Friday, December 9, 2011

Gingerbread: A Winter Treat

In America, gingerbread is a staple item in celebrating the holiday season. It is defined as a sweet food that contains the flavors of ginger, molasses, and honey, and can be found in a soft, moist cake consistency, or hard, like that of a cookie. Originating from Armenia in 992, it has made its way throughout many regions of Europe and into the homes of millions of people.

Gingerbread, as it was known in Armenia in 992 A.D. was brought to Europe via an Armenian Monk, Grégoire de Nicopolis. It was not until the 13th Century that the recipe was brought over to Sweden and Norway. It was here that the recipe began to grow and form a tradition. The first gingerbread biscuit dates back to the 16th century, where it was a custom to paint them and display them in store windows. The United Kingdom then became recognized for their gingerbreads in the town of Shropshire and now proudly displays it on their entrance sign into town. By the 18th century, gingerbread had become widely popular among Europe.

The practice of preparing gingerbread differs widely across the world. In England, gingerbread is actually more of a bread than a cookie and is often soft and moist. Flavors such as pepper, raisins, nuts, apple, and mustard are often added for a delightful twist. It is commonly enjoyed on what is called “Bonfire Night” in England. In Croatia, gingerbread is usually formed into the shape of a heart and is used as an ornament. In the United States, however, gingerbread is predominantly a holiday treat. It is brittle and most often if the form of a cookie, which is then molded into either a small man or into a house for decorating.

The tradition of decorating gingerbread men and gingerbread houses originated in the court of Elizabeth I of England, where she had gingerbread made into the shapes of people and had them decorated to look like her guests. The practice of making gingerbread men is also a vital role in the Norwegian holiday celebration, where they make an annual gingerbread town. Norway actually pays for every child under the age of twelve to make a gingerbread house with their parents.

Today, gingerbread plays a significant role in the winter season. Many children all over the world look forward to preparing gingerbread men as well as gingerbread houses. They provide families with a means to grow closer together while working on an edible project that the whole family can enjoy. Not to mention, they make for a great holiday decoration!

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