There was a time that I went to Christmas cookie exchanges every year. It was so much fun. You make a big batch of two or three kinds of cookies, then everyone goes around the table and fills their tray with a variety of sweet treats – for the family and to share with friends and neighbors. I miss doing that.
But I still like to bake cookies to share.
These little treats have been around for centuries! The word cookie comes from the Dutch word, “koekie”, which means little cake. Most of the original cookies weren’t as sweet as our modern versions because sugar was more of a luxury than a staple! It is believed that the cookie originated in Persia in the 7th century – and in the next 700 years they spread all over Europe.
The Christmas cookie tradition started not long after. Gingerbread (lebkuchen) was one of the first to be associated with Christmas. Cookie cutters were introduced by the Dutch and Germans, popularizing the fancy shaped treats. Sugar was so expensive, molasses was used to sweeten the cookies. And the original animal crackers were edible tree ornaments!
The middle ages brought spices like nutmeg and cinnamon into popularity, changing the Christmas cookie to a truly delectable treat! The American tradition of leaving cookies for Santa began in the 1930s.
It’s a little spin on an ancient Norse tradition. In Norse mythology, Odin rode on an 8-legged horse during the Yule season. Children left food out for the god and his horse, Sleipner, in the hopes the duo would stop and leave them presents.
The tradition continues in many Scandinavian countries today – carrots and hay are left to feed the exhausted horses and reindeer.
But regardless of how it all started, Christmas cookies are an integral part of our modern-day celebration. And so I invite you to join our Great Cookie Exchange this year, but instead of the real biscuit, we’ll exchange recipes for our favorite treats.
The Great Cookie Exchange is live! And it’s open until New Year’s Eve! So Come on in!