For many families around the world, cookies are the best part of the Christmas festivities and for many adults, the smell of freshly baked Christmas cookies wafting through the house immediately transports them back to their childhood days. While the love of Christmas cookies is universal, what’s intriguing is that each country has its own traditional variety. Take a look at some of the traditional Christmas cookies around the word.
Sweden’s specialty cookies for the season are Pepparkaktor cookies. Also known as ginger thins, Pepparkaktor are often mistaken for the gingersnap that you usually see in the US, but these are quite different. These cookies are very thick, smooth and strongly spiced. Many families bake these cookies in different shapes, which are then cooled, decorated and hung from the Christmas tree. These can be found in a wide assortment of shapes from baubles, bells and hearts, to various farm animals.
The Peruvian traditional cookie is the rich, decadent Alfajores de Dulce de Leche. The cookie is made up of two almond flavored shortbread cookies that are joined together as a sandwich. In between the two layers is a gooey layer of caramel, which is made from ‘dulch de leche’ or sweetened condensed milk. While Alfajores originated in Peru, they are now a favorite across South America.
In Germany, the aroma of Pfeffernusse cookies is all pervasive right from the beginning of December. The literal translation for Pfeffernusse is ‘pepper nuts’. German legend has it that these gingerbread cookies used to be baked with black pepper by St. Nick, after which he covered them with sugar powder and then placed in children’s boots on the 5th of December.
Scotland is the birthplace of the world famous shortbread cookies. While they can be found all year round across the British Islands, during Christmas time, the popularity of these buttery, crumbly cookies skyrockets. The legend goes that Santa supervises the making of these cookies personally during the season and that’s why they have a special flavor that is lacking at other times. Nobody even cares to try and discover the truth behind this legend because just the thought adds magic to the season and that’s enough.
Who hasn’t heard of Linzer cookies. Born in Austria, they now make an appearance around the world especially during Christmas. Linzer cookies consist of two almond flavoured layers, sandwiched with a sweet preserve or jam in between. They are usually cut into a variety of shapes that are appropriate for the season.
Zalabia cookies are a common sight at Christmas tables across Egypt and several other regions of the Middle East. These cookies resemble puffy fritters that are soaked in red or gold syrup to match the colors of the season. Sugar or cinnamon is then sprinkled over them before serving.
Buttery, circle or pear shaped Kourabiedes are a staple in Greece during this festive season. They are basically shortbread cookies with a slight twist which originated during the time when Greece was occupied by Turkey and the Greeks shaped the cookies as little crescents as a sign of protest against the Turkish flag.
Whatever the origin or the legend behind them, this is truly the time to bite into a few and enjoy the different flavors of the different types of Christmas cookies!