Historical Czech Christmas Traditions: Vánoční Cukroví

They say that Czech Christmas cookies have no parallel in the world and foreigners are simply amazed with their diversity, decoration and even flavours…

Vánoční cukroví, or translated to Christmas sweets, can be seen in all kinds of bakeshops and cafés throughout Prague, but the vast majority of Czech families bake their own at the beginning of December.

With roots that go back as far as the 16th century, Czech cukroví is an enduring tradition based on pagan beliefs and rituals. However, in that time, the Christmas cukroví was made out of fruit and shaped into figures for the children. Other baked goods were made, but with much more ceremonial purposes.

Using flour from a person’s own crop meant that they would have a bountiful harvest the following year, and animal shapes intended to protect livestock. These cukroví were hung around the property to protect the family and create good fortune.

The 19th century had much more familiar cukroví, with old variations of the recipes we know now. Ingredients such as honey, butter, eggs, and cocoa were used in many recipes. However, expensive ingredients were still sparse for anyone who was not wealthy.

It was not until after World War II that the general public could afford more expensive ingredients, and the modern Czech Christmas cookie came to be.

Linecké cukroví

These are two pieces of icing sugar sprinkled shortbread with jam in the middle. The top piece of shortbread has some sort of shape cut out on the top like a heart, star, or Christmas tree to reveal the jam underneath.

 

Perníčky

Perníčky is basically Czech gingerbread. It’s similar to regular gingerbread from the US or the UK but doesn’t actually contain ginger, and is chewier. It usually gets its kick with cinnamon, anise, fennel and cloves. Great if you don’t want something to rich and sweet.

 

Včelí úly

Včelí úly, or “beehives”, are little beehive-shaped rolls made from a mold, and have a hard, crunchy texture. Made with biscotti and hazelnuts, they’re a classic snack to compliment coffee and tea.

 

Vanilkové rohlíčky

Technically these are Austrian, but the two countries used to share territory so some of their Christmas snacks and traditions overlap. Outside of Central Europe, these types of goodies are sometimes known as “moon cookies,” but the Czech ones are better.  Vanilkové rohlíčky are crescent-shaped short bread cookies heavily dusted in vanilla and icing sugar.

 

Sádlové cukroví

Sádlové cukroví

We gotta put sádlové cukroví at number one purely because they are made of lard, which makes it positively Czech. Sádlové cukroví, or “lard cookies,” are created by making a batter out of lard, sugar, and chocolate, baking the batter into a cookie with a little pocket in it, and then filling the pocket with jam. It’s an absolute masterpiece.

 

 

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