Etsy Kitchen Histories: The Gingerbread House

gingerbread3Building my gingerbread house.

I’ve got a post up on Etsy on the bizarre and surprising history of the Christmas tradition of the gingerbread house. Go read it here, and then come back, because I’ve got some unanswered questions I need help with.

Ok, have you read it? You’re back? Here’s what I want to know:

1. Why was Hansel and Gretel associated with Christmas? The story has had a strong Christmas association since the 19th century that continues to this very day–the opera is currently playing in New York City. My guess is because it’s a story that warns against holiday over indulgence, but still has a happy ending, so it’s not too much of a bummer.

2. Why did gingerbread house making get so popular in America in the mid-20th century? Seriously, mentions of gingerbread houses explode in newspaper and magazines, and that’s when all the ephemera and gingerbread kits date from. Four Pounds Flour superfan Tammy suggested that perhaps it’s because of color photography: all those women’s magazine could now publish inspiring color photo spreads of gingerbread houses. From researching similar trends, I’. leaning towards a single celebrity, event, or important article that sparked the craze, but I haven’t tracked down this significant occasion. My mom built her gingerbread house in the early 1970s, and only rememebers doing it because every else was.

So what do you think? I’d love your thoughts.

Oh! And if anyone out there reads Fraktur, old-school German script, I also came across Das Lebkuchenhaus, a German history of gingerbread houses, written in 1872 just after German unification. I don’t read German, so I’d love more information about this book, but from friends who read modern German, they’ve gleaned it’s very nationalistic and fantastical. You can read it here, if you’re able and interested.

And if you enjoyed this post, you can check out the rest of my Kitchen History posts, on all kinds of interesting objects, here!

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