About a million years ago when I was kid, I remember it wasn’t the end of the Thanksgiving parade or Black Friday that ushered in the Christmas season. It was Christmas cookies.

Back then cookie swaps weren’t the search-and-destroy competition they are today. A neighbor or family friend would just appear on your doorstep with a tin in hand. Invariably, the tin was from Royal Dansk butter cookies or Walker’s shortbread.

While my mother and father would stiffly entertain the visitor, I’d sneak off to the kitchen with the tin. Inside was a batch of different cookies wrapped in waxed paper. Always waxed paper.

Depending upon the person, there were biscotti, snowflake cookies, meringue kisses, Pillsbury slice-and-bake something or other, or rum balls (which I was utterly forbidden to eat). If the baker was particularly talented there might be Italian flag cookies AKA rainbow cookies.

Then there was always Mrs. Miranda from next door who pushed candied fruit cookies or date bars on us. Come New Year’s they were still there. Too damn healthy. (Sorry, Miranda clan.)

There was one cookie over which I negotiated with the candle of Jesus with the exploding heart in my room. If it were in the towers of tins we got every December, I’d do whatever my parents told me for the whole of the following year. The glorious, tremendously fabulous Hershey’s kiss cookies, which always goes by the name peanut butter blossom cookies.

A parchment lined baking sheet filled with rows of round peanut butter cookies with chocolate centers.
: Maura McEvoy

I’d do a face plant into the tin, and eat them all before my mother–an inveterate peanut-butter cookie fan–could even smell them.

Did I obey my parents for the whole year? That’s why they invented confession.

The word "David" written in script.
Easy shortbread cookies cooling on a wire rack, beside a rolling pin and a large shortbread petticoat.
Regula Ysewijn
1 of 12

Easy Shortbread Cookies

Textbook shortbread is one part sugar for two parts butter and three parts flour. My version contains slightly less sugar and a little more butter. Some of the flour is also replaced by rice flour, cornstarch, or semolina to make the biscuits even more brittle and short. I was looking for the taste and texture of my favorite shortbread fingers, and this recipe is very close.
A pile of diamond-shaped biscochitos in a wooden bowl.
Jen Judge
2 of 12


These biscochitos are a New Mexican Christmas cookie classic. Their trademark flaky texture and flavor comes from using lard in the dough, along with cinnamon, sugar, anise, and brandy.

These are so addictive, and so good alongside a cup of hot tea. Bizcochitos have been a must-have in my holiday cookie selection ever since a friend gave me her family recipe (very similar to this one) years ago.

A molasses spice cookie on the saucer of a cup of tea, more cookies in a pile and on a wire rack.
Kevin Jacobs
3 of 12

Molasses Spice Cookies

These molasses spice cookies aren’t your ordinary cookies. Sure, they’re made with flour, butter, sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and molasses, but they get a nice savoriness from black pepper. Bet you can’t stop at just one.
A pile of crescent-shaped cookies on a platter with greenery and Christmas ornaments on the side
Natasha Breen
4 of 12

Viennese Crescent Cookies

Viennese crescent cookies are a tradition in Austria. They’re made with hazelnuts, shaped like a half-moon, and dusted with confectioners’ sugar. One nibble and we think you’ll understand why they’re a classic.

These cookies were delicious! Perfect for Christmas.

Christmas sugar cookies being rolled out and placed on a sheet pan, with cookie cutters, a rolling pin, sprinkles, and flour nearby.
Hélène Dujardin
5 of 12

Christmas Sugar Cookies

This Christmas cookie recipe has evolved over the years. These days, I prefer to roll out a softer, 1/4-inch (6.5 mm) thick cookie compared to when I was younger and desired a thinner, crispier cookie.
Assorted shaped lebkuchen decorated with white and chocolate icing.
CICO Books
6 of 12


Lebkuchen are traditional German Christmas cookies that are subtly reminiscent of gingerbread. Although actually we prefer to refer to them as “moments of perfectly spiced cut-out cookie deliciousness.”

This is a lovely lebkuchen recipe……the flavours of the spices, the citrus and even the chocolate in the glaze all come together in a most appealing way!

karen h.
A selection of decorated gingerbread cookies in the shapes of men, stars, and trees.
7 of 12

Gingerbread Men Cookies

Gingerbread men cookies are that are simple to make and subtle in taste. Our kinda Christmas cookie.
A scalloped round sugar cookie with a heart-shaped windowpane cutout hanging from a tree branch.
Jackie Alpers
8 of 12
These windowpane cookies give the illusion of being made of stained glass thanks to melted Jolly Ranchers. The appearance of cathedral windows only adds to their appropriateness at Christmas.
Sugar Christmas snow cookies, in various shapes, decorated with white icing.
Jason Lowe
9 of 12

Sugar Christmas Snow Cookies

What can you expect from these sugar Christmas snow cookies? They're thin. They're delicate. They're tender. They're browned ever so slightly at the edges. And they're imbued with the sweet, sweet loveliness of butter. Think of them as shortbread all gussied up in the guise of a sugar cookie.

Delightful! While the sugar Christmas snow cookies themselves are so simple and tender (confectioners’ sugar–who knew!), they’re elevated by a slight drizzle of the lemon glaze and a touch of vanilla. We embellished them with some pearly confections and are thrilled to have quite an elegant take–in both taste and appearance–on the humble Christmas sugar cookie.

ashley a.
A dozen mounded molasses cookies, half of each is covered in chocolate on a white background.
Stacey Cramp
10 of 12
These chocolate-dipped molasses cookies have the best of everything: molasses, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and, natch, chocolate. Bake, dip, and wrap to make a delightful gift.
A plate with seven chocolate-ginger crinkle cookies
Lili Basic
11 of 12

Chocolate Ginger Crinkle Cookies

These chocolate ginger crinkle cookies are a pleasing riff on a familiar (and easy!) Christmas standby. Chunks of crystallized ginger and dark chocolate make for a rather grown-up experience of a childhood classic.

An excellent crinkle cookie. I got raves from everyone who tasted them for me. A very different cookie and very well received. This will become a standard in our Christmas cookie collection.

theodore w.
A Christmas tree made of decorated cookies.
Katie Hammond
12 of 12

Christmas Tree of Cookies

This Christmas tree of cookies is what your holidays have been missing. So stunning to behold. So surprisingly simple to assemble. Sugar cookies and royal icing. Done.
How long do cookies keep?

When stored in an airtight container at room temperature, most cookies will stay fresh for up to 1 week.

Do Christmas cookies freeze well?

Generally, yes. Most shortbread, sugar cookies, gingerbread, and any type of roll-out cookie will freeze well for up to 3 months. You can freeze the unbaked dough or baked, undecorated cookies in an airtight container between layers of parchment or wax paper.

What’s the most popular cookie at Christmas?

According to YouGovAmerica, the most popular Christmas cookie is chocolate chip, followed by sugar cookies. Popularity does vary from region to region across the country.

If your holiday treat preference leans more towards the confection or candy variety, we’ve got you covered. From rum balls to Nutella truffles to homemade caramels, there’s something for every sweet tooth out there. Happy baking!

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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