History of Gingerbread House Day
“Run, run, run as fast as you can,
You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!”
Nothing brings in the holidays like the smell of fresh baked gingerbread. But before the decorative cookie led the popularity contest on the holiday dessert table, baking gingerbread was acknowledged as a specific profession. In the 17th century, only professional gingerbread bakers were allowed to make gingerbread, except at Christmas and Easter, when anyone was allowed to bake it.
In Europe, gingerbread was sold in special shops and at seasonal markets that sold sweets and gingerbread shaped as hearts, stars, soldiers, babies, trumpets, swords, pistols, and animals. Gingerbread was especially sold outside churches on Sundays. Religious gingerbread reliefs were purchased for particular religious events such as Christmas and Lent. Decorated gingerbread was given as presents to adults and children or as a love token bought specifically for weddings.
Gingerbread was also considered a form of popular art in Europe. Molds often displayed actual happenings by portraying new rulers, their children, spouses, and parties. Substantial mold collections are held at the Ethnographic Museum in Toruń, Poland and the Bread Museum in Ulm, Germany. According to some food historians, the tradition of making gingerbread houses started in Germany in the early 1800s. The first gingerbread houses were the result of the well-known Grimm’s fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.” After this story was published, German bakers began baking ornamented fairy-tale houses made from gingerbread. They were brought over to America by German immigrants and became popular during the Christmas season.
Gingerbread House Day timeline
"The Gingerbread Man", an American fairy tale, first appeared in in the May issue of St. Nicholas Magazine.
"Do you know the muffin man?" Gingerbread man character, Gingy, becomes a fan favorite from 2001's Shrek.
The largest gingerbread man weighed 1,435 lbs and was made by IKEA Furuset in Oslo, Norway.
At 35.8 million calories and covering an area of 2,520 square feet (nearly the size of a tennis court), a 21 foot high gingerbread house in Bryan, Texas was declared the biggest ever by Guinness World Records.
Gingerbread House Day FAQs
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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.
Epic Gingerbread Houses You Could (Almost) Live In
Why We Love Gingerbread House Day
It has fairy tale origins
People in Europe had been eating gingerbread for centuries, but we can thank the Brothers Grimm for the popularity of gingerbread houses. They published Hansel and Gretel in the 19th century—remember that one? It’s the fairy tale where a witch lures the brother and sister into captivity in her house made out of gingerbread and candy, and then tries to fatten them up to eat them (spoiler alert: they escape!) The story became immensely popular in Germany, and people started baking gingerbread houses during the holidays as a result.
It brings out your inner child
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned arts and crafts project to make you feel like a kid again. And that’s even more true when the materials for your crafting are a) edible and b) chock full of sugar. Throw in the childlike excitement that comes out in people of all ages around the holidays? That’s the trifecta right there.
Plus: ginger is good for you, right?
The main flavor in gingerbread is, duh, ginger. It’s what gives gingerbread that warm holiday taste and subtly spicy kick. Ginger also happens to have a whole host of health benefits: it can help with indigestion or nausea, is anti-inflammatory, and might even lower cholesterol levels, lower heart disease risk factors, and have some cancer-fighting properties. Sure, it’s probably better to eat it on its own, but it’s the holidays! We won’t tell.
Gingerbread House Day dates