The Smell of Christmas – Gingerbread – The History

by Maggie on December 16, 2010

What smells more like Christmas than gingerbread men baking in the oven?

The answer- Not much, turkey and stuffing are hard to beat, but gingerbread enjoys pride of place in some households.

Gingerbread dates back date back to “ancient times”, whatever that means, but it is generally believed that in the in the 11th century, Crusaders returning to Europe from the Middle East brought a new spice, ginger, with them.

The use of spice called “Ginger” now has widespread use for dealing with indigestion, stomach aches and an aid to digestion generally. It is readily available and recommended for travel sickness and features in many popular cuisines, maybe the best known being Asian food and they have probably been using it for even longer.

Early gingerbread cakes were adorned with symbols of the sun and made to celebrate the Winter Solstice in pre-Christian Europe, Catholic monks’ baked gingerbread for special religious celebrations. The cakes were constructed in specific designs depicting saints and religious motifs. The early carvings were made with a large and elaborately carved “cookie board” that impressed the pattern onto a stiff rolled dough.

As the price of exotic ingredients and spices dropped, gingerbread slowly became more popular across Europe and Britain. The English added bread crumbs to the recipes. In the 16th and 17th centuries, gingerbread became lighter, with flour replacing breadcrumbs in the recipes. As early as 1573, treacle (molasses) was used instead of honey, and by the mid 1600s it had replaced honey altogether. Butter and eggs became popular additions to enrich the mixture.

The first gingerbread man is credited to the court of Queen Elizabeth 1st, who impressed important visitors with charming gingerbread portraits.

The tradition of baking a Gingerbread house began in Germany, following the publication of “Brothers Grimm” collection of German fairy tales in the early 1800s. Among the tales was the story of Hansel and Gretel, the children left to starve in the forest who came upon a house made of “bread and sugar” decorations. It is possible however that brothers Grimm were actually writing about something that may have already existed.

Early settlers from Northern Europe brought the gingerbread tradition to the New World by the 19th century. It’s appeal of course being, the simplicity of use, ease of administration when treating stomach problems in children particularly, and the general benefits which I’m sure was greatly prized by the average citizen as much as it is today.

Click on the pictures below to be taken to YOUR Gingerbread Men to eat and enjoy this Christmas each one is YUMMY! (I have eaten so many of them!)

Until Next time

P.S. For the Child within I know you will love this

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