Gingerbread – another German Holiday Favourite

Nothing conjures the feeling of Christmas like the first time the smell of gingerbread wafts through the air. This delicious scent has been signaling the start of the holiday season for more than 600 years.

First mentioned in old German documents, accounts of Lebkuchen (gingerbread) began approx. 600 years ago. The name “Lebkuchen,” in the Middle Ages called “Lebekouche”, possibly stems from the middle high German “lebbe” meaning “sweet” or the name “leb” may have been derived from the Latin word “libum which means “Fladen” or cake.

It is thought that wafer gingerbread and honey cakes most likely originated in the monasteries. (E. Otto Schmidt).The monasteries required wax to make candles, so the brothers cultivated fruit trees and kept bees.

Gingerbread soon became a favorite outside the monasteries. To make it required two things – honey, and spice.  Toward the end of the Middle Ages, Nuremberg was an important international trade centre; so there was no shortage of the required raw materials needed for the ever more popular gingerbread, e.g. candied fruits, hazelnuts and spices. The “Reichswald,” a huge forest, circling the town, provided the honey.

The “Lebküchner,” producers of spiced honey cookies, began to organize their own guild of “Wachszieher und Lebzelter” (Candle Maker and Gingerbread Baker). They made beautiful decorated candles and many varieties of gingerbread known as “Honigkuchen, Pfefferkuchen, Lebkuchen, Pfefferzelten, Lebzelten,” and “Pfeffernüsse.” Thus Nuremberg became the famous “Lebkuchen” (gingerbread) town as their gingerbread found fanciers all over Europe.

The custom of making and decorating gingerbread houses also began in Germany. These little gingerbread structures, created with icing and decorated with sweets, are said to be fashioned after the witch’s home in Hansel and Gretel.

All around the world, gingerbread cookies in various forms are loved all through Christmas. They have paved the way for an unbelievable array of gingerbread scented and flavoured items from lattes to hand soaps.

If you’re searching for authentic German Lebkuchen, here at Dimpflmeier Bakery, we have our delicious Spitchkuchen Cookie a chocolate covered gingerbread delight in store now.

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