Celebrate National Gingerbread House Day With These Fun Facts
National Gingerbread House Day is celebrated on December 12th and that sounds like a pretty sweet holiday! There are plenty of ways to observe the day for the young, and young at heart. In this article, we’ll take stroll down gingerbread lane with a brief history and some fun facts about this seasonal treat.
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The History of Gingerbread Houses
Begin your celebration of National Gingerbread House Day with a brief history of gingerbread!
Ginger was originally cultivated in China and used as a natural medicine. Along with other spices, fruits and goods, ginger made it’s way to the Mediterranean along the Silk Road. Crusaders returning from the Middle East brought back exotic ingredients that were coveted by Europeans. Ginger may very likely have been one of these introductions, although the precise history is unknown.
Medieval Europeans used ginger for medicinal purposes, flavoring preserved meats, and making sweet treats. Gingerbread was a hard cookie featured at fairs, tournaments, and jousts. Ladies often gave a piece of gingerbread to knights for good luck and superstition had it that if they ate a gingerbread ‘husband’ they were more likely to find a suitor!
Over the years, gingerbread decorations became more elaborate, with icing and gold leaf added to the most decadent creations. Images such as leaves, hearts, and armor were favorite themes.
Gingerbread houses originated in Germany, possibly after the Brothers Grimm story about Hansel and Gretel and their discovery of a candy house in the woods. It is unclear which came first, the story or the gingerbread house!
Gingerbread recipes were brought to the New World by colonists. They enjoyed the hard cookies and spiced cakes that sometimes contained dried fruits and nuts. This favorite treat for the winter holidays had three different recipes printed in ‘American Cookery’ by Amelia Simmons. (Sources – Smithsonian – A Brief History of Gingerbread, PBS – The History of Gingerbread.)
Fun Gingerbread Facts
Now that you’ve brushed up on the history of gingerbread, delve into some fun and interesting facts about this delicious tradition.
- The World’s Largest Gingerbread House, a monstrosity built in 2013 by the Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas, measured 60′ long, 42′ wide, and 20′ tall at the highest point. It took 1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs, 3,000 pounds of sugar, and 7,200 pounds of flour to create this behemoth.
- Nuremburg, Germany is the “Gingerbread Capitol of the World.”
- Ginger helps calm nausea
- Swedish tradition has it that breaking a gingerbread cookie can bring good luck. Put the cookie in one hand, break it with the other hand. If it breaks in 3 pieces, you will have good luck!
- Pets that sneak your gingerbread shouldn’t have any serious side effects. They would have to eat a large amount for the nutmeg (which can cause toxicity issues) to affect them. However, they may get an upset tummy, so put it where they can’t reach.
- Lebkuchen gingerbread cookies decorated with ‘love letters’, such as “Ich Liebe Dich’ (I love you) are popular at Christmas (Weinachten) and Oktoberfest in Germany.
- Early American political candidates gave out gingerbread cookies to sway votes in their favor.
- Most gingerbread houses are edible, but some are constructed with glue or other inedible materials. Create one yourself to be sure it’s edible. Eat in a day or two so it doesn’t get hard and stale!
Fun Activities for the Whole Family on Gingerbread House Day
- Make a graham cracker gingerbread house
- Create a gingerbread house ornament
- Make a gingerbread house
- Create mini gingerbread houses
- Read the story of Hansel and Gretel or watch this video
- Print free coloring pages of Gingerbread Houses
- Visit a gingerbread house display near you
- Make gingerbread men and decorate them
- Read the story of the Gingerbread Man or watch this video
- Make a gingerbread flavored milkshake or latte!
- Bake a gingerbread cake
- Make a gingerbread tree
- Bake and decorate Lebkuchen cookies
Enjoy National Gingerbread House Day!
If you don’t have all the ingredients needed to make a gingerbread house project on National Gingerbread House Day but don’t feel bad! There’s still plenty of time to bake your gingerbread house for the holidays. If you aren’t too sure about building a gingerbread house from scratch, try a kit that the whole family will enjoy.
Gingerbread houses are a favored decoration for the Christmas holiday and they’re tasty too…what’s not to love about that?!
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In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.
The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.