The Swedish word, pepparkakor, literally translates as pepper cakes. The first pepparkakor were honey cakes, flavored with pepper and other spices such as cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and anise, and were imported from German monks beginning in the 1300s. Over time, the pepper was eliminated from most but not all Swedish pepparkakor recipes and the honey was replaced by beet sugar syrup. Today, the word pepparkakor is used for gingersnaps while mjukpepparkakor refers to gingerbread. Swedes buy gingersnaps year-round from bakeries and grocery stores. But for many families, baking pepparkakor at home, using cookie cutters shaped like Christmas goats, pigs, angels, hearts, stars, men and women, remains an essential part of the Christmas festivities.
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