According to wisegeek.com:
“The gingerbread man allegedly first appeared in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who presented courtiers with gingerbread likenesses of themselves. The Queen’s habit of jesting with her court gives this tale some credence. This example of the gingerbread man was probably darker and more savory than the version we are accustomed to, as well as thicker and more cake-like. Elizabeth’s cooks relished opportunities for lavish decoration, and the gingerbread men she handed out may have included gold leafing and other outlandish decorative touches.
The gingerbread man also has a long history in mainland Europe, where he appeared as a Christmas tree decoration and in elaborate holiday scenes. The gingerbread man often had a gingerbread house to live in, with gingerbread animals, trees, and decorations made from candies and icing. Especially in Germany, gingerbread Christmas decorations are often quite elaborate, stemming from a 16th century tradition of fanciful gingerbread creations, popularized by Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the story of Hansel and Gretel. In the 17th century, Nuremberg, Germany, became known as the gingerbread capital, thanks to the elaborate gingerbread scenes that the bakers of that city would create, which included complex gingerbread houses, animals, and people decorated with gold leaf, foil, and other decorations. The gingerbread man probably reached his zenith during this period, when only professional gingerbread bakers were supposed to make gingerbread, except during the Christmas season when the rules were relaxed.”
Gingerbread cookies require a bit of work, but make a great near-Christmas activity for kids, look wonderfully old-fashioned on a tree, and also make beautiful gifts for family and friends. Not to mention that they’re mmm-mmm good! The following is the recipe I’ve used for years:
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. dark molasses
1/4 c. water
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 to 1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
Beat sugar, shortening, molasses and water in a large bowl on low speed until blended. Beat on medium speed 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 1 to 2 hours.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Turn dough onto a floured surface. Roll out with a rolling pin until 1/4 inch thick. Cut with gingerbread man cutter. (Other cookie cutters work well, also.)
Lift cookies carefully with a large spatula onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Decorate cookies with raisins, if desired. Bake until set, approx. 8 to 10 minutes. Let cookies cool 3 minutes, then carefully remove from cookie sheet with a spatula.
Cool and decorate with frosting if you like. Makes about 1 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter. Yum! Another fine, fragrant Christmas tradition!
An update on Charlie’s father — his surgery went very well today! He was moved from recovery to ICU shortly after his surgery where he’ll stay for a day or two before being moved to a regular room until he’s back on his feet. I can’t tell you how great it is that his surgery is over, and hopefully, his recovery will be uneventful. The best Christmas gift of all. Thank you all, dear friends, for your prayers and good wishes.