Imprinted food has been around for many centuries. Lebkuchen, Speculatius and Springerle are Germanic examples of what are now thought of as Christmas cookies.
The winter solstice in Germanic areas was celebrated as Julfest with among other things, animal sacrifices; a request to the Gods for a gentle winter and early spring. Not all families had the wealth for such an offerings and so a tradition of using baked goods in the shape of animals came into being. These cookies acted as tokens and over time came to include other special occasions, such as engagements, weddings and birth. It was common to exchange imprint cookies at these times, a little like the cards that were exchanged in the decades before email.
Queen Elizabeth I is said to have gifted visitors to her court with gingerbread cookies made with images.
The idea of decorating foods with symbols is by no means new. Beyond Europe, archeological finds in India, Egypt and what used to be Mesopotamia include stone and clay molds thought to have been used in the decorating of flatbreads.