My Grandmother was German. I wasn’t really in tune with the her culture while I was growing up. It wasn’t until I was older that I became aware that some of the things I loved about her home were traditions from her German heritage. Although, she was born third generation, there was a great deal of German influences in her home. She had some very unusual German sayings that I believe were probably disguised German curse words. I loved the coo-coo clock, and later the grandfather clock. However, at Christmas I had a soft spot for her gingerbread house.
As a child, I fondly remember my Grandmother making a magnificent gingerbread house. For me it was merely something amazing my grandmother did. I was memorized by the size of this house and the multitude of candies on it. The fact that she could create something so beautiful was magical to me. I wish I had learned to make it with her. Today, there are kits you can buy, but I wish I had helped her build it from scratch. Maybe I did, and I just don’t remember. My memory recalls going to visit her and there it would be in all its splendour displayed on the diningroom table.
It was the Crusaders, who first brought gingerbread to Europe. During the 1200’s, it was brought to Sweden by German immigrants where it was a custom to bake white cookies and paint them as window decorations. The first documented sales of gingerbread cookies dates back to the 1500’’s where they were sold in farmer’s markets.
In the 19th century, gingerbread houses were popularized when the Grimm brothers collected German fairy tales. One such fairy tale, called Hansel and Gretel, depicts two children who are abandoned by their parents in the woods; they discover a house of bread, cake and candies.
At Christmas, gingerbread houses have become front and centre. The German practice of making 'lebkuchen' houses became fashionable in North America with the arrival of German settlers bringing with them family recipes and customs.
If you would like to learn more about making and decorating gingerbread houses, checkout http://www.worldrecordgingerbreadhouse.com/
By the way in the picture my paternal Grandmother, I'm the little girl beside her, my brother Jeff and my cousin Denice.