On the fourth day of Christmas my Museum showed to me four cookies cut from this tree.
Everyone knows that Christmas seems to be the time that bakeries and kitchens all have that sweet smell drifting into our noses from holiday baking. Sugar cookies, gingerbread, ginger snaps, oatmeal raisin cookies, spritz cookies, all these desserts tantalize our tastebuds and every year we look forward to the holiday season and all the delicious sweets we will indulge in. We are all a little bit jealous of Santa who gets to eat millions of cookies in a night.
Christmas baking finds its roots in the Winter Solstice festivals of the 10th and 11th century. Observed across the world, these events celebrated the changing of seasons. It was only during these important events that families could afford to splurge on special items (like baked goods),and during the Middle Ages people would gift baked goods to share their spoils. Spices that we associate with the holiday were only used during celebrations as they were too costly to use year round, which is why we have the association with spiced treats (like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger) around the holiday.
We are not entirely sure where the tradition of leaving cookies out for Santa started but most historians believe that it started with the man himself Saint Nicholas (the Saint Santa is based on). Saint Nicholas was known for his kindness, and children returned his kindness in the form of baked goods on the eve of St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. During the Great Depression, parents encouraged their children to leave baked goods out for Santa to encourage generosity (and hey, Santa is leaving presents, so it seems like a fair trade).
Do you have a favourite Christmas cookie?