Christmas Gingerbread 

by Angela Ostroff


Ginger is a spice from Indo- Malaysia. The ginger root was believed to sooth an upset stomach or to prevent a cold. In 2000 B.C. wealthy Greek families sailed to the Isle of Rhodes to get spiced honey cakes. In the eleventh century, pilgrims and soldiers introduced ginger to the Europeans. The English created ginger candy. Two hundred years later, bread crumbs were added to the mixture and gingerbread almost as we know it was born.


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 ginger8h.jpg (8337 bytes) In the middle ages, medieval ladies gave gingerbread cakes to their favorite knights. Different shapes were used for different meanings. The heart was used to ward off evil. Ginger was very plentiful in Germany because it became the center for spice trade. Craft people created special baking molds of animals, fish, and bible scenes sometimes weighing over one hundred pounds. In the 16th century Queen Elizabeth I presented guests with a gingerbread made to look like them.
In the 16th century Queen Elizabeth I presented guests with a gingerbread made to look like them he discovery of the New World and the introduction of molasses in the 17th century brought the gingerbread we are familiar with; cake-like without bread crumbs. It became available to everyone, not just royal and wealthy people.. ginger2h.jpg (8875 bytes)
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ginger4h.jpg (8111 bytes) Gingerbread houses became popular in America after this time. Competitions still exist in Pennsylvania and Connecticut to see who can build the most lavish Gingerbread house. The folktale of Hansel and Gretel made the gingerbread house familiar to Americans and Europeans. The tale was about two children who walked through the dangerous forest and they came upon a house made of gingerbread.
In Germany, gingerbread houses continue to be popular In some villages, each family would bring a model of their home to a central location where the village was recreated in miniature. Then, on New Year's Day, the children break the houses apart and eat them to celebrate the new year.

Second and third grade students assisted Mrs. Ostroff with the construction of the gingerbread village. 

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          Andrea Owens.  December 1998