From my very first bite, I was in love. Soft, gingery, spicy, covered in chocolate; Lebkuchen is just plain delicious. When people outside Germany think about German Christmas cookies, they probably think most about gingerbread. And gingerbread does exist in Germany, but it is not nearly as ubiquitous at Christmastime as Lebkuchen (although, to be fair, Lebkuchen is basically a slightly cakey gingerbread).
Lebkuchen has been a part of German cuisine since the 13th century (back then it was also known as a "honey cake"). The famous Nürnberger Lebkuchen - the most well-known version being Elisenlebkuchen (made without flour) - has been distributed since the early 1800s. Typically, it is glazed or covered with dark chocolate, but it can also be bought uncoated. In some bakeries, one can find variations including marzipan, orange, or other fruit flavorings.
When trying your first Lebkuchen, you might wonder what that weird wafer thing is on the bottom of the cookie/cake. It is indeed a communion-style wafer called an Oblate. Centuries ago, monks used unleavened communion wafer ingredients to prevent the dough from sticking. It worked so well that they still do it today.
Last year, I read a report that sadly stated that Germans were no longer the huge consumers of Lebkuchen that they once were. Apparently, there's been a slow evolution away from traditional Christmas fare, as Germans get sucked in by the ever-growing Christmas varieties of their favorite junk food products. I say noooooooo! Support and love your Lebkuchen. It will always be better than a Christmas-colored M&M.