One of our favorite family traditions around Christmas is making a gingerbread house. It brings our children and grandchildren together making something we all enjoy. This year we made it on my birthday—what a lovely gift that was!
Gingerbread houses have no direct relation to any other Christmas celebration, despite being a tradition in their own right for hundreds of years. As a result, they have a rather unique, and still delicious origin. I’m always curious, so did a little research on the origin of the gingerbread house that you might enjoy.
The History Of Gingerbread
Gingerbread has been around for thousands of years, since the times of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians and used for religious ceremonial purposes. It was introduced to Europe as early as 992 and gingerbread baking was already quite sophisticated by then. Specially made molds were used to create images of saints and other important religious characters out of the bread.
Gingerbread continued to serve a religious purpose through to the 17th century, when it finally became associated with Christmas holidays. As the creation of religious icons — even in edible forms — was seen as a sacred and prestigious practice, European royalty of the time only permitted gingerbread to be prepared by specially trained gingerbread guild members except during Christmas and Easter. As a result, most people could only enjoy the sweet dessert during this time of the year.
It was thought that Russian gingerbread makers crafted some of the first gingerbread men and women. The gingerbread house came into being about 200 years later through the Brothers’ Grimm tale of Hansel and Gretel. The witches ginger dwelling was adapted to take on a more festive role. These new houses adopted the German style of bread, which had a harder consistency making it possible to support taller and more fanciful structures. With gingerbread’s long history of being used as a decorative edible substance, gingerbread house-making quickly became an art.
We hope you enjoy our family tradition as much as we do!