12/8/10

The "Stamped" Image

Every year, a few days before Thanksgiving, I prepare at least one large batch of Springerle. The cookie, traditional in Bavaria and Austria for centuries, is a white, anise-flavoried cookie made from a simple dough. Some people make them with specially-carved rolling pins. They can be quite elaborate (as are these, to the right). I used to make them with a square, carved mold; but in recent years, I've pressed balls of the dough against a round mold with a holly design. So much simpler!

The history of the cookie is controversial.

Some say Springerle cookies come from a pagan celebration (Julfest). During Julfest, animals were sacrificed to the gods, but poor people who couldn't afford to kill any of their animals gave "token" sacrifices in the form of animal-shaped cookies. Others say the source is less secular. Biblical scenes were supposedly portrayed on the cookies, used to educate those who couldn't read or write; and scenes were carved to celebrate births, weddings, and betrothals.

Another source says the oldest known springerle mold was found in Switzerland (14th century), a round shape molded with a carving of the Easter lamb (found at St. Katharine monastery and now in the Swiss national museum in Zurich). Others say the cookies originated in the German province of Swabia (15th century) to honor church Holy Days.

The name "springerle" is said to mean "little knight" or "leaping horse" in old German; but food historians suggest it comes because the cookies "spring up" while cooking. One of the most popular molds is a picture of a leaping (springing) horse.

As I said, I make a simple version of Springerle (like these, to the left). And no matter the shape, the most distinguishing feather of the cookie is that it is stamped with a mold.

As a Christian, every time I make these cookies, I find myself singing the old hymn, "Oh! To Be Like Thee." The lyrics read, in part, "Gladly I'll forfeit all of earth's treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear;" and many of the refrains end with these words: "Stamp Thine own image deep in my heart."

I think about the stamped image. It is not always perfect when I make cookies, because I shift the mold or don't fill in the dough correctly, or the dough sticks and mars the image.

How like my life. I am in Christ, and He is sanctifying me, but sometimes in my desire to live a holy, Christ-honoring life, I get in the way. I make foolish choices; I sin. And people don't see the true image of Christ in me. But God, the Master Craftsman, is not content until I look like His Son (Romans 8:29).

The truth is, someday those know Christ and have been transformed by the Spirit of God will "be like Him" (1 John 3:1-2). We who have "borne the image of the man of dust" during our sojourn on earth will someday bear the image of the "heavenly man," Jesus.

The final verse of the Christmas carol, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (written by Charles Wesley) says, "Adam's likeness now efface, Stamp Thine image in its place." This is the message of Christmas: "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail th' incarnate Deity!" Jesus came to give us life. He came to fix what we cannot fix ~ our separation from God. As the carol says, "God and sinners reconciled."

How glorious. We will be changed, (1 Cor. 15:47-52), and we will forever bear the stamped image of Christ!

1 comment:

Marja said...

Good post, thanks Dawn.
I have never heard of these cookies, but the stories behind it are surely interesting!