The Origin of Gingerbread: How it Cooked Up to Be the Delicious Treat of the Holidays


Holiday Treat History: Gingerbread cookies have been a delicious delicacy since the days of their origin.

Gingerbread in its various shapes, sizes, and functions has always been a staple during the holiday season. From edible people, architecture, movie features, and songs, there really isn’t a dessert that encompasses the holidays quite like this. But, Mary did you know that gingerbread goes way farther back than we might think. “I never really thought about where gingerbread came from, it’s weird to think of it as anything more than a holiday cookie,” sophomore Charlotte Brown said. 

Gingerbread would have never been made if it weren’t for the ginger root. The ginger root was first grown in China before traveling through the Silk Road into Europe. The first known recipe for gingerbread cookies was made in Greece in 2400 BC. This phenomenon continued to spread throughout the old continent until the late Middle Ages when Queen Elizabeth I came up with the idea to decorate these cookies as dignitaries visiting her court, or people.  During this time, gingerbread was an all-year-round confectionary. The shapes of the cookies changed along with the seasons with flowers in the spring and birds in the fall.

These spice-filled treats eventually made their way to the newly founded United States of America. George Washington’s mother created a softer, fluffier version of the hard cookies that were popular in Europe. She served them to Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette and the cookie became known as Gingerbread Lafayette. The next time you eat a gingerbread cookie think, are you eating a soft Gingerbread Lafayette or a crispy traditional cookie? Back then gingerbread was synonymous with elegance and wealth, somewhat of a far cry from the present where gingerbread mix is usually less than five dollars. “I think this makes sense, gingerbread is an elegant dessert in my opinion,” junior Kaleigh Fleming said. 

Gingerbread houses originated from a different address; Germany. They rose to prominence after the Grimm Brothers’ story Hansel and Gretel where the children happened upon a house made only of sweet treats. This fictional dream eventually became a reality with the building of mini houses of gingerbread. It became even more of a reality proportionally when the largest gingerbread house ever made was built in Texas. It used almost a ton of butter and is 2,250 square feet, the actual size of a small house. “That is so crazy that people actually spent time making a huge gingerbread house the size of a house,” sophomore Samaria Strother said. Gingerbread has been a fundamental delicacy during the most wonderful time of the year, but like everything else, it had to start somewhere. Now that we know where he came from, maybe we can finally catch the gingerbread man.