It just wouldn't be Christmas without a plate of warm gingersnaps and a glass of cold milk.

It sounds like a cliché, but it really is true. Christmas is a magical time. Shopkeepers dress their storefronts in their holiday finest, enticing shoppers to drop in for a cup of warm, spiced cider and a last minute purchase. School children gleefully string popcorn to loop around the Christmas tree, so happy for the welcome break from schoolwork. If you are lucky enough to live in the colder realms of the South, you might enjoy a day with friends sledding down a snow-covered hillside. Beyond the shops and glittery packages, the decorated trees and fun in the snow, there is one magical element at the center of it all. The Christmas Cookie. You can make a showstopping layer cake or silky crème brûlée, but it is the cookie that everyone begs for. A tin of assorted cookies, such as oatmeal, snickerdoodles, or chocolate chip cookies, makes the perfect gift for teachers and co-workers, and we all know that cookies are Santa’s favorite treat. Out of all the incredibly delicious and mouthwatering choices, though, one cookie stands out as the classic Christmas Cookie: the Gingersnap.

It might be the alluring blend of spices in gingersnaps, sometimes called molasses cookies, that make this treat so popular. They are familiar and seasonal spices–ginger, cinnamon, cloves, sometimes cardamom, nutmeg, or allspice–and their scents evoke wonderful memories of crisp weather and warm kitchens. All together they work to create a taste and fragrance that is as cozy as your favorite winter sweater.

It might be the dark, sticky molasses that is the key to why we love gingersnaps. There is no substitute for this slower-than-Christmas-thick, brownish-black syrup when it comes to sweetening baked beans and BBQ sauces, and it is the perfect accompaniment to the collection of winter spices used in gingersnaps. Whether you choose dark, blackstrap, sulphured, or unsulphured molasses is strictly between you and your recipe, but don’t dare substitute another syrup for the molasses. Your gingersnaps just won’t be the same.

Gingersnap recipes are not difficult; in fact, they are quite simple to make which is another plus in the popularity column. After creaming the shortening and/or butter, adding sugar, eggs, molasses, and the dry ingredients (which include those alluring spices), chill the dough a bit so it is easier to handle. Afterwards, simply roll the dough into walnut sized balls, roll them in a bit of sugar, and place on the baking sheet. Once the scent of baking gingersnaps hits the wind, you can expect company at your door. So just put on a pot of coffee and wait for your neighbors.