The Story of how Gingerbread Become a Christmas Tradition

It seems like gingerbread is everywhere this Christmas season! Gingerbread lattes at Starbucks, gingerbread flavored Luna bars, and even gingerbread scented chapsticks. And of course, there are the gingerbread house kits, where you can dream up and make your own house of gingerbread cookie and fashion it together with your own artistic flair. So what makes gingerbread a holiday favorite and where did it all begin?

Ginger came into Europe from Asia via the silk road

It was used to aid upset stomachs, it disguised the taste of preservatives in meats, and was seen as a luxury spice during medieval times. It's no wonder that the exotic root made its way into popular cuisine and even became a prized baker’s confection. According to Steven Stellingwerf, a sugarcraft scholar and author of The Gingerbread Book, gingerbread was introduced to the West by 11th century crusaders that brought the delicacy back from their travels to the Mediterranean region. This sweet dessert made of ginger spice and molasses or honey, quickly became a beloved treat across medieval Europe. So much so, that it was celebrated at gingerbread festivals across England, France, and Germany. At these festivals, gingerbread cookies could be found in the shape of flowers to celebrate the spring and birds to celebrate the fall. Their shape typically changed with the seasons and were at the center of different holiday celebrations. Elegantly decorated gingerbread was a sign of all things luxurious and even were often found covered in gold leaf. There is an old expression that even stemmed from this tradition, ‘To take the gilt off the gingerbread.’

In Germany, the gingerbread, known as Lebkuchen

Often found at street fairs in the shape of hearts with fun and somewhat poetic inscriptions (think candy Valentine hearts, but with longer messages). It was the Germans that also invented the gingerbread house (No, they were not invented by the Brothers Grimm, but their story Hansel and Gretel did popularize them in the early 19th century). The versatile gingerbread, was first fashioned into a creative and elaborate miniature version of a German domicile all the way back in the 1600s. And yes, there were also fairs that held gingerbread house competitions where you could show off your latest creation and gather together with townsfolk, much like our modern Christmas gingerbread making tradition.

Gingerbread Houses in America

According to Barbara Rolek in an article she wrote for The Spruce, “Early Germans brought this lebkuchenhaeusle--gingerbread house--tradition to the Americas.” As is rumored, early colonists, such as George Washington’s mother, made this treat to sway foreign dignitaries to their political causes. In America, we now hold gingerbread house competitions that echo the gingerbread fairs of medieval Germany and even resemble the gingerbread festivals of England and France. Many of these festivals are held on National Gingerbread House Day, which is December 12th. Arguably, these modern gingerbread houses are far more complex than their German predecessors. They are not only intricately designed with mostly edible pieces, they are part of extravagant holiday scenes that mix the traditional gingerbread elements (gumdrops, white icing, and sugar window panes) with a Christmas flair (Santa, Santa’s reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and the like). There is even a record for the world’s largest gingerbread house, which is nearly 40,000 cubic square feet and required its own building permit! This holiday season, as you put together a gingerbread house with your family and friends, remember that you are helping to carry the holiday tradition along. Celebrating a special time of year with the luxurious treat that has brought cheer and joy to people throughout the centuries. Related: Considering getting an outdoor nativity set to enjoy with your loved ones and also next-door neighbors? An outdoor nativity set raises every person's spirits and also develops fantastic memories for a lifetime. MyNativity has meticulously produced our silhouette nativity scene and also additional characters from the highest possible quality, marine grade, PVC material. Our nativities are light-weight, yet they are made to hold up against rainfall, sleet, snow, and will last for many years ahead. Available in 4 sizes, (Life Size, Large, Medium, as well as Small,) click right here to see the various sizes to find which is ideal for you.