The Magic of Gingerbread Houses

Just in time for the holidays — a look at the tradition, the customs, the history, and the enthusiastic competitions. 


Every year thousands of pounds of flour, sugar, ginger, and candies are used to create magical houses, palaces, fairy tales, fantasy villages, and futuristic structures — all edible and temptingly aromatic.


Alice in Wonderland, from the Seattle Sheraton 2012 Display, Once Upon a Time.

Edible Architecture is the story of gingerbread houses — their link to the popular fairy tale Hansel and Grelel, the enthusiastic and highly competitive contests sponsored every year, the Guiness record breakers creating the largest houses or gingerbread villages, the traditions that are celebrated around the world, and the chefs that create these fantasy palaces from hundreds of pounds of flour, sugar, ginger, and candy.

Gingerbread houses have surged in popularity and it’s not too difficult to understand why. “Gingerbread House-making” combines the skills of baker, architect and visionary. For a family-designed gingerbread house, it takes many hands—both adult and child-size to construct the dream home. During the holiday season of sugar plum fairies and other food-related enchantment, it’s the perfect time to blend spices and flour to create a cookie palace.

The tradition of making decorated gingerbread houses probably began in Germany during the early 1800s, and was closely linked to the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.


But no-one seems to know for certain if making Gingerbread Houses was inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel, or the reverse — if Gingerbread Houses were already being made and inspired the tale.

Since the 1950s, it has been a White House tradition to have a special gingerbread houe for the enjoyment of the thousands of visitors during the holiday period.  In the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency in 2016, over 68,000 visitors and guests were entertained at the White House.

North Americans have been baking gingerbread for over 200 years, and even George Washington’s mother is credited with a recipe. The tradition of gingerbread baking was brought to the New World by the German-speaking communities of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and pastries were baked as ginger snap cookies and became popular as Christmas tree decorations.

Gingerbread house competitions have been popular in the US and Canada for over 20 years, the largest is spnsored by the Grove Park Inn in Ashville, North Carolina.  It attracts over 400 of the best designers from across the country every year.


Even the Guiness World Records have gotten into the excitement and their Largest Gingerbread House broke the world record in 2013 built by the Texas A&M Traditions Club in Bryan Texas,  The huge structure had an internal volume of 1,110 square meeters, length of 160 feet, and was 42 feet wide.  Covering an area of 2,520 square feet, the 21 foot ingerbread housee had an edible exterior mounted over a wooden frame.


For further information or orders of softbound and hardbound edition  please contact us at: exhibitions@humanities-exchange.org

Edible Architecture is available on Amazon in a Kindle Edition.

If you would like to buy the 120 page PDF edition of Edible Architecture for $4.95, please click on the button below





Bergen, Norway annual Gingerbread Village

In the Heart of Halloween

Just in time for the holiday — a look at

the tradition,

the customs,

the history

and the foods. 

 

Halloween is one of the oldest holidays that is still celebrated today, and its origins, myths and history make it especially fascinating.

Viewed by some as a time for fun, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating, and having theme parties, Halloween also embraces a world of superstitions, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits that are to be avoided!

There are many versions of the origins and old customs of Halloween, and while different cultures celebrate Halloween in different ways, most of the  traditional Halloween practices remain the same.

There is still some disagreement over Halloween’s origins, but it is generally believed that the celebration can be traced back over 2000 years to the Druids, and the Celtic culture in Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe. Its Roots lay in the feast of Samhain, recognized annually to honor the dead on October 31st.

The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes at this time, and the autumn festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about the streets and villages at night.

In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favourable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes.

In Ireland especially, people thought that ghosts and spirits roamed after dark on Halloween. They lit candles or lanterns to keep the spirits away, and if they had to go outside, they wore costumes and masks to frighten the spirits or to keep from being recognized by the unearthly

Halloween was thought to be a night when mischievous and evil spirits roamed, and the mischievous spirits could play tricks on the living—so it was advantageous to “hide” from them by wearing costumes. Masks and costumes were worn to either scare away the ghosts or to keep from being recognized by them.

In Mexico, the Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a holiday that celebrates and honors friend and family members who have passed away. The Day of the Dead is said to be the time that heaven’s gates are opened and the spirits of loved ones are able to reunite with their friends and families.


Today Halloween has gone from an informal affair to a holiday celebrated by millions of people. In the US, as much as $6 billion is spent annually on Halloween merchandise, and Halloween commercials fill the airwaves as early as September.

Halloween has many food traditions, some with ancient roots.  Pumpkins are carved, kids bob for apples, and candy is consumed in massive quantities – a lot of candy.   In fact, the amount of candy eaten on Halloween has long surpassed the amount eaten at Christmas and Valentine’s Day. In 2011, $2.3 billion was spent on Halloween candy – that is a lot of sugar!

Pumpkin is a vital ingredient of Halloween celebrations. While the Jack-O-lanterns are commonly placed on the windows, people relish this vegetable in the form of pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, cheese pumpkin, or even as pumpkin desserts.

The Samhain practice of fortunetelling carried over into America with activities like bobbing for apples, where unmarried young adults would take turns trying to bite an apple, either hanging from a tree or floating in water, without the use of their hands. The first person to bite into an apple would supposedly be the next to marry. Young women would also peel apples onto the ground in hopes of seeing their future husband’s name spelled out in the peels.


Our new book – In the Heart of Halloween — covers all these topics and more.  Chapters include:

Worldwide Traditions

Origins in Samhain

Growth in North America

Customs – trick or treating, jack-o-lanterns,

Mexico: Day of the Dead

Festivals Around the World

A world of superstitions, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits

Witches, Magic and Divination

Foods of Halloween

Children’s Rhymes and Songs


Request a copy of our new book in pdf format.  Just send your name and request for

In the Heart of Halloween – The Origins, Foods, and Customs

The email address is transformations@humanities-exchange.org


There is no charge for the 65 page book, but if you wish, we would welcome a donation of $2.00 or $5.00

If you would like to donate, please click the paypal button below

 


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Mexico’s Day of the Dead

 

Celebrating Spring with Eggs of Many Colors: Bridges Between Cultures

Pysanky are intricately decorated Ukrainian eggs with symbols. The custom dates back over 2,000 years.

Celebrating Spring with colored eggs !

For thousands of years, the egg has been a powerful and ancient symbol of rebirth and the Spring Equinox  Today,  most historians believe that the holiday of Easter and the practice of decorating and coloring eggshells has its roots in ancient pagan culture.  

Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian, and pre-dynastic Egyptian cultures all celebrated the return of Spring.  These cultural relationships probably influenced early Christian and Islamic cultures in those regions, as they were spread through trade, religion, and political links from the areas around the Mediterranean.

Ostrich egg painted with red lines. Punic artwork found at the Villaricos necropolis in Cuevas del Almanzora (Province of Almeria, Andalusia, Spain), and dated between 6th and 4th centuries BC (Iron Age II). National Archaeological Museum of Spain (Madrid).

60,000 year old engraved ostrich eggshells have been discovered in South Africa , decorated with engraved hatched patterns. There is evidence that, even in ancient Roman culture, eggs decorated with vegetable dyes using onion skins, beets, and carrots were given as gifts during the spring festivals.

In Persia and present day Iran, the celebration of the New Year, incorporates colored eggs as part of the ceremonial Nowruz table. This 13-day spring festival falls on or around the vernal equinox in March and is believed to have originated in modern day Iran as part of the Zoroastrian religion. 

One theory for the name Easter, is that it probably came from Eastre, the Saxon name of the goddess of spring and fertility, Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored Easter eggs.

Mexican Cascarones

Civilizations worldwide have created rituals to celebrate a fertile spring, a time of renewal, regeneration and resurrection. Newer legends blended folklore and Christian beliefs and like the holiday of Easter itself, the art and craft of decorating eggs with different colors has also evolved over time.

Faberge Egg

The renowned Russian court artist and jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé made exquisitely decorated precious metal and gemstone eggs for the Romanov Dynasty. These Fabergé eggs resembled standard decorated eggs, but they were made from gold and precious stones.

This new book shows the varied sources for the folk art of coloring and decorating eggs, while demonstrating their  complexity in design and symbolism.

Eastern European cultures have exceptionally strong traditions of decorating eggs.  Created for hundreds of years in the Urkraine and other Slavic countries, the  extraordinarily delicate and beautiful  Pysanky eggs are highlighted — their  history and methods of decorating are discussed in the book.

Showing how the cultural traditions have merged and evolved over several thousand years of  history, this is a  book to enjoy with your family.

  • The Egg of Many Cultures:  Transforming a Celebration of the Rites of Spring to Easter
  • ISBN  978-0-943488-15-8
  • EBOOK, 60 pages, fully illustrated, 7″ x 7″
  • Price:     $3.95
  • Order through paypal below:



NOTE FROM THE EDITOR:     When you order the ebook with the  button above,  the download  link will then be sent to you in a separate email.   Please make sure that you are giving the correct email address, otherwise, I cannot reach you.   After you have placed your order, it is sent to me for verification so it may take a couple of hours —   I am in North American  East Coast time zone.


Table of Contents

Part I : History of Decorated Eggs

Colored Eggs – Modern Customs
Decorating Eggs: The Eariest History
Slavic Cultures and the Ukraine : The Pysanky
Mesopotamia and Early Christian Roots
Nowruz: Persian New Year
Early Christian Era-The Byzantine and Roman Church
Legends, Folklore and Superstitions
Mexico : Cascarones
Russia: The Faberge Eggs

Part II : Decorating the Eggs

Dying: Colors Created from Natural Dyes
Wax Resist
The Pysanky
The Technique for Creating Traditional Pysanky
Types of Decorated Eggs
Sharing Pysanky
Folk Symbols and Designs
Color Symbolism
Naturally Colored Eggs

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Flights of Fantasy

The Westin St Francis Hotel in San Francisco, Sugar Palace, 2017

Edible Architecture: Flights of Fancy in Gingerbread

Now available

Every year, thousands of pounds of flour, sugar, ginger, and candies are used to create magical houses, palaces, fairy tales, fantasy villages, and futuristic structures — all edible and temptingly aromatic.

Edible Architecture will amaze and delight in its celebration of the world of Gingerbread Houses. Take a tour of some of the astonishing gingerbread creations around the world, and discover a fascinating world of exhibitions, competitions, chefs, and creators. Adorned with frosting and tasty candies on rough German-style gingerbread, these original and colorful creations have a unique and delicious origin.

.

Edible Architecture is the story of gingerbread houses — their link to the popular fairy tale Hansel and Grelel, the enthusiastic and highly competitive contests sponsored every year, the Guiness record breakers creating the largest houses or gingerbread villages, the traditions that are celebrated around the world, and the chefs that create these fantasy palaces from hundreds of pounds of flour, sugar, ginger, and candy.

Gingerbread houses have surged in popularity during the past few years and it’s not too difficult to understand why. “Gingerbread House-making” combines the skills of baker, architect and visionary. For a family-designed gingerbread house, it takes many hands—both adult and child-size to construct the dream home. During the holiday season of sugar plum fairies and other food-related enchantment, it’s the perfect time to blend spices and flour to create a cookie palace.

Some of the iintriguing stories that you will discover in the book include:

Bergen’s gingerbread village has thousands of houses

A Christmas tradition since 1991, the people of Bergen, Norway build a city of gingerbread.   In this festive collaboration, kindergartens, schools, businesses and hundreds of families contribute gingerbread structures that create a miraculous gingerbread town with thousands of houses, trains, cars, people, and details.  Everyone contributes to the beautiful and delicious creation by baking their own gingerbread items and decorating them.

The Witch’s House in Hansel and Gretel

The tradition of making decorated gingerbread houses probably began in Germany during the early 1800s, and was closely linked to the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.

But no-one seems to know for certain if making Gingerbread Houses was inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel, or the reverse — if Gingerbread Houses were already being made and inspired the tale.

A White House tradition

Since the 1950s, it has been a White House tradition to have a special gingerbread houe for the enjoyment of the thousands of visitors during the holiday period.  In the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency in 2016, over 68,000 visitors and guests were entertained at the White House.

North Americans have been baking gingerbread for over 200 years, and even George Washington’s mother is credited with a recipe. The tradition of gingerbread baking was brought to the New World by the German-speaking communities of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and pastries were baked as ginger snap cookies and became popular as Christmas tree decorations.

Futuristic Designs by Architects

The Seattle Sheraton Hotel teams architects with bakers every year to create the original designs. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, this year’s creations celebrate the city of Seattle — in the past and future

Competitions are  the rage today!

Gingerbread house competitions have been popular in the US and Canada for over 20 years, the largest is spnsored by the Grove Park Inn in Ashville, North Carolina.  It attracts over 400 of the best designers from across the country every year.

The Ultimate Gingerbread Village

In 2016, Jon Lovitch’s GingerBread Lane won the title for the largest confectionary village in the world — for the fourth consecutiv year!  Lovitch plans, esigns, bakes, builds and decorates his village during the course of a full year, and this year it is on display at the New York Hall of Science.

French Chateaux in San Francisco

This year’s French Chateau in gingerbread at the Westin St Francis Hotel in San Francisco is 22 feet tall, weighs over 1200 pounds, features more than 20 grand circular towers, approximately 20 rooms, and illuminated windows — and took about 360 hours of hard work to create!!

World Records

Even the Guiness World Records have gotten into the excitement and their Largest Gingerbread House broke the world record in 2013 built by the Texas A&M Traditions Club in Bryan Texas,  The huge structure had an internal volume of 1,110 square meeters, length of 160 feet, and was 42 feet wide.  Covering an area of 2,520 square feet, the 21 foot ingerbread housee had an edible exterior mounted over a wooden frame.

Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, Gingerbread House 2017

 

For further information or orders of softbound and hardbound edition  please contact us at: publicationorders@earthlink.net

See chapter descriptions at    http://humanities-exchange.org/edible-architecture-new-book/edible-architecture-chapter-titles/

See a preview of the book by clicking below

 

You can order a digital pdf copy of Edible Architecture: Flights of Fantasy in Gingerbread by clicking on the payment button below:

The above preview and/or order link above is to order either a printed softbound, or hardbound book.

The pdf copy is $12.95