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Each year, as the days become shorter and people look forward to the holidays, the sights, sounds, and delicious smells of the season fill the air and help to bring light to darker and longer nights. A creative and joyful custom that doesn’t seem to have a direct relationship with any other holiday celebrations, is the tradition of decorated gingerbread houses.
Covered with frosting and candy on rough German-style gingerbread, these original and colorful houses, have a unique, and delicious origin.
The tradition possibly began in Germany during the early 1800s, and it seems to be closely linked to the Grimm fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.
According to some food historians, the Brothers Grimm were writing about something that already existed, but no-one seems to know for certain if making Gingerbread Houses was inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel, or the reverse — if Gingerbread Houses were already being made and inspired the tale.
In the Grimm fairytale, two children, Hansel and Gretel, get lost in the woods. They come upon a house made of gingerbread covered in frosting and candy. Unfortunately, it is the house of a wicked witch. She welcomes, and then traps the children so that she can fatten them up and eat them. Fortunately, Hansel and Gretel escape in the end.
After this book was published in 1812, German bakers began baking ornamented fairy-tale houses of lebkuchen (gingerbread). excelling in gingerbread making, bakers constructed gpfeffer kuchenhausen and hired artists to deck them out with lavish designs. These became popular during Christmas.
Regardless of the place in time, the story of Hansel and Gretel helped popularize the gingerbread house in Germany. There is a rhyme in Germany about Gingerbread Houses that is recited by the witch in Hansel and Gretel In the original German it is:
Knusper, knusper, knäuschen,
wer knuspert an meinem Häuschen?
Der Wind, der Wind,
das himmlische Kind.
The English translation is:
Nibble, nibble, gnaw
Who is nibbling at my little house
The wind, the wind
The heavenly child.
Another interesting connection, is that Gingerbread Houses are sometimes called ‘Hexenhaus” (Witch’s House) in German.
Making gingerbread houses is still a way of celebrating Christmas in many families in both Europe and North America. Traditionally, they are built before Christmas using pieces of baked gingerbread dough assembled with melted sugar. The roof tiles can consist of frosting or candy. The gingerbread house yard is usually decorated with icing to represent snow.
Today, the simple tradition of creating gingerbread houses has evolved into an extensive world of exhibitions, events and competitions showcasing extraordinary castles, fantasy dwellings from children’s stories, re-creations of historical buildings, and even entire villages.
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Celebrate the holidays with a magical Gingerbread House !
Every year thousands of pounds of flour, sugar, ginger, and candies are used to create magical houses, palaces, fairy tales, fantasy villages, and futuristic structures — all edible and temptingly aromatic.
Edible Architecture will amaze and delight in its celebration of the world of Gingerbread Houses. Take a tour of some of the astonishing gingerbread creations around the world, and discover a fascinating world of exhibitions, competitions, chefs, and creators. Adorned with frosting and tasty candies on rough German-style gingerbread, these original and colorful creations have a unique and delicious origin.
Edible Architecture is the story of gingerbread houses — their link to the popular fairy tale Hansel and Grelel, the enthusiastic and highly competitive contests sponsored every year, the Guiness record breakers creating the largest houses or gingerbread villages, the traditions that are celebrated around the world, and the chefs that create these fantasy palaces from hundreds of pounds of flour, sugar, ginger, and candy.
Gingerbread houses have surged in popularity during the past few years and it’s not too difficult to understand why. “Gingerbread House-making” combines the skills of baker, architect and visionary. For a family-designed gingerbread house, it takes many hands—both adult and child-size to construct the dream home. During the holiday season of sugar plum fairies and other food-related enchantment, it’s the perfect time to blend spices and flour to create a cookie palace.
Some of the iintriguing stories that you will discover in the book include:
Bergen’s gingerbread village has thousands of houses
A Christmas tradition since 1991, the people of Bergen, Norway build a city of gingerbread. In this festive collaboration, kindergartens, schools, businesses and hundreds of families contribute gingerbread structures that create a miraculous gingerbread town with thousands of houses, trains, cars, people, and details. Everyone contributes to the beautiful and delicious creation by baking their own gingerbread items and decorating them.
The Witch’s House in Hansel and Gretel
The tradition of making decorated gingerbread houses probably began in Germany during the early 1800s, and was closely linked to the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.
But no-one seems to know for certain if making Gingerbread Houses was inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel, or the reverse — if Gingerbread Houses were already being made and inspired the tale.
A White House tradition
Since the 1950s, it has been a White House tradition to have a special gingerbread houe for the enjoyment of the thousands of visitors during the holiday period. In the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency in 2016, over 68,000 visitors and guests were entertained at the White House.
North Americans have been baking gingerbread for over 200 years, and even George Washington’s mother is credited with a recipe. The tradition of gingerbread baking was brought to the New World by the German-speaking communities of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and pastries were baked as ginger snap cookies and became popular as Christmas tree decorations.
Futuristic Designs by Architects
The Seattle Sheraton Hotel teams architects with bakers every year to create the original designs. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, this year’s creations celebrate the city of Seattle — in the past and future
Competitions are the rage today!
Gingerbread house competitions have been popular in the US and Canada for over 20 years, the largest is spnsored by the Grove Park Inn in Ashville, North Carolina. It attracts over 400 of the best designers from across the country every year.
The Ultimate Gingerbread Village
In 2016, Jon Lovitch’s GingerBread Lane won the title for the largest confectionary village in the world — for the fourth consecutiv year! Lovitch plans, esigns, bakes, builds and decorates his village during the course of a full year, and this year it is on display at the New York Hall of Science.
French Chateaux in San Francisco
This year’s French Chateau in gingerbread at the Westin St Francis Hotel in San Francisco is 22 feet tall, weighs over 1200 pounds, features more than 20 grand circular towers, approximately 20 rooms, and illuminated windows — and took about 360 hours of hard work to create!!
Even the Guiness World Records have gotten into the excitement and their Largest Gingerbread House broke the world record in 2013 built by the Texas A&M Traditions Club in Bryan Texas, The huge structure had an internal volume of 1,110 square meeters, length of 160 feet, and was 42 feet wide. Covering an area of 2,520 square feet, the 21 foot ingerbread housee had an edible exterior mounted over a wooden frame.
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