Gingerbread started being made in Ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations who used it for ceremonial purposes. Most people believe that we did not even start creating gingerbread houses until the arrival of the Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm. I am not sure what this has to do with Christmas, but let’s see how this plays out.
I remember how Hansel and Gretel starts out, the parents are having a conversation because a “great dearth” had come over the land and no one was able to get daily bread. They did what any abusive parents would do, they sent their children into the forest with a piece of bread, so that the parents could survive. Not exactly a Christmas like story. As you know, eventually the children become lost and find their way to a gingerbread house with a witch inside.
I am not sure why it became a part of the Christmas tradition?
I honestly never realized that it started with Hansel and Gretel, how naive I am. I know why I like to make a gingerbread house every year, they are the one productive way I can use candy and not actually want to eat it, but that does not make it very spiritual, besides the apparent self-discipline of it.
The first gingerbread house that I remember making was in church. I am sure that I made some before then, but my first experience was in my Sunday school class on a Sunday near Christmas time. I am sure that my teacher, who was well meaning, made some sort of parallel to God’s provision or possibly Jesus’ sacrifice, but I don’t remember that. I just remember that gingerbread house strewn with gumdrops, candy canes, white icing, and Skittles.
I actually think the gingerbread house story is similar to the American Christmas. Think about it, Hansel and Gretel actually need some form of sustenance and they find sugary goodness. I think it might have been more appropriate for them to find a bakery, a butcher, or possibly a greenhouse full of nutritious foods. They find none of that, they find a sugary house that actually has the witch inside. For the sake of humor let’s call this witch, Diabetes.
I think this is how Christmas has become for many of us. We were searching for peace and goodwill towards men, yet we found a cheapened, commercial version of Christmas, that somehow manages to sneak in early November now. Christmas is now one big buying and receiving holiday. Most people relate it to gifts and well wishes and go on their way. That is fine by me, but let’s not call it Christmas. Let’s just call that “Giftsgiving” or “National Gift Exchange Day”. I am all about getting presents, but I separate it from Christ’s birth. If I don’t, I am using gifts to cheapen the gift that God gave. God giving me freedom could not ever compare to a material good that I will eventually lose track of.
If you have not ever read it, I would take the time to read the Christmas story in entirety. My favorite version is to read through the first three chapter of Matthew here.