Gingerbread is in the air …

It’s getting cold out there, and the month of December brings out the wonderful aroma of baked goods everywhere. As I am planning a gingerbread-themed birthday party for my daughter, I started to wonder about the origin of the gingerbread man.

The gingerbread man may have made his first appearance at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen apparently “favored important visitors … with charming gingerbread likenesses of themselves,” according to an article by Karen S. Edwards and Sharon Antle in the December 1988 issue of Americana. Here’s a bit more from the article:

“After the Grimm Brothers’ tale of Hansel and Gretel described a house ‘made of bread,’ with a roof of cake and windows of barley, German bakeries began offering elaborate gingerbread houses with icing snow on the roofs, along with edible gingerbread Christmas cards and finely detailed molded cookies. Tinsmiths fashioned cookie cutters into all imaginable forms, and every woman wanted one shape that was different from anybody else’s … Most of the cookies that hung on nineteenth-century Christmas trees were at least half an inch thick and cut into animal shapes or gingerbread men…”

Many of us have grown up with the fairy tale story of the Gingerbread Boy, but you may not be aware that this story has been adapted into different cultures or retold with a twist. Here are a few:

The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine.  A family in China only has enough rice flour to make one Chinese New Year rice cake; it ran through the village with the boys chasing after it and was only stopped when it bumped into an old woman. The boys shared the rice cake with the hungry old woman leaving not much for their own celebration; however, Continue reading “Gingerbread is in the air …”