• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Bread like baby Jesus? A brief history of German Christmas sweets

The Local · 16 Dec 2010, 14:00

Published: 16 Dec 2010 14:00 GMT+01:00

The art of baking Lebkuchen began in monasteries during the Middle Ages, when the word leb meant “remedy.” The medicinal herbs and spices grown in monastery gardens – including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, aniseed and cardamom – were baked into the honey cookies as a symbol of the healing brought to the world by Christ’s birth.

Now supermarkets sell ready-made spice packets for the yeast-free cookies, which often use thin white wafers as a base. The ingredients of different regional versions sold at stores and Christmas markets are now state regulated to preserve the their tradition.

Click here for photos of the traditional sweets.

Click here for The Local's visual guide to Christmas markets.

The shortbread cookies called Spekulatius are most closely connected with December 5, when Germans celebrate St. Nikolaus. The name is thought to be related to the Latin word for bishop, “speculator.”

The spiced cookies, which contain cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, are traditionally stamped with a variety of images of St. Nikolaus as a bishop.

Christstollen or just Stollen, as the loaves of sweet raisin bread are known, was first recorded in 1330 at a Naumberg monastery. Said to resemble the swaddled baby Jesus, the original loaves contained ingredients acceptable for Advent fasting – just water, oat flour, yeast and oil.

But after Pope Innocence VIII himself granted permission for butter to be used in the dough in 1491, Stollen developed into a special Christmas sweet and are said to taste best after a few months in the pantry. The basic form now contains raisins and sometimes also candied citrus peels. But variations include almonds, marzipan and even carrots now abound.

Story continues below…

Some 150 years after the existence of Stollen was recorded in Naumberg, a similar Christmas bread called Striezel was noted in Dresden. The city and surrounding region are most famous for the bread, and the Saxon capital’s main Christmas market, the Striezelmarkt, was named in its honour, though the bread is now also known as Stollen there.

DAPD/The Local/ka

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
VW to pay US suppliers $1.2 bln over Dieselgate
Volkswagen model vehicles on a dealer lot in Bedford, Massachusetts, USA. Photo: Cj Gunther/Picture Alliance/DPA

German auto giant Volkswagen has agreed to pay US suppliers $1.2 billion to settle claims emanating from the "Dieselgate" pollution scandal, the firm and suppliers said late Friday.

This Week in History
75 years since one of Holocaust's worst massacres
Photo: DPA

On Thursday, German president Joachim Gauck spoke in Kiev 75 years after the Nazis slaughtered 33,771 Jews during one of the worst single massacres of the Holocaust.

Six things you need to know about troubled Deutsche Bank

Shares in Deutsche bank plunged on Friday morning, dragging down other European banks and markets worldwide. Here are six things to know about Germany's biggest lender.

Deutsche Bahn jacks up prices for first time in 3 years
Photo: DPA

Germany's main rail provider, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB), announced on Friday that it will raise prices on long-distance train travel.

Baby found alive in suitcase with skeleton in Hanover
File photo: DPA.

A baby has been found alive, along with the skeleton of another infant inside of a suitcase in Hanover, police reported on Friday.

Morocco to speed up repatriation of illegal migrants
Photo: DPA

Morocco has agreed to streamline the procedures for the repatriation of citizens living illegally in Germany, the royal court said late on Thursday.

890,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year - not 1.1m
Photo: DPA

Previous reports had suggested that around 1.1 million people entered Germany to seek asylum last year. But now the German government has confirmed the number was actually lower.

Racist attacks cast cloud over Dresden Unity Day planning
A police vehicle in Dresden. Photo: DPA.

As Dresden prepares to host Germany’s national Unity Day celebrations on Monday, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony is upping security after a mosque was targeted by a homemade bomb.

Sinking Deutsche Bank stock sends shock across Europe
Photo: DPA

Shares in Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank plummeted on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday, dragging other European banks and global markets down with it, after reports some customers were pulling money out.

The Local List
10 things you never knew about German reunification
Reunification celebrations in Hanover in 2014. Photo: DPA

With German Unity Day (October 3rd) happening on Monday, Germans are looking forward to a three-day weekend. But did you know these facts about reunification and German Unity Day?

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,718
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd