Gingerbread houses are a favorite holiday pastime with families, be it with parents, grandparents, or even both! But these delicious, decorative bread houses have always been a staple of the holiday season for as long as people can remember. Where did they come from? Who came up with the idea? To answer those questions, we must follow the ghost of holiday’s past into the history of Gingerbread House Day!
The Delicious and Colorful History of Gingerbread House Day
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 (Gregory Makar). Gingerbread figurines date back to the 15th century and baking human-shaped biscuits was practiced in the 16th century.
The gingerbread bakers were gathered into professional baker guilds. In many European countries, gingerbread bakers were a distinct component of the bakers’ guild. Gingerbread baking developed into an acknowledged profession. In the 17th century, only professional gingerbread bakers were permitted to bake gingerbread except at Christmas and Easter. In Europe, gingerbreads shaped like hearts, stars, soldiers, trumpets, swords, pistols and animals were sold in special shops and seasonal markets.
The tradition of making decorated gingerbread houses started in Germany in the early 1800’s. According to certain researchers, the first gingerbread houses were the result of the well-known Grimm’s fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. In modern times the tradition has continued in certain places in Europe. In Germany, the Christmas markets still sell decorated gingerbread before Christmas. (Lebkuchenhaus or Pfefferkuchenhaus are the German terms for a gingerbread house.)
How to Celebrate Gingerbread House Day
To celebrate Gingerbread House Day, take the family out for a shopping trip and pick up the supplies necessary to make a gingerbread house. Then let the younger members of the family pick out the decorations that they want to add to the gingerbread house. Finally, pick out the decorations that you want and add them to the house.