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What the hell exactly are "Christmas Cookies"?

ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 12:12 PM

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. n
    nemo RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 12:23 PM

    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
      beachmouse RE: nemo Nov 13, 2011 12:28 PM

      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
        ipsedixit RE: nemo Nov 13, 2011 12:29 PM

        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
          rworange RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 12:47 PM

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

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

          1. re: rworange
            Michelly RE: rworange Nov 14, 2011 07:44 AM

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

            1. re: Michelly
              hill food RE: Michelly Nov 14, 2011 11:38 PM

              or burning candles. or both.

          2. re: ipsedixit
            LulusMom RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 01:57 PM

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

            1. re: LulusMom
              rworange RE: LulusMom Nov 13, 2011 02:10 PM

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


              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
                LulusMom RE: rworange Nov 13, 2011 02:31 PM

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

                1. re: LulusMom
                  lsmutko RE: LulusMom Nov 14, 2011 07:40 AM

                  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
                  sandylc RE: rworange Nov 14, 2011 01:29 PM

                  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
                    mpjmph RE: sandylc Nov 14, 2011 02:45 PM

                    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
                      rworange RE: sandylc Nov 14, 2011 05:24 PM

                      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
                        hill food RE: sandylc Nov 14, 2011 11:44 PM

                        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. t
                thimes RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 12:29 PM

                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

                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. g
                  gardencook RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 12:38 PM

                  What an excellent question. I had never really thought about this.

                  1. rworange RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 12:40 PM

                    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.


                    "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


                    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?

                    1. s
                      sherriberry RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 12:40 PM

                      I think there a lot of people who do not frequently make cookies outside of the holiday season(or at least not in great quantities). Growing up, my Mom made a huge variety and quantity of cookies to be given away as gifts and served to guests, who were more frequent during the season. Some were common cookies, some "fancier" ones that only came out in December. For this endeavor, the freezer in the garage had to be emptied out by the beginning of November to make room for Mom's Christmas cookies. There were at least 10 dozen each of at least 20 diffferent varities. This was her tradition every year, and our house was very popular at that time of year. This effort was reserved for once a year. Also, many families have traditions of making special, or fancyier than usual cookies around that time of year. Making Santa, tree, reindeer shaped(etc) cut out cookies and letting the kids decorate them was a holiday tradition for many of my friends and still evokes fond memories. Perhaps because kids have more time off around Christmas, this was done more on this holiday than others. Besides, Flag Day or Arbor Day cookies just don't have as festive a ring to them.

                      1. chowser RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 12:41 PM

                        It's kind of funny to see both hell and Christmas in the title.;-) I think it's whatever you bake for the season--eg for a Christmas potluck, for the day of, to give to people for the holidays. Chocolate chip cookies because you had a craving on Christmas day--no. Chocolate chip cookies for a Christmas platter a week before? Yes.

                        1. RUK RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 12:44 PM

                          Elisen Kuchen, Lebkuchen, Springerle, Bethmaennchen, Printen, Spekulatius, Zimthoernchen....the list goes on.... :-)

                          1. Will Owen RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 01:02 PM

                            I would imagine every family has its own firm idea as to what's a Christmas cookie. In ours it was always yer basic sugar cookie, the kind that never got made any other time of year largely because they're so boring. At Christmas time, however, all the cookie decorating stuff and all the fancy cutters suddenly re-appeared, sheets of cookie dough rolled out, and everyone except Dad got to cut out his or her favorite shapes and then add the colored sprinkles and the little silver balls that you can't buy anymore. We never got into icing them, not having the equipment or interest, but Grandma Kuntz made up for that by icing hers and adding them to our pile. Some were hung on the tree, but most were simply put out on platters and offered to anyone coming in the door, including unsuspecting salesmen. By New Year's Day there were at least five people in Marshall, Illinois who never wanted to see a sugar cookie ever again, a fact which was blissfully forgotten by the following December.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Will Owen
                              rworange RE: Will Owen Nov 13, 2011 01:09 PM

                              You can still buy dragees, the silver balls to decorate cookies


                              Of course, since you are in California you will have to buy online

                              1. re: rworange
                                greygarious RE: rworange Nov 13, 2011 01:21 PM

                                Not only are there still dragees, but they now also come in gold, icy blue, and other colors too.

                                To my mind, Christmas cookies have to be colorful and decoratively-shaped. Cookie cutter or spritz cookies, must have icing and/or sprinkles, jimmies, dragees, etc. Others, no matter how fussy to make, or elaborate, do not qualify. AFAIAC, you can made chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies for Christmas, but they are not "Christmas Cookies".

                                1. re: greygarious
                                  rworange RE: greygarious Nov 13, 2011 01:55 PM

                                  I edited my post to note they are banned in California and need to be mail ordered ... or would that break some law about transportting illegal substances across state borders. I'll have to see if there are any shady characters with stanshes of dragees hanging out near sidewalk santas. I wonder if I can start the medical dragee movement in the state.

                                  I think this article about Christmas cookes says it best


                                  "more often than not, they are positively flavored by their bakers' recollections of time spent with mom (or, shall I say, gramma) during Christmases past"

                                  A long ago friend's Christmas cookies were chocolate chip. And the activity of her getting together with her two small daughters at Christmas always puts chocolate chip cookies in the Christmas category to me.

                                  Also, as a young wife watching a budget, she couldn't splurge on the butter, chocolate chips, nuts, etc the rest of the year, And that, in addition to the time factor, sometimes limits cookies to Christmas, whatever type. It is a time to splurge a little and celebrate.

                                  I've long lost touch, but I'll bet her daughters are making Mary's chocolate chip cookies at Christmas with their daughters.

                                  The link does have a funny section about other people's idea of Christmas cookies at a cookie exchange

                                  "Cookie swapper: You've got to try my [insert cookie name]. It was my mom's [or insert gramma's] special recipe. She made it every Christmas.

                                  Julia: Mmmm . . . [while taking a bite]. Mmmmm . . . [again, while secretly wondering what all the fuss is about].

                                  Cookie swapper: I make it every year, but it never comes out quite like my mom [or insert gramma] made it.

                                  Julia: Hmmm . . . any idea why? [asked, knowing full well that memories have a way of playing tricks on tastebuds]"

                            2. r
                              RGC1982 RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 01:32 PM

                              Christmas cookies are either flavors you don't see around during the year, like spice and gingerbread, or elaborately decorated sugar or butter cookies. They are usually pretty enough to give as gifts, and I do, each year, on a pretty plate to many of my friends, purchased just for this occasion. We also used to bake Valentine heart cookies when my daughter was younger, but this tradition seems to have slipped as she got older.

                              1. kubasd23 RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 01:49 PM

                                My mom makes what she calls Neopolitan cookies, I have no idea what they're actually called. You make the dough, divide it into three bowls. One bowl gets cocoa powder, one gets almond extract and some red food coloring (just enough to turn it a pinkish color), and the third gets walnuts. the doughs get pressed into loaf pans, chocolate, walnut, then almond and they chill for hours. Then you take the loafs out and slice the cookies, then bake them. Time intensive, but sooo delicious!!

                                1. bagelman01 RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 02:37 PM


                                  at the risk of sounding sacreligious or offending some:

                                  Xmas cookies are Fortune Cookies or Almond cookies served as dessert to us Jews who frequent Chinese restaurants on XMAS.

                                  Long standing Jewish Xmas tradition>Chinese and a movie

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: bagelman01
                                    thimes RE: bagelman01 Nov 13, 2011 03:11 PM

                                    I love this response. And I love that you can't even type Christ in your sacrilegious post!!!! Laughed until I cried.

                                    1. re: thimes
                                      bagelman01 RE: thimes Nov 14, 2011 06:56 AM

                                      Then I think you should open a bottle of Lacrimi diChristi and pour a glass. It will even out your feelings.

                                      1. re: bagelman01
                                        Veggo RE: bagelman01 Nov 14, 2011 08:33 AM

                                        AKA Lacrimi diXi?

                                        1. re: Veggo
                                          bagelman01 RE: Veggo Nov 14, 2011 01:58 PM

                                          Only at the convent of The Sacred Heart on Benham Street

                                    2. re: bagelman01
                                      goodhealthgourmet RE: bagelman01 Nov 15, 2011 05:53 PM

                                      so perfect :) growing up, my frame of reference for Xmas cookies was the hard, tasteless gingerbread men and iced sugar cookies some of the kids would bring to school for classroom parties, so i never understood why anyone got excited about them - i'd rather have Hanukkah gelt, rugelach or sufganiyot any day!

                                      our family had our own tradition because Dad's birthday was on December 25th. i always joked that we were the only Jewish family that *didn't* have Chinese food for Xmas dinner. instead, Mom would cook and we'd have a big family dinner at the house...and of course there was Carvel ice cream cake for dessert.

                                    3. woodleyparkhound RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 02:56 PM

                                      Chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies are definitely not Christmas cookies -- seeing them appear around Christmas causes me to raise an eyebrow. They're delicious, but they are ordinary cookies that one has during the rest of the year. I think of Christmas cookies as falling into one of two categories:

                                      a) sugar cookies that are cut out in Christmas shapes (trees, stars, Santa heads) and have red and/or green sugar sprinkled on them, or

                                      b) cookies that are made with wintery spices (ginger, cinnamon, etc.) like gingerbread, etc.

                                      1. q
                                        Querencia RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 03:58 PM

                                        Good question that set me thinking. The key has to be "tradition and expectation". Cookbooks inform me that Pfefferneuse and Lebkuchen are traditional Christmas cookies and I accept this although they are not in my tradition. My great-grandma had a black walnut tree in her back yard and used to make brown sugar icebox cookies with black walnuts in them---I remembered her by making them my tradition. Now a few years ago I found a recipe for gingerbread men that is 150% less work than the usual way so I started making them and now my DIL asks for them and expects them. So isn't it that we learn to EXPECT certain cookies with the season? And thus they become a TRADITION?

                                        1. Njchicaa RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 04:06 PM

                                          IMO, Christmas cookies can be anything that you make and intend to serve during the holiday season. My aunts usually do chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, fudge, and 7-layer bars.

                                          I'm not big into sweets nor do I doing any baking regularly. My one exception is making walnut balls for each Christmas. They are my absolute favorite "Christmas cookie" and something that was only made during the holiday season growing up. Somehow, everyone else who makes the Christmas cookies for the 25th has stopped making them, so I started making and bringing them myself.

                                          1. i
                                            Isolda RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 04:15 PM

                                            Christmas cookies in our house are the sometimes anatomically correct gingerbread or sugar people we make every year. They often have little angry or shocked faces or the occasional weapon, such as a Klingon bat'leth. (Not sure I spelled that right, but you know what I mean.)

                                            Because it takes hours to pose the little guys and decorate them, we would never dream of making them any other time of year.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Isolda
                                              AGM_Cape_Cod RE: Isolda Nov 15, 2011 05:29 AM

                                              I would love to see your creations. I make bitten gingerbread people with painful expressions.

                                            2. a
                                              Axlsgoddess RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 05:32 PM

                                              I think christmas cookies are how a person or family have interpreted their memories and traditions and yes, chocolate chip, in my case M&M, cookies are de riguer!

                                              1. d
                                                DCLindsey RE: ipsedixit Nov 13, 2011 07:58 PM

                                                I agree with everyone's comments above. But one component to me is the ease of getting ingredients. Try and get canned pumpkin in the summer for pumpkin pie- good luck! Same with some spices for Xmas cooking/cookies- by default they are holiday associated because of ease of getting indigents or even being on sale around the holidays!

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: DCLindsey
                                                  Tripeler RE: DCLindsey Nov 13, 2011 11:38 PM

                                                  "...ease of getting indigents..."

                                                  I think Christmas makes a lot of people indigent, at least for a while.

                                                  Or maybe this was an auto-correct mistake?

                                                  1. re: Tripeler
                                                    chowser RE: Tripeler Nov 14, 2011 04:36 AM

                                                    Maybe she hired indigents for her baking and they're easier to find because of your reason. I love auto-correct errors, often good for a laugh.

                                                    1. re: Tripeler
                                                      Terrie H. RE: Tripeler Nov 14, 2011 05:31 AM

                                                      Thanks for the biggest laugh I'm likely to have on a Monday (if not the whole week)!

                                                      1. re: Terrie H.
                                                        DCLindsey RE: Terrie H. Nov 14, 2011 08:26 AM

                                                        Hahaha, total autocorrect issue! I was typing on my ipad while watching football. Glad I could entertain.

                                                        1. re: DCLindsey
                                                          freia RE: DCLindsey Nov 14, 2011 08:39 AM

                                                          LOLOLOLOL Can't Stop Laughing...indigents making cookies in my kitchen 24/7 with their tiny orphan hands.....lololol

                                                  2. h
                                                    hetook RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 12:02 AM

                                                    Christmas cookies are cookies, made close to Christmas...what else can u say?

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: hetook
                                                      chowser RE: hetook Nov 14, 2011 04:34 AM

                                                      Even if the person isn't Christian? Or what if someone Christian is making cookies for someone's birthday a day or two before Christmas?

                                                      1. re: chowser
                                                        hetook RE: chowser Nov 14, 2011 03:10 PM

                                                        I'm not really Christian but I've made cookies before Christmas.Guess what I called them?

                                                        1. re: hetook
                                                          chowser RE: hetook Nov 14, 2011 03:53 PM

                                                          What if the person were Jewish or muslim and made cookies before Christmas? Is every cookie made in that time frame a Christmas cookie regardless? You have every right to call them whatever you want but that doesn't mean everyone else does the same. That was my point--not that no non-christian can call their cookies Christmas cookies.

                                                          1. re: chowser
                                                            Roland Parker RE: chowser Nov 14, 2011 09:43 PM

                                                            Perhaps it's time for a glass of milk and a few cookies?

                                                            1. re: Roland Parker
                                                              chowser RE: Roland Parker Nov 15, 2011 04:15 AM

                                                              Would those be Chrismas cookies, or just cookies? Maybe I'll just go with a glass of Christmas wine.

                                                              1. re: chowser
                                                                freia RE: chowser Nov 15, 2011 07:04 AM

                                                                Only if you drink it only at Christmas LOLOLOL!

                                                                1. re: freia
                                                                  chowser RE: freia Nov 15, 2011 09:51 AM

                                                                  What if a non-Christian drinks the wine my kids leave out for Santa...;-)

                                                                  1. re: chowser
                                                                    thimes RE: chowser Nov 15, 2011 09:55 AM

                                                                    I think that means they are going to H - E - double hockey sticks. . . . or will burst into semantic flames.

                                                                    1. re: thimes
                                                                      chowser RE: thimes Nov 15, 2011 10:01 AM

                                                                      LOL, at least we're not talking about someone mispronouncing Christmas or calling them Chris-sie cookies for babytalk.;-)

                                                                      1. re: chowser
                                                                        freia RE: chowser Nov 15, 2011 04:04 PM

                                                                        I resemble that remark! And I'd be calling it Non-Denominational Festival Wine...
                                                                        perhaps its Festivus Wine...how could you tell the difference? :)

                                                                        1. re: freia
                                                                          chowser RE: freia Nov 15, 2011 04:53 PM

                                                                          I'll just call it the alco-fest.;-) Are Festivus cookies ones baked around the pole?

                                                    2. mattstolz RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 05:25 AM

                                                      to me christmas cookies depend entirely on the person baking them. its all about the tradition and history for a christmas cookie. if its weird for a particular family to make a certain time of cookie any time other than christmas, OR if its weird for it to be christmas and not have a particular kind of cookie around, then that cookie has met my qualifications as a christmas cookie.

                                                      for example, at least three cooks in my family make spritz cookies during christmastime. no one in our family really LOVES them, but it sure wouldnt feel like christmas without them around. it also sure wouldnt be christmas around here if there wasnt a giant box of chocolate crinkle cookies around here somewhere...

                                                      1. Terrie H. RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 05:36 AM

                                                        Christmas cookies are the dry, crumbling ruins of what were probably delicious cookies intended for teachers and neighbors. By the time they are put out at our family parties, the dew is off the rose. I don't bake and shouldn't be eating the little buggers anyway....

                                                        1. s
                                                          sisterfunkhaus RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 08:15 AM

                                                          I bake Mexican wedding cookies. I have some special chocolate chip cookies I do as well. I mostly make candy for Christmas, though b/c that is my thing. I do homemade marshmallows dipped in chocolate and pecans, fudge, and usually one other thing.

                                                          1. e
                                                            elenacampana RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 08:29 AM

                                                            At our house, Christmas cookies are as many recipes from Rose Levy Beranbaum's great book Christmas Cookies as we can manage - not a dud in the bunch, and everything from Mexican Wedding Cakes to rugelach to springerle... we're ever so slightly heathenish, but we love Christmas!

                                                            1. f
                                                              freia RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 08:44 AM

                                                              Norwegian crowns, or spritzer cookies. Made with a cookie press that gets used once a year. Gotta have star shapes and little camel shaped cookies, and Christmas tree ones too.
                                                              Gingerbread people, too.
                                                              To me, any holiday cookie be it Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever the religious celebration, is a cookie that you make during the holiday that is representative of that holiday. To me, chocolate chip cookies are a year round treat so they don't qualify. Oreos don't qualify. Oatmeal raisin don't qualify. UNLESS that is the only time of the year you have them. Its about timing and about how often you have them. I only have spritzer cookies once a year, at Christmas, in those specific shapes. Same with gingerbread. That makes it a holiday cookie. Just like Egg Nog. And Moose Milk. I'll share THAT recipe on request, because it is to die for and only for the holidays.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: freia
                                                                rworange RE: freia Nov 14, 2011 09:26 AM

                                                                I'd love the moose milk recipe. Could you post it on the Home Cooking board so it doesn't get lost here. I started a thread for you. Here it is

                                                                Recipe for Moose Milk?


                                                                1. re: freia
                                                                  laliz RE: freia Nov 14, 2011 10:37 AM

                                                                  "Oreos don't qualify."

                                                                  au contraire. White fudge oreos are only available at Christmas time and they are a treasured Chrismas Cookie in our family.

                                                                  1. re: laliz
                                                                    freia RE: laliz Nov 14, 2011 12:23 PM

                                                                    Key there is White Fudge (oreo) available only at Christmas. I think it still qualifies. I mean, lots of manufacturers make Christmas versions of their regulars, but since they are available only at Christmas and are "different", then they qualify for sure. But regular Oreos, not so much. So I stand by my post.
                                                                    After all, a Lindt chocolate bar, pretty everyday.
                                                                    A Lindt chocolate reindeer? Same chocolate, different form specific to Christmas? WINNING!

                                                                2. jmckee RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 09:50 AM

                                                                  The short answer: Christmas Cookies are whatever your mother baked for Christmas season. Or in the case of MY mother, whatever she cooked dozens and dozens of and froze.

                                                                  Longer answer: My sense, from years of celebrating with friends, is that Christmas cookies aren't necessarily "seasonal" in ingredient, flavor, shape, or design (although some may be), but that they are family favorites that are never -- NEVER -- baked at any other time of the year.

                                                                  In my mother's case, they included:

                                                                  -Butter cookies made in a Mirro cookie press in holiday shapes (trees, stars, wreaths) and decorated with colored icing and candies
                                                                  -Chocolate cherrie balls, flavored with coffee and rolled in powdered sugar
                                                                  -Date nut balls, also rolled in powdered sugar
                                                                  -Peanut blossoms -- little round peanut butter cookies rolled in sugar before baking and with a whole Hershey's kiss pressed into the middle at end.
                                                                  -Pecan tassies
                                                                  -Those little haystack cookies consisting of melted Nestle chocolate or butterscotch morsels and chowmein noodles.
                                                                  -Bar cookies made with coconut, chocolate, condensed milk, etc.
                                                                  -Fruit drop cookies made with candied fruit
                                                                  -Thumbprint cookies with currant or mint jelly in the middle

                                                                  I THINK that covers them all. She made dozens and froze them. I miss them every year.

                                                                  1. l
                                                                    laliz RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 10:53 AM

                                                                    My mother didn't bake. she worked full time and baking was not on her list of things to do. We had a family friend who brought a box of Rice Krispie treats every year ~~ those are Christmas Cookies, My ex SIL made 'Magic Cookie Bars" every year, those are Christmas Cookies. My Sicilian XMIL made Struffoli, Bow Knots, Coconut macaroons, Biscotti, and gingerbread every year, and those are Chrismas cookies.

                                                                    I'm like my mother, I work and don't bake. I think chololate chip cookies become Christmas Cookies if one uses red, green, and/or white mini m&m's in them.

                                                                    1. katcancook RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 11:58 AM

                                                                      I love this post! Hilarious, yet a very good question! I think "Christmas" cookies can be defined in two ways: 1) The cookies you had at your house at Christmas which you will forever associate with Christmas (my own mom made about 10 different varieties, which we looked forward to all year because we ONLY got them at Christmas; and 2) The cookies you see in the magazines at Christmas i.e. gingerbread, cut out or pressed sugar cookies decorated to the nines, things of that nature. It's individual and yet global. So, are you more confused now?? ; )

                                                                      1. mlou72 RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 12:49 PM

                                                                        "I'm baking Christmas cookies" simply means that I am baking so many cookies that I cannot possibly eat them all in one midnight munchies frenzy.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: mlou72
                                                                          freia RE: mlou72 Nov 14, 2011 12:52 PM

                                                                          I can send you my address, if that would help you out? I'll take one for the Chowhound team....
                                                                          LOLOLOL Happy Baking!

                                                                          1. re: freia
                                                                            mlou72 RE: freia Nov 15, 2011 03:48 PM

                                                                            NO! MINE!

                                                                        2. s
                                                                          sandylc RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 01:33 PM

                                                                          To those who want their very special chocolate chip cookie (or other "everyday" cookies) recipe to look festive, make mini versions, or dip one end in chocolate, or make square ones.....

                                                                          This year I am putting a fudgy, chocolate-chocolate chip cookie on my list....I am going to make tiny ones and roll them in powdered sugar for the color contrast.

                                                                          1. m
                                                                            mpjmph RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 02:51 PM

                                                                            In my family, Christmas cookies are any cookies made after Thanksgiving and before New Years Eve. The usual suspects include chocolate chip, oatmeal (no raisins!), ginger cookies, spritz, rum balls, pecan tassies, and buckeyes. Other varieties have made appearances over the years, but don't have the same staying power. None of us have the patience for rolling, cutting, and decorating gingerbread or sugar cookies, so the spritz cookies are the only ones that are seasonal in appearance with tree, camel, and wreath shapes. I generally don't make cookies the rest of the year.

                                                                            1. r
                                                                              Roland Parker RE: ipsedixit Nov 14, 2011 09:36 PM

                                                                              The Christmas cookie tradition originated with the Dutch and Germanic settlers who first came to the American colonies in the 17th century. It stemmed out of the tradition of having special baked goods using what was then the expensive commodities of sugar, dried fruits and spices, during the Christmas season which was much more of a bright highlight during a long and dreary winter than it is for us these days. The baked goods tradition at Christmas is still common in Europe where you find the cakes (pannettones in Italy, fruitcakes and mincemeat pies in England, saffron cakes in Scandinavia) alongside the cookies of the Germanic countries and Eastern Europe. German cooks vye with one another over the best and largest cookie platters they can put out. If you've ever been privileged to be invited over for coffee and cookies at a German house during the Christmas season, the cookie platters can be both awe inspiring and fearsome.

                                                                              While you can claim with some justification that some cookies are more unique to the Christmas cookie tradition than others, especially the more old fashioned, spice flavored ones, or the simple sugar cookie ones, anything can go on the cookie platter. But generally there's a common acceptance that "christmas cookies" are "fancy" cookies that aren't normally made at other times of the year, which is why chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter or snickerdoodle cookies aren't recognized as Christmas cookies in the way sugar, spritz or springerle are.

                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Roland Parker
                                                                                katcancook RE: Roland Parker Nov 15, 2011 03:44 AM

                                                                                In regards to the baked goods, don't forget the Stollen! It wouldn't be a German Christmas without it!

                                                                                1. re: katcancook
                                                                                  hetook RE: katcancook Nov 15, 2011 10:16 AM

                                                                                  hey,stollen's not a cookie>but those little anise things in wooden molds are. they make them at...Christmas.

                                                                                  1. re: hetook
                                                                                    chowser RE: hetook Nov 15, 2011 10:19 AM

                                                                                    LOL, we could start another thread on what a "cookie" is... Do brownies count as Christmas cookies, if you add peppermint candy to them?

                                                                                    1. re: chowser
                                                                                      hetook RE: chowser Nov 15, 2011 10:38 AM

                                                                                      Brownies are more bars than cookies....I can't believe what u chowhounds have turn me into. :0 ;)

                                                                                      1. re: hetook
                                                                                        chowser RE: hetook Nov 15, 2011 11:28 AM

                                                                                        LOL, it challenges your thinking, what was up is down what was down is up, but it's all interesting. I didn't think about it until now but I had a Christmas cookie exchange last year. Among items brought: millionaire's shortbread (that was me--bar cookies that taste like twix bars), brownies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, dreidel cookies. They all fit, imo, though none were traditionally Christmas cookies, and were enjoyed.

                                                                                        1. re: chowser
                                                                                          hetook RE: chowser Nov 15, 2011 04:46 PM

                                                                                          Mom used make the Millionaire's shortbd. Not sweet enough for ME...just jok`n ppisst I`ll let u in on a christmas secret. The Martha Stewart shortbread recipe is da bomb w different flavors like green tea etc.

                                                                                          1. re: hetook
                                                                                            freia RE: hetook Nov 15, 2011 04:49 PM

                                                                                            The Christmas treat vs the Christmas cookie debate. Cookies are cookies: bars are bars: cakes are cakes: breads are breads. But if made at Christmas with a recipe you see only at Christmas, they're all delicious Christmas treats! nom nom nom!

                                                                                            1. re: freia
                                                                                              sandylc RE: freia Nov 15, 2011 05:06 PM

                                                                                              I grew up with "bar cookies" - I initially didn't know what people in my current home state meant when they talked about "bars"! Or "hotdish", for that matter!!!!

                                                                                              1. re: sandylc
                                                                                                freia RE: sandylc Nov 15, 2011 05:26 PM

                                                                                                Never heard the term bar cookie! And it covers ALL the bases! I love it!

                                                                                            2. re: hetook
                                                                                              chowser RE: hetook Nov 15, 2011 04:54 PM

                                                                                              You're not kidding--they almost hurt my teeth with how sweet they are. I'll give Martha Stewart's a try--thanks! I love a good shortbread cookie.

                                                                                      2. re: hetook
                                                                                        katcancook RE: hetook Nov 16, 2011 03:19 AM

                                                                                        Ha ha - acknowledged! I went on a tangent due to Roland's reference to German baked goods!

                                                                                  2. f
                                                                                    freia RE: ipsedixit Nov 15, 2011 05:38 PM

                                                                                    Christmas cheese, anyone?

                                                                                    1. c
                                                                                      chocolatetartguy RE: ipsedixit Nov 15, 2011 06:10 PM

                                                                                      I always thought that the generic "Christmas cookies" were basic sugar cookies preferably cut in holiday shapes and covered with red and green sprinkles.

                                                                                      For me it will always be my mom's Russian teacakes, aka Mexican wedding cookies. She always made me an extra batch as a gift. She's not able to make them herself any more, but I have her recipe and mine are almost as good as hers.

                                                                                      1. DonShirer RE: ipsedixit Nov 16, 2011 05:04 PM

                                                                                        Many European cultures have traditional holiday cookie recipes. My wife's family had Swedish ties, and every Christmas my MIL made Drommar, or Reindeer Antler Cookies, made with baker's ammonia and formed in little crescents, something like an antler. Yum. Thanks for reminding me, I'll have to dig out the recipe again this year.

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