This particular form of divination comes to us from Prussia, an historically-important German state which existed from the 16th to early 20th Centuries. ‘Glucksgreife’ which translates as “Lucky Grabs” was a fortune-telling game practiced at New Year’s, using what today an English-speaking person would call cookies or biscuits. An assortment of cookies cut in a variety of shapes were arranged on a platter, then covered with a plate or bowl. Each family member took a turn, reaching under the plate or bowl to grab a cookie. The shape of the cookie a person grabbed was considered to predict what he or she could expect in the year ahead.
This was such a popular New Year’s tradition, Prussian bakeries catered to it. They produced a variety of cookies, which people traditionally purchased in odd numbers. Some traditional shapes of cookies for this game included interlocking rings, a man, a woman, a crown, a swaddled baby or cradle, a loaf of bread, a ladder, a key, a four-leafed clover, a cross inside a circle (which simply symbolized ‘luck’), moneybags, death’s heads, twins, wagons, ships, stars, hearts, crosses, chimney sweeps, beggar’s staffs, ox-eyes, and snakes.