when they see their first snowflakes to ask if she has started baking the small spice cookie she makes only between the first snowfall and Christmas.

“Two weeks ago, we got about 15 snowflakes and I said, ‘OK, the phone will ring any minute now,’ and it did,” said Renata. “I expect the phone to ring and it inevitably does.”

Renata said she is a strong advocate of being intentional about creating and maintaining family traditions as a way to model and pass down family values. That’s why she and her husband, Allan, along with their three grown children, started a new Christmas tradition in 2001 that reflects the family’s longstanding support for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

As part of their Christmas gift giving traditions, the multigenerational family now supports three jointly held Global Family education sponsorships that provide learning opportunities in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Global Family, MCC’s education sponsorship program, makes education accessible for children and youth through helping community-based organizations deliver and maintain quality educational programs.

“It instills the idea that Christmas gift-giving is not just about us,” said Allan. “That is the big problem we have in our society. This is one way that we can counteract that.”

The couple, both retired educators, said enabling people to get an education gives families and communities the opportunity for a better future. Renata was a teacher, and Allan was a professor in the University of Saskatoon agriculture program.

“This is a program that helps people change their lives,” said Renata. “Education makes a long-term difference in the lives of people.” Allan added: “Once you get an education, nobody can take it away from you.”

They also appreciate the opportunity to use education sponsorships as a way to open doors for multigenerational discussions about MCC, the issues that are being addressed through MCC-supported programs and alternative gift giving.

“The next generation is not as familiar with MCC as we are,” said Renata, who grew up hearing stories of how MCC helped families in Ukraine in the 1920s. “We want our grandchildren to learn about MCC and what MCC is doing around the world. This is a way to make it real,” said Allan.

Reflecting on the values of traditions, Renata explained that traditions are important because they “are a way for the next generation to remember what we did together.”

“Our grandchildren will probably tell their children that as soon as it snows, it is a family tradition, you have to make peppernuts,” said Renata. “And I’m hoping when our grandkids have grown up, they will also say, ‘and we always support Global Family at Christmas.’”

Visit for more information about sponsorships.

Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ