A Holiday Tradition: 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

Suddenly It’s Halloween !

Is it only a time for fun, putting on costumes, and trick-or-treating, or is it more?

Halloween is also a world of superstition, ancient myth, ghosts, and evil spirits

A book for the whole family to enjoy

Explore the the customs

the foods

the games

and the origins. 

 

And experience its ancient  myths and traditions


Halloween is surrounded with a world of superstition, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits that are to be avoided!



Its origins 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, which honored the dead on October 31st.

At this time, the souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes, 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.


 What about the witches?

They are the most mysterious entities associated  with Halloween. The word Witch comes from the word “Wicca” meaning “Wise One.”

When did they become feared and avoided?   

And why did they evolve into an ugly, hook-nosed woman, stirring up a steaming potion that is brewing away inside a cauldron?

Modern-day witches of the Western World still struggle to shake this historical stereotype. Most practice Wicca, an official religion, and Wiccans avoid evil and the appearance of evil at all costs. Their motto is to “harm none,” and they strive to live a peaceful, tolerant and balanced life in tune with nature and humanity.

Many modern-day witches still perform witchcraft, but there’s seldom anything sinister about it. Their spells and incantations are often derived from their Book of Shadows, a 20th-century collection of wisdom and witchcraft.  A modern-day witchcraft potion is more likely to be an herbal remedy for the flu instead of a hex to harm someone.



Explore the divinations and  fortune-telling of Halloween 


This is thought to be the most favourable time for divinations on marriage, luck, health, and death.

Many of these practices evolved from the celebration of Samhain — such as reading apple peels, interpreting the movements of roasted nuts and counting crows all were used to find answers to questions about children, fortune and love.

The Druids believed that the particular shape of various fruits and vegetables could help predict, or divine, the future.


The 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.



Ghosts and evil spirits

In Ireland especially, people thought that ghosts and spirits roamed after dark on Halloween — when mischievous and evil spirits roamed, and the mischievous spirits could play tricks on the living.

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  “hide” from them  to keep from being recognized by the unearthly.




In Mexico, the Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, celebrates and honors friend and family members who have passed away. 

 It 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.



Read the stories and rhymes about Halloween.

What about the Jack-O-Lantern — who was Jack

And enjoy the food traditions, some with ancient origins.  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!

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.


 


Experience all of this in our new book – Into the Heart of Halloween.  All of 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

A pdf copy of the book is available for $2.49.  Click on the paynow button below.  After payment has been credited by paypal, the ebook will be sent, so allow about 12 hours to receive it and make sure that you use the email where you would like to receive it.

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

For further information the email address is transformations@humanities-exchange.org