Tracing the Origins of the Gingerbread House

December 6th, 2012 by Victoria Japlon

For many families, the tradition of decorating a gingerbread house is an annual holiday event. Little do they know that they are participating in a tradition that is centuries old.

Though the English are credited with being the first to bake and sell gingerbread when they introduced the Gingerbread Man, they weren’t the first people in Europe to bake this unique treat. In fact, it was an Armenian Monk who is actually credited for bringing gingerbread to Europe back in the 10th century. He taught the skill of baking the treat to both Christians and French priests.

Gingerbread was prominent with other religious institutions across Europe such as the Swedish Nuns. It is widely known that monasteries were one of the first places to sell gingerbread. In the 16th century, gingerbread was also available for purchase in farmers’ markets and pharmacies. It wasn’t until gingerbread found its way to Britain that it started being painted. It was displayed in shop windows and became the popular holiday treat we now know today.

Though decorating gingerbread cookies had become a growing trend, the popular activity of decorating gingerbread houses didn’t take hold until the publishing of Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm. This well-known German tale also resulted in German settlers bringing gingerbread to America, where it continues to be popular today.

Creating gingerbread houses started at Wilton decades ago, and continues each year with the introduction of new designs. How many houses do we make? In 2011, we made over 2,000,000 gingerbread houses.

Decorating a Gingerbread House

Here are some fun facts about those gingerbread houses:

  • There was over 900,000 square feet of living space inside the houses
  • If you stacked the gingerbread houses on top of each other they would equal 860 Empire State Buildings
  • Over 645,000 lbs. of gingerbread and 900,000 lbs. of candy have been used for all of our kits
  • Over 2,000,000 lbs. of icing has been used

We design exclusive gingerbread kits for Michaels, Jo-Ann, Wal-Mart and many other retailers. Be sure to browse our Gingerbread House Fun web page for decorating ideas, techniques and frequently asked questions. Which design will you choose?

Happy Holidays!

Victoria Japlon Victoria Japlon is the Product Manager for Gingerbread Kits and has worked at Wilton for 3 years. Victoria is a trained Chef with a background in Supply Chain Management. She enjoys helping others celebrate all of life’s moments and is happy to participate in creating your family holiday memories.

24 Replies

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  2. […] A Brief History of Gingerbread. History of Gingerbread. Wilton Blog: Tracing the Origins of the Gingerbread House. […]

  3. […] Like many popular festive traditions, Christmas gingerbread houses are an import from Germany and Scandinavia, where they are still at their most impressive, and a relatively recent one at that. While ginger, spice and sugar have always been ingredients for celebratory food and served at feasts and fairs, often at Easter rather than Christmas, the gingerbread house doesn’t really make its appearance until the last couple of centuries. It was the story of Hansel and Gretel that appeared in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s 1812 Children’s and Household Tales that really popularised the gingerbread house. In fact, there is often a claim that the Brothers Grimm may have essentially invented the gingerbread house. […]

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  10. […] reflects a preexisting practice. Historians do know that when German settlers embarked for America, they brought the gingerbread house tradition with them. We say danke for […]

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  13. […] some time, gingerbread had been decorated and displayed in shop windows – it is conceivable that some of these adornments may have resembled houses. However, it is […]

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