The Origin of the Gingerbread Tradition

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There’s a delicious tradition present in many cultures around the world.  Its origins go back to ancient China, where the ginger root was cultivated with medicinal purposes. Later it became a symbol of Christmas.

From China it spread to Europe thanks to the Silk Road and people began to bake hard cookies with this spice.  It is believed that gingerbread was baked for the first time at the end of the 11th century due to the crusaders who returned from the Middle East.

Countries like France, Holland, England and Germany, started to create cookies with a shape, such as animals, flowers, kings and queens. They gilded the cookies with gold leaf and sometimes they resembled the dignitaries of the court. Gingerbread was very popular at fairs in medieval Europe and they were considered symbols of good luck. Ladies use to give a piece of gingerbread to their favorite knight if they were headed to a tournament. Some even ate a gingerbread man representing a husband so they could improve their chance of getting married.

The primary use of gingerbread had a religious purpose until it started to be associated with the Christmas holidays. It is said that an Armenian monk called Gregory of Nicopolis brought the gingerbread to Europe in 992. There are even legends about the birth of Jesus in which ginger roots were another gift from a wise man who couldn’t reach Bethlehem.

It was in Germany where the tradition of the gingerbread houses started. It’s still not clear if it was before or after, but the tale of Hansel and Gretel did popularize this practice. The witch’s candy house has inspired the look of the gingerbread houses people bake nowadays.

The tradition traveled to North America with German immigrants and it was so relevant that even George Washington’s mother was famous because of an original recipe. People from different countries keep this delicious tradition alive every year during the holiday season.

Do you like this tradition? Which tradition do you celebrate with your family? Tell us about it in the comment section.

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