I have always been fascinated by gingerbread houses and was lucky to witness the gingerbread house being decorated in the foyer of the Dusit Thani in Abu Dhabi. There is a certain charm about these quaint pieces of art, and as much as I would like to nip off a piece of the delicious bread, I restrain myself with due respect to the artist who created it. Intricate details such as boughs of green, candy canes, icicles, the colourful candy all lend a realistic charm.
These houses are popular Christmas decorations, especially in Europe and are often built by children with the help of their parents. Tradition has it that gingerbread was brought to Europe in 992 by and Armenian monk who taught this art to priest and other Christians. The craft gradually spread across Europe using honey and spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon and nutmeg. The craft was protected by the baker guilds and at one point, only professional gingerbread bakers were permitted to bake gingerbread but an exception was made at Christmas and Easter when anyone could make their own gingerbread. It is even said that Queen Elizabeth I of England had gingerbread figurines of some of her important guests created on special occasions. Gingerbread houses were first made in Germany in the early 1800s believed by some to reflect the house in Grimm’s fairy tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’ in which the two little children lost in the woods, find a edible house and eat from it.
Today the tradition continues especially at Christmas and in Germany special markets sell decorated gingerbread before Christmas. Families still continue this tradition building little gingerbread houses or large and complex creations.