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!
Learn about Gingerbread House Day
Whether you consider yourself an expert at building gingerbread houses or you are the type of person that starts eating your creation half-way through, you’re going to love Gingerbread House Day. After all, we can all agree that the best part of the process is eating the delicious gingerbread and decorations, no matter whether you managed to turn it into a work of art beforehand or not. Gingerbread House Day is a great way to bring the family together, have some fun, and most importantly, eat some tasty and festive gingerbread.
Gingerbread is a broad category of baked goods. It relates to goods that tend to be baked and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and gingers. Molasses, sugar, and honey are also used to sweeten the gingerbread. Gingerbread foods can range from something resembling a ginger snap to a very moist and soft loaf cake.
Of course, when it comes to gingerbread for gingerbread houses, you need a good, strong biscuit. The last thing you want is for your gingerbread house to crumble to the ground. Of course, don’t bake it until it becomes a brick either unless you don’t intend on eating it afterwards!
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.)
There have been some pretty significant dates in the world of gingerbread over the years. We’re sure you’re familiar with The Gingerbread Man fairytale, the one that goes “Run, run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” Well, this was released in 1875. It was part of the St. Nicholas Magazine’s May issue at the time.
One of the most significant dates when it comes to gingerbread houses, though, was in 2015. This is when the biggest gingerbread house in the world was created. The gingerbread house covered an area of a monumental 2,520 square-feet. To put this into perspective, this is roughly half of the size of a typical tennis court. It reached 21-feet in height. It also amassed to 35.8 million calories, but let’s not think about those pesky things! Crowned as the biggest gingerbread house in the Guinness World Records, this feat occurred in Bryan, Texas.
GINGERBREAD HOUSE DAY ACTIVITIES
Bake a gingerbread house from scratch
Gingerbread dough is surprisingly easy to make. You might need to run to the store for the spices (ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves) and molasses (another key ingredient), but we’re willing to bet almost everything else is already in your pantry. The hardest part is appropriately measuring out the walls and roof for your gingerbread house before you bake them. If you have extra dough, why not make some gingerbread men and women to go along with it?
Host a gingerbread house competition
Bake or buy a bunch of gingerbread house pieces, white frosting, and tons of colorful candy pieces. Invite your friends, throw on some holiday tunes, and see who can make the most beautifully decorated gingerbread house!
Wash it down with a gingerbread latte
Come December, these drinks seem to pop up on coffee shop menus all across the country. But if you can’t seem to find one near you, it’s easy to replicate. Either buy gingerbread syrup or make your own by simmering water, sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, and allspice on the stove until it reduces and thickens. Mix the syrup with a shot of espresso and top it off with warm milk. And like that, you’ve got holiday cheer in a mug, no barista required.