A Christmas Tradition

Why is Gingerbread a Christmas tradition?

Gingerbread refers to a broad category of baked goods, typically flavored with ginger, cloves, nutmeg or cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar or molasses. It is so symbolic to the holiday tradition.

Have you ever wondered how certain foods and recipes have evolved, from cultural influences of the land and its people?

The popularity of these sweet treats ,during the holidays can be attributed to the belief that spices heated one up in the cold of the winter.

Is gingerbread hard or soft?

  • Gingerbread foods vary, ranging from a soft, moist loaf cake to something close to a ginger snap.
  • A soft molasses and ginger cookie cut in various shapes, sometimes elaborately decorated.

Different forms of the sweet treat

No confection symbolizes the holidays quite like this one, in its many forms, from edible gingerbread houses to candy-studded gingerbread men to spiced loaves of cake-like bread.

In Medieval England, it simply meant ‘preserved ginger’ and was not applied to the desserts we are familiar with much until the 15th century.

The term “gingerbread” is now broadly used to describe any type of sweet treat that combines ginger with honey, treacle or molasses.

A bit of the “Gingerbread” history

Ginger root was first cultivated in China around 5,000 years ago, and was thought to have medicinal and magical properties. Some food historians say that the first known recipe for this sweet treat, dates from around 2400 BC in Greece.

Gingerbread is claimed to have been brought to Europe in 992 CE by the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis. He  taught baking to French Christians.In the 13th century, it was brought to Sweden by German immigrants (the Swedish nuns baked them to ease indigestion), and it also began to be made in Poland.

It was the custom to bake white biscuits and paint them as window decorations.In the 17th century, there is a first documented evidence of the trade of these biscuits.They were sold in monasteries, pharmacies, and town square farmers’ markets.

 In Medieval England it was thought to have medicinal properties. One hundred years later, the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire, England became known for it, as is proudly displayed on their town’s welcome sign, stating that it is the “home of gingerbread”.

This sweet treat came to the Americas with settlers from Europe.Molasses, which was less expensive than sugar, soon became a common ingredient and produced a softer cake. The first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons published in 1796, contained seven different recipes for gingerbread.

How did gingerbread houses come to be?

They originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition.

Their popularity rose when the Grimm Brothers wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not these houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or vice versa.

Why is Gingerbread a Christmas tradition? Click To Tweet
Why is gingerbread a Christmas Tradition?

What are some holiday traditions you are fond of ?

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Holiday Traditions
Holiday Traditions and Festive Ideas

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What is a gingerbread house made of?

It is a novelty confectionery shaped like a building that is made of cookie dough, cut and baked into appropriate components like walls and roofing. The usual material is crisp ginger biscuit made of gingerbread – the ginger nut.

Where is the largest gingerbread house located?

Coming in at 35.8 million calories and covering an area of 2520 square feet, or nearly the size of a tennis court, the 21-foot high  house in Bryan, Texas, 90 miles northwest of Houston, has been declared the biggest ever by Guinness World Records.

Here is a youtube video that shows the gingerbread house in Texas

How do you keep this house fresh?

It’s relatively easy to store these cookies and decorated gingerbread men. Place cookies in a covered jar or tin or wrap in plastic or foil and keep in a cool, dry place.

How long does a gingerbread house last?

Why is Gingerbread a Christmas tradition? Click To Tweet

Gingerbread Expiration Date

The Cake lasts for5-7 Days6-8 Months
TheCookies last for2-3 Weeks6-8 Months
The Houses last for3-4 Weeks6-8 Months
GingerSnaps last for2-3 Weeks6-8 Months

What is a gingerbread man ?

gingerbread man is a biscuit or cookie, made of gingerbread,  usually in the shape of a stylized human, although other shapes, especially seasonal themes are common too.

Gingerbread man
Gingerbread man

Who invented the first gingerbread man?

The first documented instance of figure-shaped gingerbread biscuits was at the court of Elizabeth I of England.

Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558 – 1603) is credited with the invention. She would delight visiting dignitaries with gingerbread men made in their own likenesses.

A Christmas Tradition
Who invented the first gingerbread man?

Gingerbread man- The book

‘The Gingerbread Man’ is a classic American folklore for children, that tells the story of this man as he escapes from the oven and outruns all the creatures that try to catch him.

This classic tale captures a child’s interest, page after page, as they take their imagination on a magical journey through timeless stories and adventures. 

This irresistible retelling of the Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth is a perfect treat for cookie lovers everywhere.

The Gingerbread Man
Picture courtesy : The net

Why is gingerbread a Christmas tradition?

The tradition of making decorated gingerbread houses started in Germany in the early 1800s. German bakers began baking ornamented fairy-tale houses of lebkuchen Bakers would make them shaped as hearts, stars, animals, and more.

It would also be extravagantly decorated. In the winter months, Europeans would dip the decorated bread into wine and hang them from the trees.These became popular during Christmas,tradition that came to America with Pennsylvanian German immigrants.

A Christmas Tradition
Why is gingerbread a Christmas Tradition?

Links to my blogposts on holiday traditions

Creating your own holiday traditions

Create your own winter wonderland this holiday season by indulging in the fun of making gingerbread, be it homes or cookies.

You can keep the decorations elegant and simple or go over the top if you wish. Irrespective of how you do it, it’s loads of fun for the whole family to get involved with over the Christmas break.

Go on, give it a try or make it a new holiday tradition at your home this season.

Happy Holidays!

For more such holiday posts, check out the links below:

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Danielle Ardizzone
3 years ago

Gingerbread is my favorite holiday flavor. I haven’t tried making the cookies yet, though – maybe this is the year! Thanks!

Cindy Moore
Cindy Moore
3 years ago

I love gingerbread! I just read about how gingerbread houses came to be, while researching Christmas traditions from around the world.

Marianne G
Marianne G
3 years ago

We personally have never made gingerbread houses. I often make gingerbread men as part of my holiday baking though! Lebkuchen in the German version of a soft gingerbread, and that is definitely part of my family traditions!

3 years ago

How interesting. I never knew how gingerbread was tied to Christmas.

Suz @ TravelsWithSuz.com

Gingerbread houses were a fun tradition in our home when my girls were growing up; such a fun competition!

3 years ago

Love reading the history of gingerbread and why it’s a Christmas tradition! I love building gingerbread houses with my kids and recently started baking gingerbread cookies with our Christmas cookies each year.

3 years ago

Thank you for the information! I absolutely love gingerbread anything!

3 years ago

Happy Holidays to you!

Suzan | It's My Sustainable Life
Suzan | It's My Sustainable Life
3 years ago

How interesting! I never gave it a thought to be honest.

Lisa Manderino
3 years ago

This was so fun to read! I loved learning all about this great tradition!

3 years ago

Fun to read about the history of foods. Always learn something!

3 years ago

This article came to me at a very coincidental time. I literally just finished making my first Gingerbread House EVER! I don’t know if it will make it into my tradition but it was really cool to do and I love that it’s a part of yours <3

Tricia Snow
Tricia Snow
3 years ago

LOL that pic of Queen Elizabeth next to the Gingerbread Men cracked me up. I never knew that or thought of the correlation until I saw them side by side!

Tiffany Smith
Tiffany Smith
3 years ago

So cool! I had no idea that there was so much history behind Gingerbread. I thought Hansel and Gretel was because of gingerbread popularity- not the other way around!

3 years ago

I learned about this Christmas chocolates and such came from Germany. There’s a state here in the US where most Germans relocate during the war. They have most of the Germans chocolate and such. This article reminds me of that article I stumbled before! I learned more about ginger bread and how it was born. Thanks!

3 years ago

Thank you for sharing the Gingerbread history.

3 years ago

This is amazing! I learned so much about gingerbread and the history! I’m going to read this to my grandchildren! Thank you!!

3 years ago

So funny! We just decorated gingerbread houses yesterday. 🙂 This is really great information.

Sydney Delong-Eat Simply Sweet

How interesting! I love gingerbread, and love what a rich history it has

Sabrina DeWalt
3 years ago

What an interesting history gingerbread has.