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International Holiday Cookies

Updated: Feb 9

Dear FCI,

I must apologize for my absence lately! With the advent of the holiday season, things have just been crazy, and I haven’t had the time to write! However, all is well over here and I hope all is well back home.

As we all know, holidays bring tradition, and I’m sure by now you know how much I love exploring international traditions. So, in this letter, I want to talk about international holiday cookies!

Back home during the holiday season, we would always make the same cookies every year. Chewy chocolate chip, creamy peanut butter cookies sandwiched between Nutella, and melt-in-your-mouth snickerdoodles. But what really made me feel the warmth and joy of Christmas approaching was my mother’s candy cane cookies. There was no peppermint in them, but rather they resembled a candy cane, with red and white dough spiraled together. They were soft, and had the subtle flavor of almonds, baked with egg wash and topped off with sugar crystals. As soon as those cookies came out of the oven, it was officially Christmas time.

We all have those special treats our families make to remind us of what time of year it is, and those delicacies that bring us tidings of comfort and joy. Without further ado, I’d like to share with you some holiday cookies from around the world.


Rosettes are delicate, fritter-like cookies that are traditional to Scandinavian culture. They are fried in iron molds called rosette irons which give them their snowflake-like shape. Rosettes are light and fluffy, resembling that of a doughnut, and are often topped with powdered sugar! (Aren’t they so pretty to look at?)



The holidays in Greece aren’t complete without Melomakarono, which are egg-shaped, honey flavored cookies dating back to ancient religious ceremonies. “Meli” is a Greek term translating to honey, and “makaria” translates to bless. They’re often made with flour, sugar, juice, and of course, honey.



Similar to gingerbread cookies, pepparkakor are thin, crisp cookies made from flour, butter, sugar, and sirap—a light molasses syrup with a hint of caramel. Often flavored with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves, these cookies are a staple to the holiday season in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. Pepparkakor can also be made with thicker dough to make a Pepparkakshus, which is essentially a gingerbread house. Built and decorated with icing and other confectionaries, unlike a gingerbread house, the pepparkakshus is not typically eaten afterwards.


The soetkoekie is a South African favorite. Translating to “sweet biscuit,” this traditional sugar cookie is typically flavored with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and port wine. They are of Dutch origin and have a sweet, buttery flavor followed by a spice that creates a warm, nostalgic feeling.


Pizzelles are said to be one of the oldest cookies, supposedly dating back to the 8th century. These delicate looking cookies have a crispy texture and a slightly sweet flavor, resembling that of a pancake or waffle. The intricate designs are made with the irons they are baked in, known as pizzelle irons. They are cooked in the iron, which is held over a stovetop, and either served plain, dipped in chocolate, or topped with powdered sugar.


Joulutorttu is a Finnish pastry traditionally served with coffee after meals during the holiday season. They’re usually made from puff pastry, formed into a star or pinwheel shape, and filled with prune jam. Translating to Christmas tart, these cookies date back to the 18th century with variations of the filling ranging from apples, cream cheese, ricotta, and other fruits.


Rugelach is a pastry resembling a croissant or miniature roll, and is filled with ingredients such as chocolate, fruit, and nuts. It’s said to have originated from the Jewish communities of Poland and is typically served during Hanukkah. Rugelach is a Yiddish word translating to “little twists” and are found today in most Israeli cafes and bakeries.



These signature shell-shaped confectionaries are more like little sponge cakes rather than cookies. Flavored with vanilla and a hint of citrus, usually lemon or orange, these soft, buttery treats are said to date back to the 18th century in France. Sometimes topped with powdered sugar or dotted with chocolate chips, Madeleines are present all over France today (they pair well with coffee, tea, or even wine too!)


Kolache is said to be of Polish and Czechoslovakian origin and is known to refer to a number of butter-based pastries. The common ingredients of Kolache include flour, butter, cream cheese, jam, and powdered sugar. Kolache can have any kind of filling, from strawberry and boysenberry jams, to savory fillings such as sausage and cheese. You can find them topped with powdered sugar, served plain, or drizzled with sweet glaze.



These star-shaped German cookies are made from egg whites, cinnamon, and nuts, similar to that of a macaron. And while the top may look like a thin layer of icing, it’s actually meringue that is put on before baking. Zimtsterne translates to cinnamon stars and are one of the many cookies made during Advent in Germany. They date back to the 16th century, are naturally gluten free, and keep for long periods of time—getting chewier as time passes.



In my family, the holiday season isn’t complete without cookies, and I absolutely love trying new recipes and incorporating international traditions into my own! I hope this letter inspires you to search for something new to add to your baking list this season. Well, I'm off on another adventure so I'll write again when I can!

Until next time,



Meyers, J., & Kaminski, L. (2023, November 8). 38 Unique Christmas Cookies from Around the World. Taste of Home.

Obry, C. (2023, February 23). How Madeleines became a classic French delicacy! French Wink.

Pizzelle: traditional biscuit with a long history. (2022, June 12). Biscuit People.


169 views3 comments


Feb 05

I love all cookies!!


Feb 02

I WANT THEM ALLLLLL!!! Yummmmm... and so pretty!


Feb 02

These cookies look amazing! So excited to add some new recipes to my holiday festivities!

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