– By Andrea Gaines
Holidays bring out the charm in all of us.
Cherished things from our childhood appear in the form of gifts for children and grandchildren. Old cake molds come out. That not-so-perfect sweater you got last year is worn with pride. And, no matter what uncle Harvey brings for dessert, his sweetness is put on display and devoured.
As you might imagine, the National Days we celebrate in December give us a chance to enjoy all of these things.
Two National Days strike our fancy this month: National Gingerbread House Day – Dec. 12 and National Ugly Sweater Day – Dec. 15. We also came upon National Whiners Day – Dec. 26. But, we, of our own accord, have renamed this to National Give Thanks Day.
Gingerbread became popular in Europe in the 11th Century. The father of this delicacy is said to have been an Armenian monk named Gregory Makar. Gingerbread making evolved into a real art in Germany, France and elsewhere. The sweet and spicy cake featured our most favorite spices – including ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom. And, over time it began to take all kinds of tantalizing forms – from wafer-thin cookies to edible ornaments to elegant dessert rolls.
We love the way today’s bakers transform everyday foodstuffs into inspired gingerbread house features and heartfelt memories. Bran cereal is repurposed as a thatched roof. Slivered almonds become shingles. Animal crackers poke their heads out of a gingerbread barn’s window. Pretzels become fence posts.
Said Lillian Rohrer of Lincoln, “Every year the gingerbread house gets a little more elaborate as my granddaughter Flannery and I learn new techniques. I bake the pieces but she spends hours with me decorating and putting the pieces together.”
Now … and back to the charm swirling around us … what do you suppose real gingerbread house experts wear while they craft their little masterpieces. Well, perhaps it is that sweater they got last Christmas – the one that reminds them of their best holiday moments, or the knitter in the family who gave it to them.
Nice. Can’t wait for the holidays. And, at the right moment, to take a look around at the sweets, the people, the memories – and the gingerbread – and give thanks.