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Holiday Cookies around the World

Holiday Cookies around the World

Add some global flair to your Christmas festivities this year by baking another country’s traditional cookie! Below is a list of popular holiday cookie recipes from various countries.

Sweden – Pepparkakor
These are classic Christmas cookies in Sweden, which are also called “ginger things” or “gingernuts” in the UK. They are heavily spiced and very thin. Not only are they a traditional part of Christmas meals and tree decorations in Sweden, they may be able to make your wishes come true. Custom says you place a pepparkakor in the palm of your hand, make a wish, then tap the middle of the cookie with your finger or thumb. If the cookie breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true! See more about them here.

Germany – Lebkuchen
This cookie is a German Christmas staple. More lebkuchen cookies are consumed in Germany from October through December than any other time of the year. They are made all over Germany, but it is said the best ones are made in Nuremberg. The highly refined art of crafting these cookies dates all the way back to the Medieval times when you had to have a legal right to make them! You can find more on their history and the recipe here.

Canada – Nanaimo Bars
Named after the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, this layer cookie consists of coconut, graham wafer crumbs topped by either a light custard or butter icing and chocolate. Its origin is unknown, but the recipe is said to date back to the 1930’s. Read more about Nanaimo bars here.

The Netherlands – Jan Hagels
A traditional Dutch cookie with almonds, cinnamon and a crystallized sugar, Jan Hagel (which translates as Johnny Hail) is Dutch for “an unruly mob” or “rabble”. The rock sugar on the cookie resembles hail. Click here for the recipe.

South Africa – Soetkoekies
Soetkoekies (Afrikaans for “sweet biscuits”) are a fairly simple spiced biscuit to make, yet have a couple of surprising ingredients! They are traditionally made with wine and pork fat. You can find the traditional recipe here!

Italy – Struffoli
These little cookie balls are common at Christmas time in southern Italy, as well as for many Italian-Americans in the U.S. They are also traditionally made with wine as an ingredient. Struffoli cookies are typically piled on a plate, drenched with a honey-glaze and decorated with colourful sprinkles. Get the recipe here.

Poland – Chrusciki
You may have heard these traditional Polish cookies called “Angels’ Wings” or “Bow Ties” in North America and Chiacchiere in Italy. They are served at a variety of festive events in Poland. Click here to learn how to make these Polish treats.

Argentina – Alfajores
If you are a fan of dulce de leche these cookies are for you! This very popular Argentinean treat puts a layer of dulce de leche between two shortbread cookies. The recipe is said to have been brought over from Spain, where they remain a traditional Christmas cookie as well; however, the Spanish Alfajores are made using a different recipe. You can read more about the Argentinean Alfajores and get the recipe here.


Contribution by Jill Jassmann-Sharlock.

Jill is an IMPACT Group Global Research and Projects Team Lead who focuses on the unique information needs of global transferees. She also serves as IMPACT Group’s Global myIMPACT Specialist, managing content for our global job search and career portal.

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