Gingerbread houses have long been a popular Christmas tradition. But they may be more appropriate for Halloween. After all, they were inspired by the gingerbread house belonging to the wicked witch done in by Hansel and Gretel. Witches = Halloween.
THE HISTORY OF THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE
At the end of the 11th century, when the Crusaders returned to Europe from the Middle East bringing ginger and other spices, gingerbread became popular in Germany.
It was baked during the Christmas season as well as for year-round festivals. It engendered a trade guild: Only guild members could bake gingerbread, except during Christmas, when anyone could bake it.
According to a reference in FoodTimeline.org, the tradition of baking gingerbread houses began in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their collection of fairy tales in 1812.
Inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel, who nibbled at the witch’s candy-covered gingerbread house, German bakers created miniature houses from the already popular lebkuchen (gingerbread). Artists were employed to decorate the houses, which became particularly popular during Christmas.
The tradition crossed the ocean with the German immigration wave that began in 1820. But it’s only in recent years that we’ve seen gingerbread houses for Halloween.
Halloween gingerbread houses are available in easy-to-assemble kits; Those who just want to decorate can buy pre-assembled houses.
This week, we tasted two different brands. The Wilton kit we tried was a Victorian mansion—not particularly haunted based on the kit’s contents, but you can add your own touches.
 A traditional gingerbread house for Christmas (photo © King Arthur Flour)..
More important than the accouterments in the kit, the gingerbread was delicious. We tried another brand’s gingerbread house kit that was full of Halloween-themed decorations: candy ghosts, candy corn, a spider, a black cat, and a tombstone. But the gingerbread was flavorless, and we declined to take a second bite.
The assembled Wilton gingerbread house measures 6 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep by 9.5 inches high. It is available at Michael’s Stores and Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores. You can find it online at Amazon.com.
If you want to buy one online, here’s a haunted gingerbread house with all of the aforementioned Halloween decorations. We haven’t tasted it. If you buy one, please send us your opinion on gingerbread.
ASSEMBLY TIP: Some of our gingerbread pieces arrived cracked. This is a relatively common occurrence, but not a disaster. The same royal icing you make to decorate the house is a good mortar to “glue” the pieces together. Glue it from the back.
Decorating a gingerbread house is a family activity that can be carried through the generations. Start the tradition and take a photo of the finished house and the participants. See how the skill at decorating changes from year to year.
If you don’t have kids but want the tradition, invite your friends to an annual Halloween tea party with the gingerbread house as the centerpiece. Here are tea party ideas for every month of the year.
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