There’s nothing more iconic to the Christmas season than the sight (and smell and taste) of a tasty gingerbread cookie. They're often dressed up in Christmas greens and reds while modeled into little men and houses too. But what’s the story behind the spice-filled snack?
Ginger originally was often used as a medicinal plant and was cultivated in the country of China. It managed to European borders by way of the Silk Road trades. It was often used in the Middle Ages, usually to add a bit of flavor to preserved meat and as a tonic to help build up a resistance to the killer plague disease. That last one may not have been true, but ginger proves to be an effective form of medication for nausea and other tummy troubles.
In its most basic form, gingerbread is comprised of ginger (obviously), honey, and molasses or treacle. The first ginger recipes to be made were said to have originated from ancient Greece around 2400 B.C. By the 10th century, Europe had developed their own version of gingerbread. They incorporated shapes when cutting out these treats and they were often sold in Medieval fairs in countries like France, Holland, and England. As for the popular gingerbread houses, those wouldn’t exist until the 16th century when they were created by German bakers for Christmas.
Whether you love their flavor or their viability as a holiday decoration, gingerbread has become a big part and an iconic symbol for the holiday season the world over.