THROWBACK THURSDAY – A History of Gingerbread

As we approach holiday season, one of our local favorite festivals is returning to the
Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center: the Gingerbread Homes for the Arts
Festival. While celebrating the arts through gingerbread displays are happening all
this week, we thought it would be fun to visit the history of gingerbread houses.
We based much of our research on facts found on PBS and in The History Kitchen.
The ginger root has been known to be a medical treatment for centuries, and was
first known to be cultivated in ancient China. Ginger traveled to the European
continent thanks to trade routes along the Silk Road. Ginger has the power to hide
preserved meat taste and was used often during the Middle Ages in Europe.

But the first known gingerbread recipe is said to have come from ancient Greece in
the year 2400 B.C. China’s popularity of ginger called for bread recipes too. Medieval
Europe altered the recipe into a hard cookie, which was often served at fancy
affluent occasions and fairs in England, Holland, France, and Germany. These
festivals eventually became known as gingerbread fairs. This is when they became
associated with holidays.

It wasn’t until the Brothers Grimm published their fairytales that gingerbread
houses became a thing of folklore, with the popular children’s story of Hansel and
Gretel traveling the woods and finding a gingerbread home. But it was around this
time that building gingerbread homes originated in Germany.

Gingerbread made it across the Atlantic with the arrival of European colonists
before the American Revolution. It’s said that George Washington’s mother served
gingerbread to the French Marquis de Lafayette.

Homes built of gingerbread by local Bowling Green area organizations are on
display at SKyPAC this week during the Gingerbread Homes for the Arts Festival.
Visitors can see them thru Saturday, which is Community Day from 10 a.m. until 2
p.m., and features lots of festive holiday activities for the family.

In Bowling Green, because local matters, Telia Butler, WNKY News 40.