Who doesn’t feel like a child again around gingerbread? Amazing gingerbread creations, more than just houses, are the center of Canada’s 7th Annual National Gingerbread Showcase.
These works of art are created by professional and amateur bakers who donate their time, up to 70 hours from drawing to creation, and ingredients to support this annual event. Each entry is vying for bragging rights and prizes while supporting a worthy local cause, Victoria’s Habitat for Humanity.
The history of this amazing treat
The ancient Greeks and Egyptians first utilized gingerbread for religious and ceremonial purposes. Using special clay molds, the gingerbread was baked into images of saints and religious symbols. The tradition was eventually introduced to European countries by an Armenian monk.
European royalty of the time only permitted gingerbread to be prepared by specially trained guild members except during Christmas and Easter. This is because the creation of religious icons, even if edible, was viewed as a sacred and prestigious practice. During the 17th century, non-guild people were permitted to bake gingerbread. Thus began the tradition of gingerbread houses during the Christmas season.
Early gingerbread men and women were molded in the image of matryoshka, nesting Russian dolls. These non-religious figures were an instant hit and very popular during the holidays.
The concept of gingerbread houses occurred approximately 200 years later subsequent to the popularity of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. In this fairytale, two children were abandoned in the forest and found their way to an edible house of bread and sugar decorations — the witch’s house.
The popularity of this fairytale was what ignited German bakers to begin making ornamental fairytale houses of lebkuchen (gingerbread). German bakers perfected the development of gingerbread with a stronger consistency to support taller designs and fancier structures. These houses became immensely popular during Christmastime. The tradition was brought to the US by German immigrants in Pennsylvania.
Adorned with succulent gumdrops, licorice, hard candies, and icicles of royal frosting, each creation is unique. Houses include everything from chateaus, to cabins, to castles.
Each design is intricate and detailed
Gingerbread houses have become an art, the center of many family holiday celebrations, with their elaborate and colorful appearance. The true spirit of the holidays is family and friend get-togethers in appreciation of everything life has to offer. Gingerbread making provides people of all ages, young or old, a chance to create something artistic and delicious.
A gingerbread house is a model house made of gingerbread, a crisp ginger biscuit made from the ginger root. Traditional sweeteners usually include honey along with flavorful spices of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom. The shaped biscuits are “cemented” with royal frosting and covered with a variety of candies.
In Europe, gingerbreads were sold in special shops and seasonal markets in the shapes of hearts, stars, soldiers, riders, trumpets, pistols, and animals. It was especially treasured outside of churches on Sundays with religious gingerbread figures purchased for the specific event, usually Christmas or Easter.
Decorated gingerbreads were also common gifts to adults and children, or given as a token on one’s love in Europe. They were a common feature of weddings, where gingerbreads were distributed to the guests. A gingerbread shape of the patron saint was frequently given as a gift on a person’s name day, the day of the saint associated with his or her given name. Gingerbread was even used as a talisman in battle or as protection against evil spirits.
Today, gingerbread is a common treat at the Christmas Markets prominent in many German towns, as well as around the world.
National Gingerbread Showcase
Featuring a different theme every year, this year’s theme is “Around the World.” Artisans interpret the theme in a variety of ways with inspiration from travels, unique traditions and cultures, and friends from across the globe.
Gingerbread creations must measure 24 inch x 24 inch (61 cm x 61 cm) on a solid base. They must be at least 18 inches (41 cm) tall. Everything must be edible except for the wood base. Lights and mirrors are not permitted in the displays.
Judging criteria includes first impressions, interpretation of the theme, the use of gingerbread, skill and technique displayed, the refinement of the design, creativity, and artistic merit.
Judging of the entries occurs on November 15, 2016, before the display opens to the public. First, second, and third place prizes are awarded for professional bakers, those working in a professional or commercial culinary environment, and for home chefs or amateurs.
The event opens on November 19, 2016 at the Inn at Laurel Point, 680 Montreal Street, Victoria, British Columbia. The public is invited to view the colorful creations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. General viewing is free. Public viewing continues through to January 2, 2017.
For a small donation, you can cast a vote for your favorite creation as well. All donated funds support the Victoria’s Habitat for Humanity. Last year’s event raised over 44,000 CAD (32,808 USD) for Habitat. Habitat for Humanity Victoria’s mission is “to mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to break the cycle of poverty.”
Winners of the “Public’s Choice” award will be announced on January 11, 2017.
Let your imagination free
What would your gingerbread creation look like? Let these amazing structures activate your imagination and inspire you to try your hand at your own creation this year.
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