Holiday Cookies Around the World

Holidays are a great time to celebrate traditions, old and new. Throughout the world, these celebrations often include food, and especially indulgent foods like dessert. The venerable cookie is not stranger to holiday gatherings. Indeed, there are different varieties that are famous in their native lands. Here are just a few from all corners of the globe.

Swedish Pepparkakor - Sometimes referred to as Swedish Ginger Thins, they are similar to sugar cookies, only thinner. The Swedes frequently make use of cookie cutters and create star shapes, as well as people and animals. Often the whole family will get involved, especially the children.

Israeli Rugelach - These classic Jewish cookies have expanded well beyond Israel into societies throughout the world. Made from a yeast dough, they are first cut in circles, then rolled into a crescent shape. They are typically rolled in nuts or raisins before baking, make a memorable treat.

Chinese Almond Cookies - Almonds have been used for over 1400 years in China, so it's no wonder they've found their way into dessert. To make these unique cookies, the Chinese first grind the almonds into a paste. Then they combine the paste with milk and other ingredients and bake up a sweet cookie commonly enjoyed during the holidays.

Mexican Wedding Cookies - These delicious cookies are enjoyed not just in Mexico, but several countries through the world. The Greeks call them Kourambiethes, and they're all called snowballs, butterballs, or Russian tea cakes. They can be either round or crescent shaped. Regardless of what they are called, these buttery cookies are rolled in nuts and powdered sugar and made in bite sized portions. In Mexico, they are presented in fancy paper wrappers and often used as wedding favors.

Scottish Shortbread Cookies - Sometimes more like a crunchy biscuit, these are made from a basic recipe of flour and butter, with a touch of sugar and cornstarch. It's a Scottish treat that doesn't need a special occasion to be enjoyed. They are most popular though during New Year's celebrations. There are plenty of different shortbread recipes, but the Scots have a knack for making the most delicious varieties.

Polish Thumb print Cookies - These start with a rather unique dough that features honey and almonds, for a sweet and nutty cookie. The Poles named these literally, because they have a depression in the middle typically made by the baker pressing their thumb into the dough. The cavity is then filled with sweet jam or preserves, with apricot being the most popular. These are often enjoyed as special Christmas cookies.

Greek Melomakarona - A specialty of Greece whose secret lies in the two step baking process. The first step is to bake the cookies. Second, thye are soaked in honey syrup. Since the cookies are very absorbent due to the batter used, they absorb the honey syrup and make an extraordinary treat. These sweet little cakes are particularly popular during the holiday season.

German Chocolate Pretzel Cookies - The Germans have been making pretzels for hundreds of years, and this offshoot of that tradition is a Christmastime specialty eaten for dessert. They are really chocolate shortbread cookies in the shape of a pretzel. To finish off the effect, the cookies are brushed with an egg glaze and sprinkled with coarse sugar to look like the "salt" on a regular pretzel.

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