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© Sabrina_Ripke_Fotografie/Pixabay
© Sabrina_Ripke_Fotografie/Pixabay

A Brief History Of Weihnachtsplätzchen, Germany's Traditional Christmas Biscuit

Picture of Lily Cichanowicz
Updated: 27 November 2016
Baking Christmas cookies is a customary activity of the season around the world, and while its origins are vague, the story of Germany’s Weihnachtsplätzchen might just lie at its source. Weihnachtsplätzchen is actually an umbrella term referring to authentic German Christmas biscuits more broadly, and it encapsulates a number of festive treats.

There’s the heart-shaped gingerbread Lebkuchen, the shortbread-like spritz cookie, coconut macaroons, Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Schwarz-Weiß-Gebäck shortbreads, the artful Springerle biscuits, and more. Historically speaking, Germany is a religious country, and the baking begins at the start of advent often commencing around the time of St. Nicholas Day and continues in preparation for Christmas. Many families still observe recipe traditions that go back several generations.

The tradition itself can be sourced all the way back to the monasteries of the Middle Ages, where monks baked different sweets and breads in observance of this anticipated religious season. Some of the very first baked goods to qualify as the Weihnachtsplätzchen that we know today were the Stollen, a kind of fruitcake and the Lebkuchen. The former was made for the first time in 1545 for the council of Trent and the latter was popularized when in 1487, Emperor Friedrich III distributed it to the children of Nuremburg, printed with his likeness.

Clockwise from the left: © strecosa