Why Do We Make Gingerbread Houses at Christmas?
The very aroma of gingerbread baking in the oven immediately puts everyone in the holiday spirit. This traditional Christmas treat has been baking up in ovens since as early as the 15th century. And no holiday season would be complete without the quintessential charm of a gingerbread house. We share a little history and inspiration about these holiday mainstays.
Gingerbread House History
Why do we have gingerbread houses at Christmastime? Gingerbread houses originated in Germany around the 16th century, when they became associated with Christmas traditions. And of course, perhaps some credit must be given to the Brothers Grimm after they published their story of Hansel and Gretel in 1812. The wicked witch’s house was made of gingerbread and other delectable sweets. Another literary reference worth noting is from the bard himself, Shakespeare wrote in his play Love’s Labor’s Lost, “An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy gingerbread.”
Gingerbread thankfully made its way to America, where George Washington’s mother, developed a recipe for Gingerbread Cake in 1784, and Abraham Lincoln considered gingerbread the “biggest treat”. Gingerbread houses, cookies and cake have adorned our holiday tables ever since!
Gingerbread Men Cookies
Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the invention of gingerbread men. It is said that she would give visiting dignitaries gingerbread men made in their own likeness. When making gingerbread men, be sure to use a Gingerbread recipe designed for cutout cookies. Chill dough for a few hours before rolling it out with a rolling pin. Then cut out your gingerbread men with a cookie cutter. Decorate with cinnamon candies, icing, sprinkles or the ever popular, gumdrop buttons. Here is a Gingerbread Men recipe submitted by one of our readers that we think you will enjoy.
Building Your Own Gingerbread House: What You Need
1. Bake gingerbread in advance. This gives you time to cut, cool and freeze the unassembled pieces (walls, roof sections, doors and other elements of your houses). Thaw them the day of the event.
2. Start shopping for decorations several weeks ahead of time. Some of the best gingerbread house decorations include:
- Pretzel sticks
- Sugar cubes
- Cinnamon sticks
- Wafer cookies (make nice roof shingles)
- Wheat cereal pieces (make a great thatched roof)
- Chocolate bars
- Peppermint candies
- Miniature candy canes
- Holiday hard candies
- Fruit leather
- Stick gum
- Graham crackers
- Licorice rope
- Chocolate chips
3. Make several batches of royal icing to use as the “glue” that holds it all together. It will also come in handy to create “snow” drifts. Marzipan can be shaped into a variety of shapes to add that final touch to your masterpiece.
No time to build your own gingerbread house? No problem! We’ve got you covered. This little bungalow should be right at home at your next holiday gathering.