History of Christmas Cookies

Cookie mania is here and it’s here to stay for December! Between holiday parties, cookie exchanges, and baking cookies for Santa, it’s fair to say we are a cookie crazed country this month. But how did certain cookies earn this unique title and when did the tradition start?

The first accounts of Christmas cookies in the United States are from Dutch traditions brought by immigrants. By the late 1800’s or early 20th century, trade laws relaxed and cookie cutters (along with other kitchen wares) began to be imported to the United States from Germany. Some of the first graphics to be depicted by these first cookie cutters were Christmas trees, candy canes, reindeers, holly, and of course, Santa!

Today, the most popular version of decorated Christmas cookies are sugar cookies. However, just about any cookie decorated with red and green, or cut by a holiday shaped cookie cutter counts as a Christmas cookie.

That being said, some flavors are more traditional than others and the types of cookies that are known as "Christmas cookies" vary around the world. Here are some fun cookie traditions from across the globe:

  • Gingerbread cookies were not originally associated with Christmas. They were actually famous all over Europe at the time of the crusades. While there are some theories on how this cookie became associated with Christmas, it’s mostly known for its roll in religious ceremony traditions.

  • Krumkakes are thin wafer-like cookies rolled into a cone and prevalent in Norway.

  • Pepparkakor cookies are thin gingersnap-type cookies cut into flowers or hearts found in Sweden.

  • Reposteria cookies are Mexican shortbread-like cookies that are lightly baked and coated in cinnamon sugar.

  • Springerle cookies are traditional Christmas cookies baked with anise in Scandinavia and Germany. They are typically baked into simple shapes such as a rectangle or triangle.

  • Sugar cookies are also known as Maish or Nazareth sugar cookies. The modern version of these cookies was created by the Moravians, who settled in the Nazareth area from Germany back in the mid 18th century. They may be a traditional part of Christmas, but they are enjoyed year around. Pennsylvania even adopted the Nazareth sugar cookies as it’s official state cookie in 2001.
If you’re baking Christmas cookies and looking for new recipes, check out our Christmas Cookies collection. It’s filled with delicious cookies perfect for the holiday.


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