Cookies first burst onto the culinary scene around the seventh century, when bakers used small portions of cake batter to test the heat of the oven. The resulting treats were dubbed koekje, which is Dutch for "little cake."
Although many varieties of holiday cookies are rolled and cut into shapes like Christmas trees, stars and stockings, then decorated with seasonal colors, the majority of Christmas cookies don't even have to look the part. In Italy, for example, almond cookies known as amaretti are a traditional holiday favorite made of sugar, almonds and egg whites [source: Seamans]. Krumkake, a thin, waferlike cookie, is one of Norway's beloved holiday cookies, whereas a cookie called papparkakor, which is similar to a gingersnap, reigns in Sweden. Kourambiedes, a Greek favorite, get extra flavor from ingredients such as cloves and brandy.
Whether you prefer dropped, rolled or bar cookies, be sure to heed the advice of experts before breaking out the apron. First, chilled dough is easier to roll out or slice, so it's a good idea to pop it in the refrigerator for a half hour or so beforehand. Also, proper storage helps cookies retain their freshness. Once the cookies are fully cooled, transfer them to a sealed container, and separate layers with wax paper to prevent them from sticking [source: Epicurious].