It’s the Holidays! Time for a Cookie Exchange!

Introduction: In this article – just in time for Holiday baking – Gena Philibert-Ortega searches old newspapers to find cookie recipes. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is that my sister-in-law and her sisters get together and make a huge batch of cookies. They make all kinds of cookies including those that they grew up with in the Azores. But my family that lives seven hours away are the lucky ones, because she always brings us a full container of cookies and then we fight over who gets to eat which ones.

Photo: Christmas cookies
Photo: Christmas cookies. Credit: Gillian; Wikimedia Commons.

Do you participate in a cookie exchange with family or friends? Cookies are the best! They are small pieces of sugary deliciousness and everyone has a favorite. Does your favorite cookie have a family history tradition behind it? Cookies are a nice way to share some family food history. Even if you don’t have a cookie food tradition, you could start your own this holiday season.

Here are a few ideas for some cookies you may want to bake.

Some Family Favorites

Everyone in my family has their favorites. My oldest loves Snickerdoodles and I personally like Mexican Wedding Cookies, and everyone likes Chocolate Chip Cookies.

An article about snickerdoodles, Omaha World-Herald newspaper article 27 May 1980
Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 27 May 1980, page 11

Snickerdoodles are one of those foods that people are curious as to the history. It seems that some claim it’s of German descent while others say it’s a New England invention with a weird name. New York Times food editor and restaurant critic Craig Claiborne (1920-2000) answered the Snickerdoodle question with a vague “I don’t know.” But what is known is that it’s a rich cookie with cinnamon, but I have found earlier newspaper recipes for Snickerdoodle Cake prior to finding the cookie recipes.

And here’s a more recent recipe for Snickerdoodle Blondies.

A recipe for snookerdoodle blondies, Advocate newspaper article 21 October 2010
Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 21 October 2010, page 54

Mexican Wedding Cookies are known by various names. As a Christmas cookie you might know them as Snowballs because that’s exactly what they look like with their round shape dusted in powdered sugar. This newspaper article includes ideas for variations of this familiar recipe.

A cookie recipe, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 2 October 2002
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 2 October 2002, page 60
Cookie recipes, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 2 October 2002
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 2 October 2002, page 60

Here are recipes for the famous Nestle’s Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies, including a large pizza-sized cookie in case you’re really hungry.

Cookie recipes, St. Albans Daily Messenger newspaper article 31 January 1996
St. Albans Daily Messenger (St. Albans, Vermont), 31 January 1996, page 28

Old Fashioned Cookies

Do you want to try something different? You could try a recipe from the past that your ancestor may have also enjoyed. This 1916 column of cookie recipes includes a Cinnamon Cookie, Ginger Wafers, and Date Cookies. The California Drop Cookie recipe includes molasses, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

Cookie recipes, Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader newspaper article 20 December 1916
Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), 20 December 1916, page 14

Christmas Cookies

What about a recipe for a an appropriately named Christmas Cookie? This one from 1879 includes a lot of sugar and lemon or orange extract and is finished off with powdered sugar and a raisin “to please the little folks.”

A cookie recipe, Indiana State Sentinel newspaper article 22 January 1879
Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis, Indiana), 22 January 1879, page 9

Fruitcake Cookies seem to be another cookie that screams Christmas. I personally like fruitcake but I know it’s not everyone’s favorite. Maybe these Fruitcake Cookies will be a little bit more palatable to even those that hate the much-maligned cake, since they are just tiny bites. Like their namesake, they include currants, raisons, candied fruits and nuts as ingredients. They are finished off with a creamy frosting and decorations consisting of candied cherries and citron.

A cookie recipe, San Antonio Express newspaper article 12 December 1952
San Antonio Express (San Antonio, Texas), 12 December 1952, page 40

Holiday Sweetness

The holidays are a great time to indulge in a little sweetness, and cookies fit that bill! Do you have a favorite cookie recipe? How about sharing your favorite or memories of family favorites with us in the comments section below?

Happy Holidays!

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4 thoughts on “It’s the Holidays! Time for a Cookie Exchange!

  1. I have a recipe written in Norwegian that I’d love to have translated! It was my great great grandmother’s recipe who emigrated from Norway. I could take a picture of the recipe if you have someone to translate? It is for cookies.

    1. Susan, have you tried using Google Translate? You can enter the words on the website and it can translate for you, or you can use the app and your mobile device’s camera to see a translation using the recipe. Make sure to choose Norwegian as the language to translate from.

  2. I’m still looking for a recipe for Date Nut Loaf. My mom and her sisters made it using dates and pecans (as they were from Texas). They formed it in a loaf pan and one of my aunts used Hard Sauce with it. Delightfully decadent!

    1. Eileen, have you searched GenealogyBank for the recipe? I found over 2,000 results when I used “date nut loaf” and when I included the word “recipe” the results numbered over 400. You can even narrow the results down by Texas newspapers.

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