Gingerbread: History and Holiday Tradition

Viola Aderholt, Reece Williams (Freshmen)

To some, Gingerbread is the staple of holiday traditions. From decorated gingerbread houses to baking gingerbread cookies, it’s a kickoff to the holiday season. 

The making of Gingerbread can be traced back to ancient Greece and Egypt, where travelers brought it back to Europe in the 11th century. This gingerbread had a pasty consistency instead of brittlleness  is has today. It was carved into kings, queens, or religious symbols and was decorated with white icing and gold paint for the wealthy. 

It wasn’t until the 16th century that gingerbread became more similar to the gingerbread we know today. Modernizing ingredients made the baked good reminiscent of what we call gingerbread today.

In the 19th century gingerbread houses became popular in Germany after the fairytale “Hansel and Gretel” was published, which involved and glorified a gingerbread house. German settlers brought their gingerbread house tradition to North America where it stays today.

Gingerbread houses remain a growing tradition today. In Downtown Pittsburgh the gingerbread house competition is a big part of many people’s holiday traditions. Many come to gaze upon the unique gingerbread creations that are displayed in the grand lobby of the City-County building through early January.

Gingerbread is a big part of our culture and our community, but it is also a family tradition for many here at Obama. Freshman Aaron Ntoko says that there is always an annual gingerbread contest with his family during the holidays. “Except it isn’t really a competition because my aunt wins every single year,” he says with a smile. “The smell and taste of gingerbread brings me back to the holiday season,” says Freshman Mae Balog. Many associate the taste and smell of this famous spiced cookie with memories and traditions that their families shares together. 

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