German Christmas Traditions – Including a Cookie Recipe!

This blog post is part of our ‘Multicultural Holiday Traditions’ series. Translators submitted their favorite holiday traditions and we are elated to share them all with you! The first post of the series can be found here and links to all the posts can be found at the bottom of this article. This article was submitted by Johanna Bettinger. Thank you, Johanna!German cookies on a blue and white plate

My favorite Christmas tradition here in Germany is probably Christmas cookies, “Weihnachtsplätzchen”. There is a huge variety of these cookies—almost every family has their own special recipes. In the weeks before Christmas, you find them everywhere. It’s normal to bring your homemade cookies to Christmas parties at work or school, but you should be careful not to eat all of them before December 24—you’ll need some as snacks between the heavy Christmas meals.

In my childhood, baking Christmas cookies with my mom and my siblings was always one of my favorite events. Nowadays I’m trying to establish Christmas baking as a tradition within my group of friends. So far, this has been a success, and no wonder—who doesn’t like cookies?

While I do like the classics, such as “Vanillekipferl” (small, crescent-shaped biscuits dusted with vanilla sugar) or “Hildabrötchen” (short pastry cookies filled with jam), I love to slightly adapt the recipes and add some new flavors here and there. A bit of orange zest always gives the cookies a refreshing note, and repeating the exact same recipes year after year would be a bit boring, wouldn’t it?Two plates of German Christmas cookies

Here’s one of my favorite recipes: Hildabrötchen (traditional)

  • 2 1/3 cups  [300 g] all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup [125 g] white sugar
  • 1 sachet of vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 10 tbsp [150 g] butter
  • Filling: jam (or marmalade)

Mix all the ingredients and knead until the dough is smooth and even. I prefer doing this by hand. Put the dough in the fridge for a few hours, ideally overnight. When it’s time to bake, roll the dough on an even surface sprinkled with some flour. The dough should be approx. 5 mm thick. Then cut out the cookies. Half of them should have a small hole in the middle, a smaller shape cookie cutter works well. Put the cookies in the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius until they are just starting to turn brown around the edges. Heat the jam, spread some on the cookies without a hole and then put the cookies with a hole in them on top. If you dust them with some powdered sugar beforehand, it will bring out the color of the jam even more.

(My variation: This year I added a pinch of salt to the dough, because I learned at some point in my life that everything that has sugar in it should also have a bit of salt, plus the zest of an organic orange, and the seeds of two green cardamom pods, finely ground. For the filling I used homemade currant jam.)

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