Mix shortening, brown sugar, and molasses thoroughly. Stir in 2/3 cup water. Blend flour, soda, salt, and spices; stir into molasses mixture. Chill for about 1 hour.
Roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with boy and girl cookie cutters.
Make egg yolk paint by blending egg yolks and 1/2 teaspoon water. Divide the yolk among a few small bowls, and add food coloring to each cup for desired color. Paint the clothes and decorations on the cookies as desired. Carefully transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Using a toothpick, make a hole in the top of each cookie. Press raisins into dough for eyes, nose, mouth. Use bits of candied cherries for coat buttons, and strips of citron for ties.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly, then carefully remove from baking sheet.