Winter Holidays – Gingerbread Man
2009 Contemporary Christmas
Issue Date: October 8, 2009
City: New York, NY
The Gingerbread man is a traditional cookie treat in winter, also used as a decoration on Christmas trees. He looks sharp in his ruffles of sugar icing and his buttons made of gumdrops or raisins. Candies define his facial features.
Ginger can be used as a preservative, and is often used in breads and cakes. Gingerbread can be baked as a thin wafer or as thick as a cake. Gingerbread isn’t actually a type of bread. The word comes from the Old French gingerbras, which means “preserved ginger.” Common ingredients include nutmeg, cloves, honey, molasses, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Gingerbread men were reported in the 16th century when Queen Elizabeth I of England had them decorated to resemble the members of her court. Some date gingerbread figures back to the 1300s, when German bakers formed guilds to perfect the skill of baking gingerbread. The thick, spicy honey cake was known as lebkuchen (cake of life).
The famous Nuremburg bakers do not make gingerbread men – the only figure they make is the Honigkuchenpferd, or the “honey cake horse.” They also turn their baked goods into hearts or gingerbread houses. Their mastery of baking and decorating inspired a creative holiday tradition and a winter treat.