December 22 2009 by Karla Henriquez
When the Brothers Grimm compiled German fairy tales and came across the tale of Hansel and Gretel, the gingerbread house was modernized and romanticized. It seems only natural that children and adults alike would become enchanted with the idea of a sweetly edible home. My two-year-old has a couple of Jan Brett books about a Gingerbread Baby, and her favorite part of both stories is the house he lives in - all covered in candy and so incredibly delicious. Germany already had a tradition of making ginger cookies or cakes to be sold at festivals, and the popularity of this story started a tradition of making Lebkuchen, or "witches houses." The German Lebkuchen tend to be simple cottages, but in the United States, where making houses out of gingerbread has caught on more than anywhere else, they are often very elaborate Victorian homes and buildings laden with confections.
This means that some of the world's most impressive displays of gingerbread houses can be seen right here in the U.S. during the winter holiday season. While there are countless festivals of all sizes in towns and cities across the nation, there is one I would like to highlight: The National Gingerbread House Competition Display in Asheville, North Carolina. The competition itself was on November 16th, and the display lasts through January 3rd, 2010. The houses are displayed at The Grove Park Inn, and there are entries made by children, youth, teens, and adults. There is remarkable artistry and craftsmanship in the creations of the winners in each division. For a taste (no pun intended) of what's on display, check out this gallery of photos: National Gingerbread House Competition Winners.
If you don't think you can make it to Asheville this holiday season, there is sure to be a fairly impressive display of gingerbread houses somewhere closer to home. In my small Connecticut town, 75 gingerbread house kits were distributed for free and then displayed in storefronts downtown during a chamber-of-commerce sponsored event called the Holiday Stroll. A neighboring city displayed and auctioned more elaborate gingerbread houses at a Christmas fair.
Where do you live and what kind of gingerbread house displays can be found in your area?