Members Area
Countdown to Christmas --
Visit My Merry Christmas on Facebook!   Visit My Merry Christmas on Twitter!   Get My Merry Christmas on RSS
Navigation » Merry Forums of My Merry Christmas > Christmas Library > Index > Christmas Traditions » The Tradition of Gingerbread

My Merry Christmas Announcement

Home Submit Article New in the Library What's Popular Search

» What's New
santahat Remember when Black...
by MMC Editor
11-12-2013 12:55 AM
Last post by holidaycraze12
05-24-2014 11:22 PM
27,482 Views  5 Posts
santahat The Real History of the...
by MMC Editor
10-24-2013 12:44 PM
23,969 Views  0 Posts
santahat The Mistletoe Bough...
by MMC Editor
10-17-2013 06:19 AM
Last post by Virginia
10-30-2013 03:04 AM
2 Posts
Christmas Tree A Christmas Tree for Cats
by MMC Editor
10-11-2013 08:21 AM
40,406 Views  0 Posts
Christmas Tree The Birds' Christmas...
by MMC Editor
10-11-2013 06:59 AM
Last post by Virginia
10-30-2013 03:12 AM
40,556 Views  1 Posts
» Random Entries
Saving More By Christmas...
by MMC Editor
09-08-2011 11:50 PM
76,188 Views  0 Posts
present The Delicate Art of...
by MMC Editor
09-13-2011 12:12 AM
47,265 Views  0 Posts
Xtree1 The Fir Tree
by MMC Editor
09-25-2011 07:00 AM
79,126 Views  0 Posts
The Christmas Pickle
by MMC Editor
06-08-2002 09:10 PM
52,254 Views  0 Posts
My Dog Sam
by MMC Editor
05-31-2002 09:37 PM
Last post by caninemomssister
01-26-2014 03:12 PM
47,473 Views  1 Posts
The Tradition of Gingerbread
Report to Moderator Old 06-08-2002 05:47 PM
MMC Editor
Views: 63,429
Replies: 0
By Mac Carey

Gingerbread is a popular Christmas treat all over the world, in many different forms. Gingerbread first appeared in central Europe in the Middle Ages, made from sugars and spices that had been brought back from the Middle East by soldiers returning from the Crusades. In England, gingerbread only meant "preserved ginger," referring to the preservative effect of ginger on breads, cakes, and other pastries. It wasn't until the 15th century that gingerbread referred specifically to the sweet cake made with treacle and ginger. And it wasn't until the nineteenth century that the treat became associated primarily with Christmas.

Gingerbread became so popular in Europe that "gingerbread fairs," gatherings where people could sample the popular delicacy, proliferated in small and large towns alike. The sweet became most popular in Germany, France, and England. Gingerbread took on different forms from region to region, from spiced cake, to thin cookies, to a dark brown bread served with cream. From early on gingerbread was cut into interesting shapes and symbols that reflected the season. At autumn fairs cookies were shaped into animals and birds. At Easter, buttons and flowers were popular shapes. Sometimes the cookies were just flattened and cut into simple circles, called "snaps."

Many English villages had a tradition of young women eating gingerbread men, or "husbands," to ensure that they would soon be married. Often towns would have a fair on the day of their patron saint, at these fairs gingerbread cookies would have the saint's image stamped into them, sometimes decorated with edible icing or dusted with white sugar to make the image stand out.

Decoration was always a unifying aspect of gingerbread. Before cookie cutters appeared in the nineteenth century, bakers created shapes by using cookie boards. Cookie boards were large wooden boards with impressed pictures carved into them. The cookie board was turned over and pressed onto rolled out dough, impressing the carvings into the dough. Common cookie board patterns were suns, moons, and flowers. Elaborate shapes were more popular in Germany than in England, where cookies were commonly cut out with a glass or teacup.

Early on gingerbread was made by monks, but by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries bakers began to specialize in the treat. In France and England these bakers formed guilds, and were given the exclusive right to make gingerbread, except at Christmas and Easter. As the price of the exotic spices used in gingerbread went down, average people began to eat more gingerbread, though the dessert was still reserved as a treat on special occasions, usually holidays. Gingerbread continued to flourish throughout Europe, in particular in Germany.

The city of Nuremberg became associated with the treat, and while popular all year round, it became especially ubiquitous at Christmastime. Vendors in Nuremberg earned the moniker "pepper sacks," referring to the inclusion of spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and white pepper in German recipes. Gingerbread houses first began here, inspired by the witch's edible house in the fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel." These houses were sometimes referred to as "hexenhaeusle" (witches' houses) and are also called "lebkuchenhaeusle" or knusperhaeuschen" or " houses for nibbling at." As for decorations, houses became more and more intricate as techniques evolved. Before commercial candy was available to use for decorations, artists were hired to stencil and gild the houses.

The popularity of gingerbread cookies and houses spread to colonial America. Recipes varied from region to region, according to the national origin of the immigrants who had settled there. Most recipes had fewer spices than in European recipes, and often settlers included local ingredients. Maple syrup molasses was included in many recipes in northern areas of the country, while sorghum molasses was used in the South. Gingerbread houses were also extremely popular in early America, more popular than in England. Furthermore, the hard style American gingerbread more closely resembled traditional German recipes than the softer English gingerbread. This similarity was even stronger in areas like Pennsylvania with a large German immigrant population. In these areas cookie boards were also commonly used.

It is said that Queen Victoria, and her German-born husband Prince Albert, brought gingerbread cookies in vogue when they included it in with the other German Christmas traditions they adopted, like the Christmas tree and the Yule log, in the mid-nineteenth century. It was at this time that gingerbread cookies became associated primarily with Christmas.

The development of tin cookie cutters in the mid-nineteenth century also breathed new life into the tradition of gingerbread. The new cookie cutters heralded the end of the long-established cookie board. They allowed the dough to be shaped into more elaborate figures, and soon these elaborate cookies began to appear as ornaments on trees and as other types of Christmas decorations. Early cookie cutters were usually shaped in the likeness of birds, stars, and animals.

It wasn't until the late nineteenth century that more standard Christmas symbols like elves, Santas, and snowmen, became the norm for cookie cutters.

Today gingerbread cookies and houses are as popular as ever, and have become an entrenched Christmas tradition in America.
This article is copyrighted. Use of this article in part or whole is strictly prohibited. For reprint, quotation, or excerpt use please contact Merry Network LLC.

Tags: gingerbread
Send to Friend

Rate Article:

Category Jump
» Featured
Top Ten Christmas Videos...
by Jeff Westover
12-16-2013 08:10 AM
15,140 Views  0 Posts
santahat Remember when Black...
by MMC Editor
11-12-2013 12:55 AM
Last post by holidaycraze12
05-24-2014 11:22 PM
27,482 Views  5 Posts
Annual Survey of...
by MMC Editor
09-16-2013 08:19 AM
Last post by icetene33
10-21-2013 04:04 PM
20,520 Views  2 Posts
Snowman2 Top Five Christmas Hoaxes
by MMC Editor
09-09-2013 02:14 PM
26,328 Views  0 Posts
stocking Santa Smoking: Why is...
by Jeff Westover
10-11-2012 08:10 AM
Last post by HollyJolly
09-02-2013 08:30 AM
44,262 Views  6 Posts
» Recent Comments
How does Santa get down the chminey?
How will he enter the house if someone don't have chimney or fireplace??
by RDxmas on 07-07-2014 09:56 AM
Remember when Black Friday was on Friday?
I get annoyed when sales for black Friday start on thanksgiving. It's called black Friday not black Thursday.
by holidaycraze12 on 05-24-2014 11:22 PM
Why There Really Is a Santa Claus
well stated !
by Christmasstar on 05-06-2014 06:19 AM
Hot Cocoa or Hot Chocolate: A Matter of Taste
It's hard to find good writing now a days. But you have done a great job with all these sharing hot Cocoa and hot Chocolate. That's interesting. Thanks for sharing.
by Riccardo Vasquez on 04-04-2014 01:38 AM
The Best of Christmas Sitcoms
My top favorite Christmas Sitcoms: All from M*A*S*H , Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley. Step By Step - I'll Be Home For Christmas
by Minta on 04-01-2014 10:33 AM
» Christmas Library Stats
Christmas Library Statistics Categories: 31, Articles: 352, Posts: 137, Total Views 19,013,367