Each year at Christmas, many families have traditions they participate in. One fun holiday tradition is the making of a gingerbread house. Many places hold competitions to see who can make the most creative presentation. For those less talented in the baking department, ready to assemble versions can be bought in stores and online.
Have you ever wondered where the gingerbread house originated from? Who made the first gingerbread man? Did you know that the largest gingerbread house was built in America? Here are a few fun holiday facts about this holiday classic made from ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, anise and sweetened with any combination of brown sugar, molasses, light or dark corn syrup, or honey.
Gingerbread houses became popular in Germany during the 19th century, after the Brothers Grimm published their fairy tale of “Hansel and Gretel.” This tradition was brought to America by early German settlers.
Early forms of gingerbread can be traced back to the Greeks and Egyptians who used it for ceremonial purposes. The crusaders brought the ginger spice back from the Middle East. Gingerbread eventually caught on in Europe. During that era, bakers made a paste and pressed into wooden molds. The molds were made to tell the news of the day. They were made in the likenesses of new kings, queens, religious symbols, etc. They were then decorated with edible gold paint for those who could afford them or flat white icing to bring out the details. The first gingerbread man is credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who presented visiting dignitaries with ones backed in their likeness.
Today gingerbread is made into thin, crisp cookies called gingersnaps. It is also made into a cake-like bread. And then there is the gingerbread cookie that is used to make gingerbread houses.
In December of 2001 a group of bakers in Poland tried to beat the record for the largest-ever built gingerbread house, however, they lost to and American team.
The American team was headed by Gingerbread artist Roger Pelcher who is credited with building the the world’s largest gingerbread house at Mall of America.
- The gingerbread house had 1,496 square feet
- It was built from 14,250 pounds of gingerbread and 4,750 pounds of icing
- It took approximately 1,700 work-hours in nine days to build.
- Embellishments included: 1,800 Hershey’s chocolate bars; 2,800 Pearsons nut rolls; 1,200 feet of Twizzlers; 100 pounds of Tootsie Rolls; 300 pounds of DOTS; 100 12″ Whirly Pops; and thousands of other candies.
Facts for this article were found in National Geographic Kids Weird But True Book, Wikipedia, travelblog.org, ultimategingerbread.com and about.com.