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Wed Dec 20, 2017, 10:02 AM

FSogol's Advent Calendar Day 20: The origin of Christmas Cookies

From wiki:

Modern Christmas cookies can trace their history to recipes from Medieval Europe biscuits, when many modern ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds and dried fruit were introduced into the west. By the 16th century Christmas biscuits had become popular across Europe, with Lebkuchen being favoured in Germany and pepparkakor in Sweden, while in Norway krumkake were popular.

The earliest examples of Christmas cookies in the United States were brought by the Dutch in the early 17th century. Due to a wide range of cheap imported products from Germany between 1871 and 1906 following a change to importation laws, cookie cutters became available in American markets. These imported cookie cutters often depicted highly stylised images with subjects designed to hang on Christmas trees. Due to the availability of these utensils, recipes began to appear in cookbooks designed to use them. In the early 20th century, U.S. merchants were also importing decorated Lebkuchen cookies from Germany to be used as presents.

In Canada and the United States, since the 1930s, children have left cookies and milk on a table for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, though many people simply consume the cookies themselves.* The cookies are often cut into such shapes as those of candy canes, reindeer, holly leaves, santa, tree, and maybe stars or angels.

* What? People eat the cookies left for Santa? C'mon Wikipedia, no one is crazy enough to mess with Santa.

Gingerbread has existed in some form since sugars and spices were brought back to Europe, from soldiers in the Crusades. However, it wasn't until Queen Victoria and Prince Albert included it with a variety of other German Christmas traditions** that the gingerbread cookies became primarily associated with Christmas.

Queen Elizabeth I is created with the creation of gingerbread men. She had her bakers make them in the shape of her favorite courtiers.

** German Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria is created with formalized much of America's Christmas traditions, cookies, trees, family dinners, opening of presents on Christmas morning. They were mention in my thread about Christmas trees earlier in the month. https://upload.democraticunderground.com/10181016351

Some popular Christmas cookies from around the world:

Bredala are Christmas cookies in Alsatian cuisine of France

Fattigmannis traditional cookie which dates from the Middle ages in Norway, Fattigmann cookies are deep fried in unsalted fat.

Krumkaker are traditional cookies from Norway. They were originally baked over open fires using decorative irons; however modern cooks use electric or stovetop irons to bake these wafer-thin biscuits. Krumkaker owe their name, which means "bent cake" or "twisted cake", to the fact that they are wrapped in a cone shape.

Pepparkakor are crisp, thin gingersnap biscuits from Sweden, traditionally cut out in flower and heart shapes

Pfeffernüsse originate in Scandinavia and date from medieval times when spices were used exclusively in holiday baking.

Repostería is a Mexican type of shortbread-like cookie that's lightly baked and dipped into a cinnamon sugar blend until the cinnamon sugar surrounds the cookie. These are often served with coffee or hot spiced Mexican chocolate.

Sandbakelse are sugar cookies from nineteenth century Norway. The dough is pressed into tins, and then baked in an oven.

Sugar cookies, Also called Amish sugar cookies or Nazareth sugar cookies, the modern sugar cookie was created by the Moravians, who settled in the Nazareth area from Germany during the mid-18th century. Pennsylvania adopted the Nazareth sugar cookie as the official state cookie in 2001

Springerle have been traditional Christmas cookies in south Germany (Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) and Austria for centuries. They are anise-flavored cookies made from an egg-flour-sugar dough. They are usually made in simple shapes, such as rectangles or circles.After shaping, they usually have a picture or design pressed into the soft dough with specially carved rolling pins or presses. After they are baked, the designs are sometimes colored if the intention is to use the cookies as decorations.

Springerle are the type of cookies that would have 1st appeared in colonial America. Bakers used carved wooden molds to make the impressions. Families would often paint and hang these on their tree (usually just an evergreen branch). They typically showed the nativity or baby Jesus.


What about Christmas Cookies Exchanges?

The Wellesley Cookie Exchange made this practice of swapping home made cookies among participants famous, but they didn't "invent" the idea. Our survey of historic USA newspapers confirms cookie exchanges (cookie swaps, cookie trades, cooky exchanges) first surface during WWI. They were not necessarily connected with Christmas. Some early print references suggest they might have been fund raising bake sales rather than cookie-for-cookie exchanges. This is an excellent example of how some words & phrases mean different things in different times. Newspapers confirm cookie swaps, as we know them today, were recognized as a "rising trend" in the early 1960s.

http://www.foodtimeline.org/christmasfood.html#cookies has a newspaper ad for a Christmas Cookie Exchange in 1917.

And lastly a Smithsonian article on how to not ruin your Christmas Cookies. Nobody really uses margarine anymore, do they?

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Reply FSogol's Advent Calendar Day 20: The origin of Christmas Cookies (Original post)
FSogol Dec 2017 OP
DarthDem Dec 2017 #1
FSogol Dec 2017 #2
DarthDem Dec 2017 #4
FSogol Dec 2017 #6
FSogol Dec 2017 #3
DarthDem Dec 2017 #5

Response to FSogol (Original post)

Wed Dec 20, 2017, 12:06 PM

1. Great Post!

Thanks for doing these; as a Christmas junkie, I've been enjoying them immensely.

How did Prince Albert introduce so many modern-day Christmas traditions to the U.S.?

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Response to DarthDem (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 20, 2017, 12:13 PM

2. He was German and followed a lot of German Christmas traditions. After he and Queen Victoria

added a Christmas tree and decorated the palace in 1840, it caught on and became fashionable. Trees, holiday parties (beyond family get-togethers), cookies, and decorations all took off. Early Americans were puritanical and frowned on celebrations (they even passed laws against Christmas), so it was up to German immigrants to promote Christmas here.

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Response to FSogol (Reply #2)

Wed Dec 20, 2017, 12:51 PM

4. Ah, I See

I didn't know there was a REAL "War on Christmas" here back then. Thanks to the Germans and Albert, then! Another thing that gives us great joy is British TV, and the first season of the ITV series "Victoria" was a lot of fun with a great portrayal of Albert by Tom Hughes. I don't recall any Christmas celebrations or mentions but will watch for them in the second season, which is out soon.

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Response to DarthDem (Reply #4)

Wed Dec 20, 2017, 01:00 PM

6. There was an actual war on Christmas where Nazi PR tried to repurpose Christmas as a Nazi Holiday.*

* Kind of like RW groups do

I felt it too depressing for my advent calendar. Article with picture of Nazi Christmas ornaments here.


Albert and Victoria's Christmas tree is mentioned in the movie, 'The Man who Invented Christmas.' It's about Charles Dickens and based on the Les Standiford book of the same title.

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Response to DarthDem (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 20, 2017, 12:14 PM

3. Thanks for the kinds words. I've been having fun researching, reading, and rereading these stories.

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Response to FSogol (Reply #3)

Wed Dec 20, 2017, 12:52 PM

5. Oh, You're Very Welcome

I've read every one and really appreciate your thorough research on a topic I enjoy so much!

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