Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall is set during the Great Depression in the United States and tells the story of a Jack who is helping his mother make cookies for the needy at their church. It's a sweet story about generosity and true Christmas giving. The author introduces some historic background on the tradition of baking Christmas cookies. Though embellished some to tell the story, it does include information about the known origins in the author's notes. It's a fun book to use as a starting point for finding out more about traditional Christmas cookies and the universality of Christmas cookies about the world.

Cakes of all shapes and sizes (including smaller items such as 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 (cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds, dried fruits etc.) were introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages. They were highly prized and quickly 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. German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas. Sugar cookie type recipes descended from English traditions. Did you know Animal crackers began as edible ornaments?

This is a fun opportunity to take a cultural culinary excursion this season with Christmas cookie recipes from around the world. Each different culture and country brings a different specialty to this fairly universal tradition of Christmas seasonal baking. There are many different varieties to choose from to suit many different tastes. Learn about the cookie traditions of your heritage or another of interest.

For some cultural Christmas cookie ideas you can look back to recent and past posts and also watch for some specific recipes to be posted. Enjoy the Christmas baking season!

Speculaas (German)
Diples (Greek)
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1 comment:

  1. I saw this book for the first time this year, and it is on our "wish list." It looks so cute, and I love finding out the meaning behind Christmas cookies! (I never knew =)

    Thanks for posting all the cookies from around the world. That is quite the list and so neat to see how other cultures celebrate.