New Years Traditions: Cookies

Cookey. (Dutch, koekje.) A little cake. Used in New York and in New England. A Near Year’s Cookey is a peculiar cake made only in New York, and at the Christmas holidays. In the olden time, each visitor, on New Year’s day, was expected to take one of these cakes. The custom is still practised to a considerable extent.[1]

“Cookie” is not a term you see much until the 20th century. Prior to that time, what we refer to as cookies, would have been called biscuits or cakes. But there is one specific exception, the New Year’s Cookey. The quote above sums it up quite neatly. In the (formerly Dutch) city of New York, there was a tradition of handing out koekje on New Year’s day.

Cookies and biscuits of the time, were not as complicated or as sweet as modern cookies tend to be. This specific recipe only calls for five ingredients.[2]

New Year's Cookies - Recipe

And, of course, typically, it has almost zero instructions.

This makes a crisp, slightly sweet biscuit.

New Years Cookies


New Year's Cookies


  • 3/4 pound of butter
  • 6 cups of flour
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 375F or 350F convection
  2. In a large bowl, cut or rub the butter into the flour.
  3. In another bowl, add the boiling water to the sugar, mix, then add soda, stir until well mixed.
  4. Add the sugar mixture to the flour, stir in, then knead with hands until smooth.
  5. Roll out very thin, approximately 1/8 inch thick.
  6. Cut shapes as desired and place on parchment lined sheets.
  7. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until just barely starting to brown on the edges.


These were not usually decorated, but no reason you can't

The dough is fairly stiff and tends to crack a bit, especially if it gets cool. Do NOT refrigerate before rolling. I recommend rolling immediately after mixing and kneading.

I cut the recipe to 1/3, which made 3 dozen 2" diameter round cookies.


J. Russell Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1889.
D. A. Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cookbook. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1891.

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