Can you smell that? Mmmmm… smells like the sweet aroma of baking cookies. It must be National Cookie Day! Woo hoo!
It’s no wonder that the unofficial holiday called “National Cookie Day” takes place each year on December 4. With Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa ahead, it’s about time to start making those holiday cookies.
Historians believe that cookies got their start hundreds of years ago when bakers would test the temperature of their ovens with a small amount of cake batter. These little cakes caught on quickly, and cookies were soon available in all sorts of flavors and shapes.
English and Dutch immigrants brought cookie recipes to America in the 1600s. The English word “cookie” actually comes from the Dutch word koekje, which means “small cake.”
Because of their simple recipe and low cost to make, gingerbread cookies were among the most popular cookies long ago. Today, holiday cookies come in a wide variety of flavors and shapes.
Many holiday cookies can be traced back to all sorts of different countries and traditions. For example, many modern Christmas cookies can be traced back to recipes from medieval Europe.
With so many different types of cookies to choose from, how can you decide which cookies to make? Many years ago, some clever ladies decided that there was an easy way to obtain a wide variety of homemade holiday cookies: the cookie exchange!
Today, cookie exchanges are extremely popular during the holidays. Many families participate by making large quantities of one type of cookie.
They then gather together for an informal party where they exchange cookies with others. In this way, they’re able to enjoy many different types of homemade cookies throughout the holidays.
Plus, you’ll have plenty of cookies to choose from when it comes time to leave cookies and milk under the tree for Santa. If you’re wondering how that tradition got started, no one really knows for sure.
Some believe the tradition comes from the fact that the modern Christmas tree tradition came from the medieval German “paradise tree” custom. Paradise trees were decorated with apples and cookies.
When Christmas trees developed, cookies were still part of the decorations. Sugar cookies cut into shapes, such as candy canes, reindeer and holly leaves, are still used as Christmas tree decorations in many homes.
Leaving cookies — and milk, of course! — for Santa probably resulted from children noticing that Santa must have snacked on decorations from time to time. Today, children often leave carrots for Santa’s reindeer, too.
Others believe that the tradition of leaving cookies for Santa might have developed in the 1930s, when naughty kids thought of using the sweet treats to bribe Santa at the last minute into leaving them a nice present. Of course, nice kids might also have thought to leave cookies as a way to thank Santa for all his hard work on Christmas Eve!