My husband and I have just returned from the first of three festive meals at my in-laws house. Tonight's meal was at my mother-in-laws, and came complete with our choice of her wonderful Christmas cookies, including shortbread, raisin cookies (lightly sweetened dough stuffed with raisins) and gingerbread men.
It turns out that the custom of baking sweet treats for Christmas is quite old. The Food Timeline traces it at least back to the Middle Ages, and the Germans were, unsurprisingly, in the lead in its development. Gingerbread, with its now traditional spices of ginger, cinnamon, sugar, and the like, was one of the first baked goods to become firmly associated with the holiday.
Yes, it's not as though any of us really needs to indulge in calories quite as much as the traditional Christmas treats encourage, but one or two cookies, accompanied perhaps by a post-prandial walk, still strikes me as a reasonable way to celebrate our culture's biggest return-of-the-light holiday. I hope all who read this get to enjoy a cookie or two as part of a peaceful and happy holiday.