Traditional German Christmas cookie similar to gingerbread. Probably invented by Medieval monks in Franconia, Germany in the 13th century. The most famous Lebkuchen come from the town of Nuremberg where they have been produced in highly specialized bakeries for over 600 years and from where they are exported all over the world. Sometimes Lebkuchen are packaged in richly decorated nostalgic tins and boxes which have become collectors' items. Lebkuchen range in taste from spicy to sweet and come in a variety of shapes with round being the most common. The ingredients usually include honey, spices and nuts, almonds or candied fruit. The Lebkuchen dough is often placed on a thin wafer base called Oblate. This was an idea of the monks who used communion wafers to prevent the dough from sticking.
The forerunner of today's Lebkuchen was called 'honey cake' and its history can be traced back to the Egyptians, the Greek and the Romans. They believed honey was a gift of the gods and had magical and healilng powers. Honey cakes were also worn as a talisman in battle or as protection against evil spirits. Teutonic peoples used honey cakes for the same purpose especially around the winter solstice, which might be the reason Lebkuchen became associated with Christmas.