There was always a major advantage of studying German at school and in further education. My native German teachers loved to introduce us to all the excellent German Christmas traditions and food. Some of my favourites include an important Christmas ingredient: Ginger. Ginger and gingerbread seem to be synonymous with Christmas.
The invention of gingerbread men is credited to a British queen. Queen Elizabeth I reputedly requested them to resemble her courtiers as a gift. There was also a tradition of using gingerbread men as love tokens. You ate a gingerbread version of the man you wished to marry.
Many families with young children like to make gingerbread houses at Christmas. The inspiration for this activity appears to have another German connection: the Hansel and Gretel fairytale by the Brothers Grimm. The children narrowly escape being eaten in the tale, but that seems to get forgotten in today’s lavish and sweet gingerbread creations. Some get very elaborate like the annual Gingerbread City competition at London’s Museum of Architecture.
Ginger is a highly prized spice that comes from the rhizomes of Zingiber officinale. It is unknown in the wild, although it is believed to have originated from South-east Asia. It is one of the earliest known oriental spices. For example, we know that the Romans recognised its medicinal benefits. Ginger is well-known for alleviating nausea symptoms. It has been used in Britain since Anglo-Saxon times. It became fairly commonplace in Medieval times, although it might have cost the equivalent of a sheep.
References and Further Reading
- Davidson, Alan (2006): The Oxford Companion to Food. Second Edition. Edited by Tom Jaine. Oxford.
- Waxman, Olivia B. (2016): Gingerbread Men: The Surprising Reasons Why Gingerbread Men Became a Holiday Classic. Time. 22 December 2016
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.