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By Karen Hendricks, Festival PR/Marketing Director

The holiday season, more so than any other time of year, seems to be a time to uphold traditions—family, ethnic and community traditions alike.  Here at Gettysburg Festival, we are embarking on a new holiday event that we hope becomes a Gettysburg tradition as well—A Gingerbread House Celebration.  The inaugural event is set for December 3 and 4 at the Historic Gettysburg Hotel located on Lincoln Square, lead sponsor for the event. 

More than a dozen gingerbread house creators from all across Pennsylvania and Maryland are donating houses for display during the event.  The lucky high bidders will be able to take home these stunning creations for some truly unique holiday displays.  Many of the event’s components spread holiday cheer, while also serving as a fundraiser for our non-profit organization.  Click here to learn more about the event, purchase tickets (only $10), or register for the Children’s Gingerbread Workshop (only $15).  There is even information on how you can sponsor area underprivileged children and allow them to participate in the workshop.

But back to the notion of gingerbread.  The Festival’s media partner for this event, Celebrate Gettysburg magazine, includes a fascinating history of gingerbread in their current issue.  The following is an excerpt from writer Michael Vyskocil’s article:

Do you remember baking gingerbread Christmas cookies as a child? If so, you probably remember how the whole house smelled like the holidays. The unmistakable combination of spices—ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves—gives gingerbread its characteristic flavor. Gingerbread scents the Christmas season, providing a fragrance as alluring as fresh evergreens but every bit edible.

Gingerbread has a long and rich culinary history that dates back to medieval times, according to some culinary sources. During the Middle Ages, this dense, spiced bread may have been shared with jousting knights by their fair maidens. In England, Queen Elizabeth I loved gingerbread so much that her royal family employed a gingerbread baker.

The popularity of gingerbread traveled overseas to America, where it was enjoyed in this country as early as the 17th century. “Of all the Christmas pastries, the gingerbread cookie was the one most loved by early American children,” writes food historian William Woys Weaver in The Christmas Cook.

Let's get to the root of the issue... ginger root

Throughout the centuries, professional bakers, chefs and home cooks alike have sung the praises of gingerbread. Redolent with spices, gingerbread is as sturdy as it is sweet. Who among us can’t recall building at least one gingerbread house or decorating a gingerbread man in our youth?

Christmas provides an opportunity for generations of family members to share traditions, like holiday baking. This activity is a great way to pass down heirloom recipes to the younger generations. 

To read more of Michael’s article, including his recipes for Gingerbread Cake and Cinnamon Whipped Cream, click here.  Michael has cooked, studied and written about food for more than 10 years.  His recipes have been published nationally in Home Cooking and Taste of Home magazines.