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What the hell exactly are "Christmas Cookies"?

Excuse the (most likely) dumb questions, but when someone says, "I'm baking Christmas cookies" what do they mean?

Are there specific types of cookies for Christmas?

A particular way of making them?

Something so sinfully decadent that Mrs. Clause would never think of making at home for fear Santa would need a new red robe?

Or are they just cookies made in and around the 3rd to 4th week of December?

Do tell.

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  1. This is so funny! A friend and I were just having this discussion. I insist a Christmas cookie has to be something special, fancy, even a PITA to make, perhaps a traditional one that your family only makes at the holidays. Friend insists choc chip cookies are Christmas cookies and the first to go on any cookie tray. To me, a choc chip is an everyday cookie. I'm looking forward to the replies!

    13 Replies
    1. re: nemo

      I do cut outs and other specialty cookies every year, and then a batch of chocolate chip an another batch of chocolate-peanut butter chip, and can verify that the 'everyday' cookies do indeed go faster than the specialty cookies in many cases.

      1. re: nemo

        If Christmas cookies had to be a pain in the arse to make, then wouldn't that disqualify gingerbread and sugar cookies? Both of which are de rigueur for Christmas, no?

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Repeating my link to the food timeline from the post below. "German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmasa"
          http://www.foodtimeline.org/christmas...

          Sugar cookies served dual purpose as tree decorations in the past.

          1. re: rworange

            Although I don't recommend hanging cookies on the tree if you have dogs.
            From the Voice of Experience LOL

          2. re: ipsedixit

            Absolutely - a sugar cookie, especially with colored sugar sprinkled on top, is (in my mind) most definitely a Christmas cookie.

            1. re: LulusMom

              Lots of people don't credit wiki as an always reliable source, but the article about Christmas cookies is pretty good.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christma...

              This line made me laugh because of what it implied.

              "In 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. "

              I guess that means the people who don't want coal in their stockings don't eat the cookies and leave them for Santa.

              1. re: rworange

                Wait ... when I leave cookies for Santa, someone else is eating them???

                1. re: LulusMom

                  We always were told to leave a bottle of beer for Santa (the reasoning being he'd be really sick of all the milk) and sliced carrots for the reindeer.

                  Never questioned it, because it was what Dad liked, so why wouldn't Santa and the reindeer?

                2. re: rworange

                  Regarding wikipedia:

                  A guest speaker in a college course changed my mind about wikipedia. It is the most scrutinized information source pretty much in history. It is constantly updated and corrected (impossible to do with published intellectual papers), and despite appearances, the standards are really quite high. Find things that you disagree with? Try reading "scholastic" papers/studies, from now or the past. People are wrong quite a lot, even when they have "credentials"!

                  Sorry to go off topic.....

                  1. re: sandylc

                    That is my attitude towards wikipedia as well - articles are generally well sourced, and the community is pretty good at self policing. I'm not going to cite a wikipedia article in a professional/academic writing, but will use wikipedia as a starting point to find a primary source. For discussions on sites like chowhound, most wikipedia articles are sufficient.

                    1. re: sandylc

                      It was just a disclaimer. There are always the people who jump on a post the minute wiki is used for info. It is certainly better than most of what is on the web,

                      That wiki link doesn't have everything about Christmas cookies, but what it does is crediblle ... and while it doesn't write about chocolate chip cookies, it does have a related link to chocolate chip cookies at the bottom.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        sandy - oh yeah, a few years ago I tried posting a bit of facetious silliness on WikiP about something really obscure that few care for and within a few hours I had a cease and desist request in my inbox. the volunteers over there are diligent and principled (not a comment about the volunteers on other sites, just a testament to the veracity of WkkiP)

              2. Hmm good question -

                For me they are cookies that are made around Christmas but they are also recipes that maybe take a little more time to do (so chocolate chips cookies or oatmeal cookies aren't what I would call "Christmas Cookies".)

                Sugar cookie cut-outs
                Ginger Bread Cookies
                Family traditions like Krusczyki or Kolache
                Florentines

                Also some bar cookies are "Christmas" cookies to me because of the color or family tradition . . .

                My mom used to always make these walnut moon shaped cookies that are tossed with powdered sugar - we only had those at Christmas too.

                So it is a little of family tradition and a little just that time of year . . . for me . . .

                1. The original comment has been removed
                  1. What an excellent question. I had never really thought about this.

                    1. What is WRONG with you? EVERYONE knows they are the cookies you leave for Santa Claus.

                      Yes ... there are specific types of cookies often based on nationality. No ... they can just be cookies you like and add to the holiday cooking schedule.

                      The food time line, always a reliable source has some nice info about the tradition.

                      http://www.foodtimeline.org/christmas...

                      "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? "

                      There's lots more info including that link.

                      For my Polish American family, rose chrusciki

                      http://www.chow.com/users/recipes/186...

                      They are very labor intensive and not something to casually make

                      I also get into cookie cutters and decorated sugar cookies at Christmas. In times past when money was tight a Christmas tree might be decorated with cookies with seasonal themes, popcorn and fruit ... dual purpose ... a decoration and a snack.

                      Nice ... hell and Christmas in one title. Trying to book a trip?