Christmas Cookies around the World

by Ann Stacey

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    Christmas and cookies go together. For weeks before Christmas the wonderful smells of sugar and spice come from kitchens around the world as cookies in all shapes and sizes are baked. What girl or boy is not delighted to help roll and cut the dough into stars, soldiers, reindeer, trees, and gingerbread men? And who can resist adding the extra touch of the raisin eyes, snow icing, or tiny candy decorations? Each fresh batch of colorful Christmas cookies adds to the excitement of the Christmas holidays.

    In Norway the goal of each fru (wife) is to have fourteen varieties of cookies on hand at Christmas, one representing each day of the holidays.

    In Holland December 5 is called Strewing Day. On this day St. Nicholas and his companion Black Peter visit every home in the Netherlands. Just before their expected arrival, a loud bell rings, a door opens, and Black Peter’s black-gloved hand reaches in and throws a handful of pepernoten (spicy cookies) across the floor for the children. This is the sign that St. Nicholas has arrived and will return later that night to leave presents for good boys and girls and a switch or a stone for naughty children.

    Lebkuchen is the well-known cookie of Germany. During Christmastime cookies can be bought in the open markets at the children’s fairs held early in December, where the aroma of lebkuchen mingles with sizzling sausages, salty pretzels, and other delicious foods.

    In Sweden gingerbread cookies are made in the shape of goats. Jultomten (Santa Claus) arrives on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by goats.

    The Danes are famous for their delicious pastries. At Christmas baking shifts into high gear as hundreds of thousands of klejner are baked to fill cookie jars throughout Denmark. Klejner is a sweet pastry cut into strips about four inches long, tied in a knot, deep-fried, and then dusted in powdered sugar.

    A cookie similar to the klejner is made in Italy and called struffoli. Here children and grown-ups dip them in thin honey and eat them with their fingers.

    Oplatek, a thin round waferlike cookie stamped with figures of the nativity scene, is the center of an interesting tradition in Poland. On Christmas Eve the father of the house breaks and shares an oplatek with each member of his family. The farmers even break cookies and share with their farm animals as a symbol of peace and goodwill to all on this holy night.

    Countries all around the world have their own Christmas traditions. Cookies are just one of the many things boys and girls around the world enjoy. Wouldn’t it be fun to start a collection of Christmas cookie recipes? You might even make one or more of them as the beginning of a Christmas tradition in your family.

    Chinese New Year Cookies

    6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

    6 oz. caramels

    3 oz. chinese noodles

    7 1/4 oz. salted peanuts

    Melt chocolate and caramel pieces over hot water. Stir in noodles and peanuts. Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper. Chill.

    Pepparkakor (Gingersnaps)

    1/2 cup molasses

    1 cup butter

    1/2 cup water

    2 cups sugar

    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon ginger

    1/2 teaspoon cloves

    2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (dissolved in cold water)

    5 cups flour

    Melt molasses and butter together in saucepan. Add water and sugar. Stir in spices and baking soda. Add flour and mix well. Roll dough 1/8″ thick on lightly floured surface. Cut in shapes with cookie cutter. Place 1″ apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375º for 5 to 6 minutes. Cool slightly and remove to rack.

    Quick Christmas Cookies

    1 cup soft butter or margarine

    1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

    1 teaspoon vanilla

    1/2 cup chopped candied cherries

    3/4 cup flaked or shredded coconut

    2 cups uncooked quick-cooking rolled oats


    Combine soft butter or margarine with sugar and beat until creamy. Stir in vanilla, cherries, coconut, and uncooked oats. Shape into balls and roll in chopped nutmeats. Chill and store in refrigerator.

    Shortbread Christmas Cutouts

    1 1/2 cups soft butter or margarine

    3/4 cup sugar

    3 1/3 cups flour

    cookie paint

    Preheat oven to 300º. In large mixing bowl, slowly mix butter, sugar, and flour, scraping bowl frequently. If dough does not hold together, add evaporated milk and work with hands. Chill dough, if necessary, to roll. Roll out 3/8″ thick. Cut with assorted cutters. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Decorate with cookie paint. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.

    Cookie paint: In small custard cups, tint small amounts of evaporated milk with food colors. Apply with small fine-tipped paintbrush.

    Magic Cookie Bars

    1 1/2 cups cornflake crumbs

    3 tablespoons sugar

    1/2 cup melted butter or margarine

    1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

    6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

    3 1/2 oz. flaked coconut

    15 oz. sweetened condensed milk

    Mix cornflake crumbs, sugar, and margarine in 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan. With back of tablespoon, press mixture evenly and firmly in bottom of pan to form crust. Sprinkle walnuts evenly over crust. Scatter chocolate chips over walnuts. Sprinkle coconut evenly over chocolate chips. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over coconut. Bake at 350º about 25 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool. Cut into bars.

    Mincemeat Surprise Cookies

    1 cup shortening

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 teaspoon vanilla

    1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

    2 well beaten eggs

    1 2/3 cups sifted flour

    3/4 teaspoon soda

    2 cups rolled oats

    2 cups mincemeat

    Combine shortening, salt, and vanilla. Add brown sugar and cream, well. Add beaten eggs and blend. Sift flour with soda and add to creamed mixture, blending well. Add rolled oats and mix thoroughly. Roll dough 1/8″ thick on floured board and cut with 2 1/2″ cookie cutter. Place 1 teaspoon mincemeat on a cookie and then place another cookie on top, pressing edges together. Seal with fork. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350º for 10 to 15 minutes.

    Neopolitan Squares

    20 crushed graham crackers

    1/4 cup brown sugar

    1 heaping tablespoon flour

    1/2 cup melted butter

    2 cups coconut

    15 oz. sweetened condensed milk

    Mix all together except coconut and milk. Spread in 9 x 9 pan and bake at 275º for 15 minutes.

    Mix coconut with sweetened condensed milk. Spread on above. Bake at 300º until slightly brown.

    Cool and ice with pink butter icing.

    Gingerbread Cookies

    1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

    1/3 cup butter, margarine, or shortening

    2/3 cup molasses

    1 unbeaten egg

    3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

    1 tablespoon baking powder

    1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg. Sift in flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt. Blend well. Chill 2 or more hours until firm enough to roll. Divide dough into fourths; work with one-fourth at a time, refrigerating the remainder. Roll out to desired thickness for various sizes and shapes of cookies. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350º for 5 to 7 minutes until firm. Let cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet.

    Scottish Fancies

    1 egg

    1/2 cup sugar

    2 teaspoons melted butter

    1 cup oatmeal

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    Beat egg until light and then add sugar and beat again. Stir in other ingredients. Arrange by teaspoonfuls 1 1/2″ apart on well-greased cookie sheet. Spread into round shapes with a knife dipped in cold water. Bake at 325º for about 10 minutes until light brown.


    1 egg

    3/4 cup brown sugar

    1/2 cup honey

    1/2 cup dark molasses

    3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

    1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon soda

    1/2 teaspoon cloves

    1/2 teaspoon allspice

    1 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg

    1/2 cup slivered almonds

    1/2 cup mixed candied fruits and peels

    Beat egg and then add sugar, beating until fluffy. Stir in honey and molasses. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in nuts, fruits, and peels. Chill 2–3 hours. Then roll 1/4″ thick on floured surface and cut in rectangles 3 1/2″ x 2″. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350º for about 12 minutes. Cool slightly and remove from pan. Decorate with cutouts or colored icing. Cover tightly until ready to serve.

    Russian Tea Cakes

    1 cup soft butter

    1 teaspoon vanilla

    1/2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

    2 1/4 cups sifted flour

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

    Mix butter, vanilla, and sugar. Sift and stir in flour and salt. Mix in nuts. Chill dough. Roll into 1″ balls. Place 2 1/2″ apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake until set but not brown. While still warm, roll in confectioner’s sugar. Cool. Roll in sugar again. Bake 10 to 12 minutes at 400º.

    Easy No-Bake Christmas Cookies

    2 cups sugar

    3 tablespoons cocoa

    1/2 cup milk

    1 square butter or margarine

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    3 cups rolled oats

    1 cup coconut

    1/2 cup nuts

    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Mix sugar and cocoa. Bring to boil milk, butter, and salt and stir into sugar and cocoa mixture. Add oatmeal, coconut, nuts, and vanilla. Mold into cookies. Chill and store in refrigerator.

    Swedish Heirloom Cookies

    1 cup butter or margarine

    1 cup confectioner’s sugar

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1 tablespoon water

    2 cups sifted flour

    Cream together butter, sugar and salt. Add water and blend in flour. Shape into balls or crescents, using 1 level tablespoon of dough for each cookie. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at 325º for 12 to 15 minutes. Do not brown. Roll in confectioner’s sugar while still warm.

    Illustrated by Julie Fuhriman