Last year during the holiday season,
I purchased one of those gingerbread house kits from a local grocery
store. For as long as I can remember,
however, I have always wanted to make and decorate a gingerbread house. It certainly has not helped that I became
obsessed with those holiday cake decorating shows on television. They made it seem so darned easy. Spoiler alert! I am the least “crafts” person you
will ever meet.
Ginger has its place as part of our
holiday tradition for more than just cookies and houses. We know that the three wise men gifted the
baby Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Did you know that there was a fourth wise man who got sick and could not
make the journey to Bethlehem? Guess
what he was bringing. Yep, ginger! Gingerbread has been part of the
holiday season for centuries. In
medieval times, artistic bakers would create gingerbread cookies in their
partners’ shape as a gesture of their undying love. These bakers used individually made crude
wood molds to build the cookie’s form and then would paint with icing and even
The first evidence of a gingerbread
recipe dates to the end of the 10th century.
A monk from Armenia known as Gregoy of Nicopolos brought his version of
gingerbread to France. It took almost
200 years before gingerbread became widespread throughout Europe. By then, everyone so enjoyed gingerbread that
it spawned numerous festivals and events.
There is debate as to where the idea
of shaping gingerbread men like we see today originates. The Dutch claim that it started in the
Netherlands. As part of their wedding
rituals, guests gifted gingerbread cookies in the shape of biblical
characters. Abraham and Sarah gingerbread
cookies were a gift wishing the bride and groom success in conceiving a
The other possibility, which is
considered more likely, is that Queen Elizabeth I ordered them as gifts for her
guests. It did not take long for this to
catch on, and soon everyone in the royal court, including servants were giving
out gingerbread men. Receiving a gingerbread man from a
suitor was a serious statement.
Gingerbread was quite expensive.
Knights would ensure their gift would be esteemed by providing cookies
decorated with colorful birds, flowers and even their family crest.
Many believe that decorated
gingerbread houses began in the early 19th century in Germany. This belief is credited to the fairy tale of
Hansel and Gretal. As the two children “came
nearer, they saw that the house was built of bread, and roofed with cakes, and
the window was of transparent sugar.”
With this Grimm fairy tale’s popularity, bakers in Germany seized on the
opportunity to craft and sell decorative and tasty gingerbread houses.
In Germany, unless you were part of
the gingerbread bakers’ guild, you were not allowed to bake and decorate a
gingerbread house. The only exception
was at Easter or Christmas, where anyone could create their own without fear of
Today, many folks make a gingerbread
house before Christmas as part of their holiday tradition. Kits make it easier for those of us who are
baking-challenged. I prefer the prefab
gingerbread slab housing available. With
the melted sugar, it is easy to assemble the house. The fun part is when you get to decorate with
colorful candy and icing sugar. Sadly,
even with the do-it-yourself kit, my baking skills may not be worthy of respect
from the bakers’ guilds in Germany. The
fun and memories, however, will last a lifetime.
Wishing you a happy holiday season
from all of us at SOLutions Mexico.
(Where we are much better at decorating and furnishing your real home
than your gingerbread one!)