A Brief History of Christmas Cookies
Linzer heart, peanut kiss, date pinwheel — the names themselves are sweet. Americans love cookies like they love breathing air. And just as we don't question the air, how often do we wonder about the frenzy of cookie baking that signals the winter holidays? It's not just short days and long nights that make people want to get out the rolling pins and sprinkles.
Spices we associate with Christmas (cinnamon, cloves, ginger), along with small cakes (a.k.a. cookies) were introduced in Europe more than 700 years ago, to the few and the lucky who could afford them. According to the exhibit on "Sugar in the Atlantic World" now at the Clements Library, what made sweets widely available was increased sugar production (based on slavery in the Caribbean) when "between the middle of the 1600s and the middle of the 1800s, sugar was transformed from a luxury to a widely consumed commodity in Great Britain and the United States."