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My grandma was one of seventeen children, she was born in the US to two Finnish parents and married my grandfather who was also a Finn. So growing up my holidays were full of traditions from Finland. We would always have Pulla a mildly-sweet braided bread flavored with cardamom, to eat on Christmas morning. Our gifts from “Santa” were never labeled or wrapped so we always knew who they were from, and we would make Nissu Nassu pig shaped cookies.

Children in Finland know that Christmas is coming when they begin to see these piggy-shaped cookies in the bakeries! Crisp and spicy, the cookies are made out of piparkakku dough. Nissu nassu are children’s pet names for pigs.

Over the years many of the other Finnish traditions have faded, however these three traditions have resonated and represent what Christmas is to me.

Here is the recipe for the pig shaped cookies, also known as Piggy Cookies to me as a kid.


2/3 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 T cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 1/2 cups flour
  • Cream the butter and brown sugar together until well blended.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the dry ingredients.
  • Then blend all ingredients together until the dough forms a smooth ball (add water if needed).
  • Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out very thin and cut with a pig shaped cookie cutter.
  • Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
Additionally you can use icing to decorate the piggy cookies by writing the surnames of your family and friends on the cookies.

What traditions do you continue over the years with your family?