Cakes of all shapes and sizes (including cookies) have been part of festive holiday rituals long before Christmas. Ancient cooks prepared sweet baked goods to mark significant occasions. Many of these recipes and ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, almonds and dried fruits were introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages and they were incorporated into European baked goods. Christmas cookies, as we know them today, trace their roots to these Medieval European recipes.
Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds and festive holiday decorations to America. Dutch New Year’s cookies were also sometimes molded into fancy shapes. German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas. Sugar cookie recipes descended from English traditions.
By the 1500s, Christmas cookies had caught on all over Europe. German families baked up pans of Lebkuchen and buttery Spritz cookies. Pepparkakor, spicy ginger and black-pepper cookies were favorites in Sweden…
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