And I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.
— William Shakespeare, “Love’s Labor’s Lost”
National gingerbread house day also happened to fall on my hubby’s birthday so it was an extra special day. We started off by setting out all the candies in dishes to decorate the house.
Then the kiddos put on their Gingerbread headbands and ate their gingerbread men while they started to decorate the gingerbread house.
While they were busy munching on their cookies, decorating, and sneaking a candy, or two, I read them The Gingerbread Girl.
Once the story was over they had a lot of wonderful questions regarding gingerbread and gingerbread houses such as; where did gingerbread come from? Why do we decorate a gingerbread houses? Does Santa decorate Gingerbread houses?
Unfortunately I felt about as prepared to answer their gingerbread question as Governor Perry was when he was asked to identify the three departments he would eliminate as president. I just stood there racking my brain trying to recall any gingerbread facts or tidbits from school, but I had nothing. So I told the kiddos that they have such wonderful questions and they’re questions that deserve a valid response so, I would do some research and get back with them later.
Here is what my research unfolded……
An early form of gingerbread can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians who used it for ceremonial purposes. Gingerbread made an appearance in Europe when 11th-century crusaders brought the spice back from the Middle East for the rich folks’ cooks to experiment with. As ginger and other spices became more affordable to the masses, gingerbread caught on. An early European recipe consisted of ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar and, naturally, ginger. The resultant paste was pressed into wooden molds.These carved works of art served as a sort of story board that told the news of the day, bearing the likeness of new kings, emperors and queens, or religious symbols. The finished cookie might be decorated with edible gold paint (for those who could afford it) or flat white icing to bring out the details in relief. In the 16th century, the English replaced the breadcrumbs with flour, and added eggs and sweeteners, resulting in a lighter product. The first gingerbread man is credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who knocked the socks off visiting dignitaries by presenting them with one baked in their own likeness. Gingerbread tied with ribbon was popular at fairs and, when exchanged, became a token of love. On a more practical note, before refrigeration was a twinkle in someone’s eye, aromatic crumbled gingerbread was added to recipes to mask the odor of decaying meat.
The gingerbread house became popular in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their fairy tale collection which included “Hansel and Gretel” in the 19th century. Early German settlers brought this lebkuchenhaeusle – gingerbread house – tradition to the Americas. Source
And here is our Gingerbread House. Granted it will not be winning any best of show but we had the best time making it together and sharing in what hopes to become a great family tradition.