Jacob Grimm was born on this day in 1785. He published Grimm’s Firy Tales with his brother Wilhelm. Among them the story of Hansel and Gretel.
“The tradition of baking the sweetly decorated houses began in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their collection of German fairy tales in the early 1800s. Among the tales was the story of Hansel and Gretel, children left to starve in the forest, who came upon a house made of bread and sugar decorations. The hungry children feasted on its sweet shingles. After the fairy tale was published, German bakers began baking houses of lebkuchen –spicy cakes often containing ginger — and employed artists and craftsmen to decorate them. The houses became particularly popular during Christmas, a tradition that crossed the ocean with German immigrants. Pennsylvania, where many settled, remains a stronghold for the tradition. It is believed gingerbread was first baked in Europe at the end of the 11th century, when returning crusaders brought the bread and the spicy root back from the Middle East. Ginger wasn’t merely flavorful, it had properties that helped preserve the bread. Not long after it arrived, bakers began to cut the bread into shapes and decorate them with sugar. Gingerbread baking became recognized as a profession. In the 17th century, only professional gingerbread bakers were allowed to bake the spicy treat in Germany and France. Rules relaxed during Christmas and Easter, when anyone was permitted to bake it. Nuremberg, Germany, became known as the “Gingerbread Capital of the World” in the 1600s when the guild employed master bakers and artisans to create intricate works of art from gingerbread, sometimes using gold leaf to decorate the houses.”
—“Holiday Tradition with Spicy History,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 9, 2001 (p. N-9)
Gingerbread house contests are popular in the USA. Here in Boothbay, there is an annual contest held at the Opera House. Hopefully we will have an entry this year!