Sugar Cookies: The History of A Christmas Staple

Let’s have a hearty hip-hip-hooray for the German Protestants, who settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and invented the early sugar cookie. Their crumbly cookie made with butter and shaped into round or keystone shapes were a sweet hit from their formation in the late 1700s. A simple recipe of flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and baking soda or powder blend together to form a light, simple and delicious cookie. There are very slight variations on this tried-and-true recipe, the Germans created a good thing from the start! 

Sugar cookie variety doesn’t stray far from its beginning, but there are other methods and slight variations on the original tune, adding tasty enhancements to the simple start. Sugar cookies are enjoyed in multiple ways. Dough can be dropped in place as small mounds and baked, spreading out slightly, but maintaining its thick consistency. Sugar cookies can also be rolled out and cut with cookie cutters (we love Christmas shapes!). These sweet treats can be pressed, formed and stamped, and remarkably, they always taste great, no matter the method used. 

There are very few complaints with a well-proportioned sugar cookie, but many bakers add their special touch to the soft top. Colored frosting, swirled icing, and sprinkles add a sweet touch and fancy designs to the buttery sweetness. Decorated sugar cookies are the up-and-coming sweet treat these days. We’ve seen cupcakes come and go, and the sugar cookie is enjoying a moment in the spotlight. The themes, colors and designs cookie makers come up with are incredible. Perfectly packaged and perfectly decorated, these elaborate cookies always steal the show, and hammer home the theme, at any party. 

Sugar cookies have become a Christmas staple. The tradition is thought to have begun in the agrarian farming days. It is thought that because there was no farming in the cold, dark winter months, people would visit friends, family, and neighbors, bringing simple gifts to bestow. The simple sugar cookie became a popular gift to give and receive. People would make a big batch of sugar cookies, storing them until it was time to give them as gifts, but also to have on hand to welcome guests with. 

Christmas cookies, and the traditions that come along with them, are still a must-have during the holiday season. Gathering to make and decorate Christmas sugar cookies is the perfect excuse to come together and celebrate the season by creating plates of beautiful cookies. Decorating Christmas cookies is the perfect tradition to include the kids, though the end result might not look as put-together as the professional’s. It’s important to note that Santa himself loves Christmas sugar cookies, and doesn’t discriminate against whoever decorated them. He loves them all the way they are! 

We, at Old World Christmas, love Christmas cookies so much we made a few Christmas ornaments celebrating the making, decorating and eating of the cookie! We love the gingerbread boy ornament and the Ginger Cottages Gingerman Ornament as well as the snow woman chef keeping the Christmas sugar cookie tradition alive. See all these and more in our dessert and candy ornament collection! 

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Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.

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