Alliance Garden Club decorates gingerbread Christmas tree at RPL

Gingerbread Tree collage

It’s not only beginning to look like Christmas at Rodman Public Library, but it’s also beginning to smell like it.

As patrons enter the doorway into the Children’s Department, they are greeted with the aroma of gingerbread thanks to the Alliance Garden Club.

Each year, the group decorates a Christmas tree inside the Children’s Department with a special theme. This year’s tree is adorned with gingerbread figures. Some are made of felt, but most are real gingerbread cookies, each one uniquely decorated.

To go along with the tree’s theme, one wall of the Children’s Department is decorated to look like a gingerbread house. At the other end, the door leading into the children’s programming room has been transformed into a gingerbread house door.

And, of course, right beside the tree is a display of gingerbread-related books.

But do you know why gingerbread is so closely associated with Christmas?

According to Epicure & Culture, gingerbread has been around for thousands of years, since the times of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Eventually, an Armenian monk brought it to Europe in 992. By this period, gingerbread baking was already quite sophisticated, and specially made molds were used to create images of saints and other important religious characters out of the bread.

The primary use of gingerbread continued to serve a religious purpose through to the 17th century, when it finally became associated with Christmas holidays. As the creation of religious icons — even in edible forms — was seen as a sacred and prestigious practice, European royalty of the time only permitted gingerbread to be prepared by specially trained gingerbread guild members except during Christmas and Easter.

As a result, most people could only enjoy the sweet dessert during this time of the year.

Here are some other fun facts about gingerbread:

  • Gingerbread is a baked sweet containing ginger and sometimes cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and anise, and sweetened with any combination of brown sugar, molasses, light or dark corn syrup, or honey.
  • The first gingerbread man is credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled over England and Ireland from Nov. 17, 1558 until her death on March 24, 1603. Queen Elizabeth surprised visiting dignitaries by presenting them with a gingerbread man baked in their own likeness.
  • Gingerbread tied with a ribbon was popular at fairs and, when exchanged, became a token of love.
  • Folk medicine practitioners created gingerbread men to help young women marry the man of their dreams. If she could get him to eat it, then it was believed he would fall madly in love with her.
  • Unmarried women in England have been known to eat gingerbread “husbands” for luck in meeting the real thing.
  • The gingerbread house became popular in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their fairy tale collection which included Hansel and Gretel in the 19th century.
  • A doctor once wrote a prescription for gingerbreads for the Swedish King Hans to cure his depression.
  • According to the Swedish tradition, you can put gingerbread in your palm and make a wish. You then have to break the gingerbread with your other hand. If the gingerbread breaks into three, the wish will come true.
  • In 2013, the Guinness World Records awarded a club in Texas for having the world’s largest gingerbread house. This house has 35,823,400 calories and it’s big enough to comfortably house a family of five.
  • Nuremburg, Germany, holds the title of Gingerbread Capital of the World.