A Tradition-ful Advent:
Gingerbread & Sugar Cookies
A Little History:
The first known recipe for gingerbread came from Greece in 2400 BC. Chinese recipes were developed during the 10th century and by the late Middle Ages, Europeans had their own version of gingerbread. The hard cookies, sometimes gilded with gold leaf and shaped like animals, kings and queens, were a staple at Medieval fairs in England, France, Holland and Germany year round. Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the idea of decorating the cookies in this fashion, after she had some made to resemble the dignitaries visiting her court. Over time some of these festivals came to be known as Gingerbread Fairs, and the gingerbread cookies served there were known as ‘fairings.’ When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert included it with a variety of other German Christmas traditions, the gingerbread cookies became primarily associated with Christmas. Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not gingerbread houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or vice versa.
The modern incarnation of the authentic sugar cookie can be traced back to the mid 1700s in Nazareth Pennsylvania. (Don’t let the name of the city be lost on you, beautiful connection in it). There, German Protestant settlers created the round, crumbly, buttery cookie that came to be known as the Nazareth Sugar Cookie. Sugar cookies probably derived from an earlier, unleavened cookie called a “jumble,” which is a biscuit that gained popularity in the 17th and 18th century in Europe chiefly because of the fact that, as a non-leavened food, it could be dried and stored for many months. The modern Nazareth-style sugar cookie has gained enormous popularity in America. Leaving cookies and milk for Santa—and perhaps a few carrots for his reindeer—took off as an American holiday tradition in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. In that time of great economic hardship, many parents tried to teach their children that it was important to give to others and to show gratitude for the gifts they were lucky enough to receive on Christmas, so the cookies & milk were a way to say “thank you” for the gifts. Because of how affordable they were to make with simple ingredients and how easy it is to cut and shape the sugar cookie dough, the sugar cookie was a natural fit and soon became an iconic symbol of Christmas baking.
Making cookies, decorating sugar cookies, and crafting gingerbread houses are a favorite pastime during the Christmas season. When we make these treats, we use cookie cutters to cut off the rough edges into an intentional shape which is then ready for decorating… turning ordinary dough into edible masterpieces. When God forms us, he does the same thing, but instead of cookie cutters, he uses his fingers. He hand molds each one of us special and unique, created and formed with intent for a specific purpose which he is preparing us for. He is the potter and we are His clay and He wants to mold us into His masterpieces. When he is trimming our edges, sometimes we don’t understand because we don’t see the bigger picture yet. We have to trust and have faith that He has a vision for what he is creating, a unique masterpiece. Our role is simple, we only need to be mold-able and willing to follow His lead.
Verse(s) to Remember:
“Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” Jeremiah 18:6
Ideas to Make it Stick:
- Make sugar cookies or gingerbread men and decorate them together!
- Take cookie trays and deliver to neighbors, trash collectors, mailmen, local policemen, firemen or other service professionals who serve us every week and keep us safe. remembering the unique roles we each play and God’s design in making us all specially different.
- Get out the playdough and make pretend cookies, “molding” the clay like God molds us into masterpieces.
- Read the book The Legend of the Christmas Cookie
Please feel free to share with friends and leave comments… Do you have other connections between the tradition and the heart of the holiday? Creative ideas to make it stick? I’d love to know what you and your family do with this!