What is Gingerbread House Day?
Gingerbread House Day is today on December 12! Whether you’re a cookie building expert or your baked house falls apart as soon as you get the third wall glued on with icing, we can all agree the best part of building a gingerbread house is eating the sweet treat when we‘re done!
History of Gingerbread House Day
“Run, run, run as fast as you can,
You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!”
Nothing brings in the holidays like the smell of fresh baked gingerbread. But before the decorative cookie led the popularity contest on the holiday dessert table, baking gingerbread was acknowledged as a specific profession. In the 17th century, only professional gingerbread bakers were allowed to make gingerbread, except at Christmas and Easter, when anyone was allowed to bake it.
Food historians ratify that ginger has been seasoning foodstuffs and drinks since antiquity. It is believed gingerbread was first baked in Europe at the end of the 11th century when returning crusaders brought back the custom of spicy bread from the Middle East. Ginger was not only tasty; it had properties that helped preserve the bread. According to a French legend, gingerbread was brought to Europe in 992 A.D. by the Armenian monk and later saint, Gregory of Nicopolis. Gingerbread figurines date back to the 15th century and baking human-shaped biscuits was practiced in the 16th century.
In Europe, gingerbread was sold in special shops and at seasonal markets that sold sweets and gingerbread shaped as hearts, stars, soldiers, babies, trumpets, swords, pistols, and animals. Gingerbread was especially sold outside churches on Sundays. Religious gingerbread reliefs were purchased for particular religious events such as Christmas and Lent. Decorated gingerbread was given as presents to adults and children or as a love token bought specifically for weddings.
Gingerbread was also considered a form of popular art in Europe. Molds often displayed actual happenings by portraying new rulers, their children, spouses, and parties. Substantial mold collections are held at the Ethnographic Museum in Toruń, Poland and the Bread Museum in Ulm, Germany. According to some food historians, the tradition of making gingerbread houses started in Germany in the early 1800s. The first gingerbread houses were the result of the well-known Grimm’s fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.” After this story was published, German bakers began baking ornamented fairy-tale houses made from gingerbread. They were brought over to America by German immigrants and became popular during the Christmas season since.
Here are some tasty facts, to amaze your family and friends with your knowledge of ginger and gingerbread:
- Every year, the town of Bergen, Norway creates an entire city of gingerbread house(Picture above).
- In the 1700's, making gingerbread was exclusively the realm of professional gingerbread bakers.
- Queen Elizabeth I is credited with creating the idea to make the first gingerbread man.
- Ginger helps preserve bread.
- In some parts of the world, gingerbread houses are popular at Easter.
- Ginger soothes upset stomachs. It's great after a big holiday meal.
- The Brothers Grimm story about Hans and Gretel inspired the creation of the gingerbread house.
- The world's largest gingerbread house was made in 2013 by the Traditions Club in Bryan, TX. It was 60' long, 21' tall, and 2,520 square feet. That's much bigger than my house!