Anyone out there remember your favorite Christmas tree ornaments from your childhood? The ones you couldn’t wait to get out of the box? Growing up my mom often had two trees, her fancy tree in the den with white lights and perfectly spaced matching bulbs, garland and bows; and OUR tree, the one in the living room full of color, tinsil, popcorn, popcicle stick stars and clumsily painted ornaments globbed here and there.
My favorite ornaments was a box of homemade angels, snowmen and gingerbread men. I don’t have a clear memory of making them–my mom was a wonder of fun and patience *g*–but those glazed smiling faces of puffed up dough, paint and glitter were always a highlight of my Christmas. Whenever I see a gingerbread man I think of those glazed dough ornaments, which always makes me smile.
Making gingerbread cookies and ornaments during the Christmas holiday season is a time honored tradition, celebrated by many countries, races, religions, and families. My mother-in-laws bakes her fancy dressed gingerbread men every year. I found this adorable gingerbread couple and a simple recipe for these yummy creatures at Simply Recipes.
Some Gingerbread History 🙂
The first gingerbread man is credited to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who favored important visitors…with charming gingerbread likenesses of themselves. 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.
According to the some researchers, the first gingerbread houses may have appeared as a result of the popular Grimm’s fairy tales. Other food historians postulate that the brothers Grimm were writing about something that already existed, German bakers baking houses of lebkuchen –spicy cakes often containing ginger — and employing artists and craftsmen to decorate them. The houses became particularly popular during Christmas, a tradition that crossed the ocean with German immigrants.
The preservative qualities of ginger were discovered in medieval English times, when ginger was applied to cakes, pastries and breads to make them last longer during extended journeys. By 1614, English villages were making specialty cakes of ginger to celebrate religious holidays. Dough was cut into shapes of hearts, animals, and flowers and could only be baked and served during the religious festivities of Easter and Christmas.
Today, ginger is used as a homeopathic treatment for nausea, motion sickness, and morning sickness. I’m thinking I need a box of gingerbread cookies for the next road trip 😉 The making of gingerbread men remains one of the most popular uses for ginger.
I’ve also made these cute little guys out of jello 😉 Gingerbread Man Jigglers!
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!