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The History of Christmas Gingerbread Houses

Posted on November 7, 2012

Did you ever wonder where the gingerbread house tradition came from? Sure, it was popularized in the famous Brothers Grimm “Hansel and Gretel” fable, in which the witch’s name, Frau Pfefferkuchenhaus, is derived from the earliest form of gingerbread from Franconian monks (Pfefferkuchen, which literally translates to “pepper bread”) and the German word for house (haus). Gingerbread is also known as Lebkuchen, whose word origin isn’t clear. The German city of Nürnberg, called Nuremberg outside of Germany, is famous for its gingerbread. In fact, the oldest known recipe for gingerbread, written in the 16th century, is housed in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum (German National Museum) in Nürnberg. The city likely developed its taste for gingerbread thanks to its location along ancient trading and spice routes.

The name of the person or people who got the idea to make gingerbread into houses and decorate them with icing and candy is lost to antiquity. All we can do is carry on the fun tradition and, in the words of the Germans who brought us gingerbread, wish everyone “Frohe Festtage,” (froh-eh fes-taggeh) or “Happy Holidays!”