You may have spotted the appearance of a small gingerbread man on Ultimate Experience’s Christmas pages recently… he’s called Noel.
Noel is this year’s winter icon. Inspired by the history of the great gingerbread man, he was chosen to represent all things festive for 2015.
Gingerbread is no new thing – it actually dates back to the 15th century, and figural biscuit making was practiced in the 16th century. The first documented instance of figure-shaped gingerbread biscuits was at the court of Elizabeth I of England. She had the gingerbread figures made and presented in the likeness of some of her important guests.
In Medieval England, the term gingerbread simply meant ‘preserved ginger’ and wasn’t applied to the desserts we are familiar with until the 15th century. The term is now broadly used to describe any type of sweet treat that combines ginger with honey, treacle or molasses.
According to Rhonda Massingham Hart’s Making Gingerbread Houses, the first known recipe for gingerbread came from Greece in 2400 BC. Chinese recipes were developed during the 10th century and by the late Middle Ages, Europe had its own version of gingerbread.
The hard cookies, sometimes gilded with gold leaf and shaped like animals, kings and queens, were a staple at Medieval fairs in England, France, Holland and Germany.
Over time some of these festivals came to be known as Gingerbread Fairs, and the gingerbread cookies served there were known as ‘fairings.’ The shapes of the gingerbread changed with the season, including flowers in the spring and birds in the fall. Elaborately decorated gingerbread became synonymous with all things fancy and elegant in England.
Not content with just adorning Christmas tables once a year, the gingerbread man has also been breaking records in recent years. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s largest gingerbread man was made by the staff of the IKEA Furuset store in Oslo, Norway, on November 9, 2009. The gingerbread man weighed 1,435 pounds, 3 ounces (651kg).
Run, run, fast as you can,
You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!
~ The Gingerbread Man, a fairy tale