What are Some Classic Holiday Cookies?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 January 2020
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There are several cookies that seem to make their appearance only during the Christmas season. They are often highly anticipated, as they are relatively rare during other seasons. Such cookies are fun to make and give, or to receive.

Perhaps the most classic holiday cookies are gingerbread and sugar cookies. These are wonderful for the season since so many beautiful cookie cutters are available. Both gingerbread or sugar holiday cookies can be decorated with frosting, sparkles, jimmies, or colored sugar, which make them even more attractive.

Some cooks find that the toughest part about making either type of cookie is the cutting out process. This usually results from not chilling the dough to a cool enough temperature. Room temperature dough will indeed result in a frustrating cutting experience because the dough will have a tendency to stick to the cutters. This can quickly diminish the holiday spirit.

Almost all recipes, regardless of variations, should be followed to the letter as to times needed for chilling dough. This will make for easy and fun cutting. If the dough of gingerbread or sugar cookies remains a problem, rolling out dough and using a knife to cut diamonds can also make for decorative cookies that work well with holiday themes.


Gingerbread cookies evoke other spicy holiday cookies that are classics. The pfeffernusse, for example, is traditionally found only during the holiday season. While store bought versions can be good, homemade versions are even better.

Most pfeffernusse, translated as pepper nut, are a cookie shaped into balls and after cooking, rolled in powdered sugar. They are spiced with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and many recipes even call for a little black pepper. They are a spicy treat that can really turn a gift of holiday cookies into something special.

Another molded cookie quite popular during the holiday season is a Mexican Wedding Cake, also called butter balls and sometimes Russian Tea Cakes. Although these buttery cookies can certainly be enjoyed year round, their rich flavor makes them an excellent holiday choice. These cookies are by no means low fat, however, and they really do not taste as good if shortening is substituted for butter.

Brandy, bourbon, or rum balls are actually some of the easiest holiday cookies to prepare since they require no baking. If offering them as holiday cookies to families with children, a host might want to offer a small adults-only container, since these little cookies can pack a punch.

The ingredients to these cookies are very simple to assemble: crushed vanilla wafers or graham crackers, powdered sugar, powdered cocoa, toasted walnuts or almonds, honey, and of course, the alcohol of choice. Once the ingredients are mixed, they are rolled in cocoa or powdered sugar. These little drunken cookies are actually a great choice for friends who enjoy alcohol, as they can be prepared several weeks in advance of giving them as gifts. In fact, they improve with time, and the alcohol acts as a preservative.

Other possible choices for holiday cookies can range greatly. Some bakers like to stick to the traditional, but many prefer to branch out and make something unexpected. Macaroons, or meringues are often joyfully welcomed. Many bar cookies, like toffee or date bars, will have friends clamoring for more.

In truth, however, just about any homemade cookie will please family and friends. Baking something is really about putting time, effort, and thought into a gift. What friend or acquaintance could fail to appreciate that thoughtfulness?



Discuss this Article

Post 4

@cellmania: This icing is called Royal Icing. It dries to a nice sheen finish and can be colored with food coloring. It is great for Christmas cookies.

You need 3 egg whites, 1 lb. confectioners’ sugar, ½ tsp. cream of tartar and ½ tsp. almond extract.

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and beat on high for a full 10 minutes. The icing will become thick and glossy. Keep it covered with a damp cloth while you are using it. Remove small portions as you need it and color with food coloring in whatever colors you like.

Post 3

Does anyone know how to make the colored icing that goes on the christmas holiday cookies? My grandmother used to make them when we were younger and she would use all kinds of different cookie cutters and then we got to help spread the icing. So much fun!

Post 2

@medicchristy: Rum balls are one of the quickest and easiest treats to throw together for the holidays. They are so simple to make.

These are the ingredients: 1 cup vanilla wafers (crushed very fine), 1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 Tbsp. cocoa, 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup, ¼ cup rum, and a small amount of granulated sugar.

Stir together the vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar, pecans, and cocoa. Mix well. Add the corn syrup and rum and mix again.

With wet hands, shape the mixture into 1” balls and roll in granulated sugar.

Post 1

Great article. Those are some wonderful ideas for holiday baking. I had no idea that rum balls didn't have to be cooked. I have never made them but they sure sound good. Anyone have a recipe? Thanks in advance!

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