Traditional Christmas Cookies From Around the World

Nanaimo bars are a Christmas snack unique to Canada.
Nanaimo bars are a Christmas snack unique to Canada.

Christmas arguably is the most celebrated holiday in the world. The Christmas season is filled with fun, family get togethers and reunions, carols, and lots of food. Topping the list of Christmas-time treats are the traditional Christmas cookies or biscuits cut into various shapes related to Christmas. The season is full of cookie-exchange parties, elaborate cookie decorations, and cookie-baking time with the family. The traditional cookies trace their origin to the Medieval Europe when some of the modern ingredients such as ginger, cinnamon, and dried fruits were introduced. Every country has its own tradition around Christmas cookies and a special name for the cookies. In no particular order, here are some Christmas cookies from around the world!

10. Italian sprinkle cookies

Italian sprinkle cookies take time and energy to prepare. However, they are well worth it! The cookie has a long history in Italy and is currently on demand in several Italian-American restaurants in the US. Several ingredients are used to prepare the Italian sprinkle cookies including eggs, all-purpose flour, baking powder, almond extract, and lemon extract. The cookies take about 25 minutes to bake and should be left to dry for 24 hours before storing in an airtight container. The sprinkles atop the cookies add a perfect festive touch!

9. Pizzelle

Again from Italy, Pizzelle is a traditional waffle cookie that is either hard and crispy or soft and chewy depending on the ingredients used. It is made from ingredients such as flour, sugar, vanilla or lemon zest, eggs, and butter. Pizzelle originated from Ortona, Italy, with the name coming from an Italian word for “round.” It is one of the known world oldest cookies and may have been developed by the ancient Roman crustulum. The cookies are popular around Christmas and Easter holidays and are also popular in weddings alongside other pastries and traditional Italian cookies.

8. Pfeffernusse

Pfeffernusse is a traditional gingery-peppery cookie that is all spiced with cardamom and ginger. Although the cookie is often referred to as "pepper nut", it has no nuts in it. It gets that particular name from its nut size. Pfeffernusse is a popular traditional Christmas cookie in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The cookies stay fresh and become intense in flavor when stored for several weeks in an airtight container. The ingredient for preparing Pfeffernusse include softened butter, brown sugar, cake flavor, ground allspice, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and pepper. Milk and vanilla extract can also be used to prepare the cookies.

7. Nanaimo bars

Nanaimo bars are of Canadian origin, named after the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia. They are less a cookie but more a dessert bar that is covered with a layer of custard flavored butter icing in melted chocolate. There are several varieties of Nanaimo bars consisting of different types of crumbs, flavor, and chocolate. Nanaimo bar was voted “Canada’s Favorite Confection” by the residents of Nanaimo in a National Post reader survey (although they may have been slightly biased).

6. Fattigmann

Fattigmann, commonly called “poor man’s cookie,” is a beloved Norwegian Christmas cookie that is also used as part of Christmas games in Scandinavian countries. It became part of the Norwegian food culture around the late 1700s or early 1800s. The cookie is also common in Nordic countries and the neighboring countries such as Lithuania and Germany. Fattigmann is made from flattened dough cut into small trapezoids, with a slit cut in the middle and one end pulled through the slit, forming a knot. The dough is then deep-fried until it turns brown and then sprinkled with cinnamon powdered sugar.

5. Melomakarono

Melomakarono is an egg-shaped cookie made from mainly flour, olive oil, and honey. It is traditionally prepared during the Christmas holiday, especially in Greek homes. The cookie is the top delicacy of the Greek Christmas season. The dough is filled with ground walnut during the rolling. After baking, they are dipped in cold syrup made of honey and sugar for a few minutes to make them sweet. Honey is particularly important in the making of Melomakarono because it signifies fertility and welfare in Greece. Ground walnut is then sprinkled on them for decoration.

4. American sugar cookies

American sugar cookies have been the favorite American Christmas cookies for generations. There are about three variations of sugar cookies common in America, depending on the recipe. The common American sugar cookies are the chewy cookies with balanced sugar cookie flavor and crisp cookies with pronounced butter flavor. The common ingredients used in making American sugar cookies include sugar, flour, butter, eggs, and baking powder. The cookies are decorated with frosting or sprinkles and can also be cut into different shapes. The American sugar cookies are also popular during Halloween and Hannukah holidays.

3. Swedish gingerbread cookies

Making Swedish gingerbread cookies is a holiday tradition for many Swedish families. Although they are baked throughout the year, the cookies are popular at Christmas when they are cut into attractive shapes and decorated with icing and sometimes hung up as part of the decoration. The ingredients include butter, sugar, molasses, eggs, flour, cinnamon, ginger, and ground cloves. The cookies can be sprinkled with colored sugar or elaborately decorated to enhance their festive look.

2. Spritzgeback

Spritzgeback are classic Christmas butter cookies popular in Germany and the Scandinavian countries, and are made of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. The name translates to “spray” or “squirt” since the cookies are pressed or piped into an elaborate design. Although the cookies are mainly considered as Christmas confectionaries, they are also popular throughout the year. When properly baked, Spritzgeback is crisp, fragile, dry, and buttery. Traditionally, the recipes for baking Spritzgeback is passed down from one generation to another. In the US, the name “Spritzgeback” is often shortened to “spritz” with the cookie referred to as "spritz cookies".

1. Florentine biscuit

Florentine biscuits are sweet pastry made of nuts and candied cherries mixed with sugar and prepared in the oven. Florentine biscuits are coated with milk or chocolate on one side. The biscuits are rich and can be served with coffee or crumbled over vanilla or nut ice cream. Most of the recipes use melted butter, sugar, and honey as a binding agent. Uniquely, flour and eggs are not used in the preparation Florentine biscuits.


More in Society