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 also go 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.

David Leite's handwritten signature of 'David.'
Christmas sugar cookies being rolled out and placed on a sheet pan, with cookie cutters, a rolling pin, sprinkles, and flour nearby.
Hélène Dujardin
1 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.
Recipe
A selection of decorated gingerbread cookies in the shapes of men, stars, and trees.
avdeyukphoto
2 of 12

Gingerbread Men Cookies

Gingerbread men cookies are that are simple to make and subtle in taste. Our kinda Christmas cookie.
Recipe
A stack of star-shaped cutout classic shortbread cookies, lightly dusted with sugar, and a brown takeout container and a gift tag.
Lara Holmes
3 of 12

Classic Shortbread Cookies

These classic shortbread cookies are made with just 5 ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt. A simple, perfect approach to a beloved Scottish tradition that’s a perfect Christmas cookie.
Recipe

I have tried dozens of shortbread recipes in my 55-plus years of baking. This is THE VERY BEST. These shortbread cookies taste like shortbread should.

I used Amish high-fat butter and rolled them to a quarter-inch. I trashed all my other shortbread recipes. THE BEST.

Patricia
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.
Recipe

These cookies were delicious! Perfect for Christmas.

natalie
A variety of iced gingersnaps cookies cut into different shapes.
Rostislav Sedlacek
5 of 12

Gingersnap Cookies

These lovely gingersnap cookies made with ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and molasses, make the best holiday cookie. You'll be the hit of the cookie swap.
Recipe
A pile of diamond-shaped biscochitos in a wooden bowl.
Jen Judge
6 of 12

Biscochitos

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.
Recipe

These are so addictive and so good alongside a cup of hot tea. Biscochitos 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.

renee
A plate with seven chocolate-ginger crinkle cookies.
Lili Basic
7 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.
Recipe

This is an excellent crinkle cookie. I got raves from everyone who tasted them for me. It’s a very different cookie and was very well received. This will become a standard in our Christmas cookie collection.

theodore w.
Assorted shaped lebkuchen decorated with white and chocolate icing.
CICO Books
8 of 12

Lebkuchen

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.”
Recipe

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

karen h.
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.
Recipe

Delightful! While the sugar Christmas snow cookies 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 taste and appearance–on the humble Christmas sugar cookie.

ashley a.
A scalloped round sugar cookie with a heart-shaped windowpane cutout hanging from a tree branch.
Jackie Alpers
10 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.
Recipe
Pain d'Épices Cookies stacked in a pile of five glazed and garnished with candied orange peel.
Romulo Yanes
11 of 12

Pain d’Épice Cookies

Chilling the dough for as long as possible allows the flavors to develop and prevents the cookies from spreading during baking so don't be tempted to shorten the time in the refrigerator.
Recipe
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.
Recipe
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, gingerbread, and rolled cookies will freeze well for up to 3 months. You can freeze the unbaked dough or the baked, undecorated cookies in an airtight container between parchment or wax paper layers.

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 predilection leans toward confections or candy, we’ve got you covered. From rum balls to Nutella truffles, there’s something for every sweet tooth out there. Happy baking!




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also 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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