Gingerbread House Day is observed annually on December 12. Gingerbread is claimed to have been brought to Europe in 992 CE by the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis (also called Gregory Makar and Grégoire de Nicopolis). He left Nicopolis (in modern-day western Greece) to live in Bondaroy (north-central France), near the town of Pithiviers. He stayed there for seven years and taught gingerbread baking to French Christians. He died in 999. Gingerbread was often used in religious ceremonies and was baked to be sturdy as it was often molded into images of saints. In the 13th century, gingerbread was brought to Sweden by German immigrants. In 15th-century Germany, a gingerbread guild controlled production. Early references from the Vadstena Abbey show that the Swedish nuns baked gingerbread to ease indigestion in 1444. It was the custom to bake white biscuits and paint them as window decorations.
The first documented trade of gingerbread biscuits dates to the 17th century, where they were sold in monasteries, pharmacies, and town square farmers’ markets. In Medieval England gingerbread was thought to have medicinal properties One hundred years later, the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire, England became known for its gingerbread, as is proudly displayed on their town’s welcome sign, stating that it is the “home of gingerbread”, twinned with Pézenas and Arlon. The first recorded mention of gingerbread being baked in the town dates to 1793, although it was probably made earlier, as ginger had been stocked in high street businesses since the 1640s. Gingerbread became widely available in the 18th century.
Gingerbread came to the Americas with settlers from Europe. Molasses, which was less expensive than sugar, soon became a common ingredient and produced a softer cake. The first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons published in 1796, contained seven different recipes for gingerbread
There are many varieties of Gingerbread. In England, gingerbread may refer to a cake, or type of cookie or biscuit made with ginger. In the biscuit form, it commonly takes the form of a gingerbread man. Gingerbread men were first attributed to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who served the figurines to foreign dignitaries. Today, however, they are generally served around Christmas. Gingerbread was a traditional confectionery sold at popular fairs , often given as a treat or token of affection to children and lovers “sweethearts” and known as a “fairing” of gingerbread – the name retained now only by Cornish fairings. This crisp brittle type of gingerbread is now represented by the very popular commercial version called the ginger nut biscuit.
Parkin is a form of soft gingerbread cake made with oatmeal and treacle which is popular in northern England. In the United States, this form of gingerbread is sometimes called “gingerbread cake” or “ginger cake” to distinguish it from the harder forms. French pain d’épices is somewhat similar, though generally slightly drier, and involves honey rather than treacle. Originally French pain d’épices did not contain ginger. In the Netherlands and Belgium, a soft and crumbly gingerbread called peperkoek, kruidkoek or ontbijtkoek is popularly served at breakfast time or during the day, thickly sliced and often topped with butter.
In Germany gingerbread is made in two forms: a soft form called Lebkuchen and a harder form, particularly associated with carnivals and street markets such as the Christmas markets that occur in many German towns. The hard gingerbread is made in decorative shapes, which are then further decorated with sweets and icing. The tradition of cutting gingerbread into shapes takes many other forms, and exists in many countries, a well-known example being the gingerbread man. Traditionally, these were dunked in port wine. The Brothers’ Grimm also mention a gingerbread house in their tale of Hansel and Gretel. In Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, the honey cake eaten at Rosh Hashanah (New Year) closely resembles the Dutch peperkoek or the German Lebkuchen, though it has wide regional variations.
In the Nordic countries, the most popular form of ginger confection is the pepperkaker (Norwegian), pepparkakor (Swedish), brunkager (Danish), piparkökur (Icelandic), piparkakut (Finnish) and piparkūkas (Latvian) or piparkoogid (Estonian). They are thin, brittle biscuits that are particularly associated with the extended Christmas period. In Norway and Sweden, pepperkaker/pepparkakor are also used as window decorations (the pepperkaker/pepparkakor are a little thicker than usual and are decorated with glaze and candy). Many families bake pepperkaker/pepparkakor/brunkager as a tradition.
In Switzerland, a gingerbread confection known as “biber” is typically a two-centimeter (approximately ¾ of an inch) thick rectangular gingerbread cake with a marzipan filling. The cantons of Appenzell and St. Gallen are famous for biber, and are artfully adorned with images of the Appenzell bear or the St. Gallen cathedral respectively by engraving or icing.
In Russia, a gingerbread maker was first mentioned in Kazan cadastres in 1568. Gingerbread confections are called pryaniki (sg. pryanik), derived from the old Russian word for ‘pepper’. Historically three main centers of gingerbread production have developed in the cities of Vyazma, Gorodets, and Tula. Gingerbreads from Tver, Saint Petersburg and Moscow were also well known in the Russian Empire. A classic Russian gingerbread is made with rye flour, honey, sugar, butter, eggs and various spices; it has an embossed ornament and/or text on the front side with royal icing. A Russian gingerbread can also be shaped in various forms and stuffed with varenje and other sweet fillings.
In Poland, gingerbreads are known as pierniki (singular: piernik). Some cities have traditional regional styles. Toruń gingerbread (piernik toruński) is a traditional Polish gingerbread that has been produced since the Middle Ages in the city of Toruń. It was a favorite delicacy of Chopin when he visited his godfather, Fryderyk Florian Skarbek, in Toruń during a school vacation. Kraków gingerbread is the traditional style from the former Polish capital.
In the Czech Republic gingerbread is called pardubický perník while In Romania, gingerbread is called turtă dulce and usually has sugar glazing. A variety of gingerbread in Bulgaria is known as меденка (“made of honey”). Traditionally the cookie is as big as the palm of a hand, round and flat, and with a thin layer of chocolate. Other common ingredients include honey, cinnamon, ginger and dried clove. Gingerbread is also popular in England, and is available in supermarkets. As in other countries, Gingerbread biscuits are often decorated with royal icing. In Panama, a confection named yiyinbre is a gingerbread cake made with ginger and molasses; it is typical of the region of Chiriquí. Another popular confection is quequi or queque, a chewy biscuit made with ginger, molasses and coconut.
National Ambrosia Day
National Ambrosia Day takes place annually on 12 December. Ambrosia is A variation of the traditional fruit salad. according to Greek mythology, Ambrosia is the nectar of the gods, endowing strength and immortality to those who eat it. Ambrosia is very closely related to the gods’ other form of sustenance, nectar. The two terms may not have originally been distinguished; though in Homer’s poems nectar is usually the drink and ambrosia the food of the gods; it was with ambrosia Hera “cleansed all defilement from her lovely flesh”, and with ambrosia Athena prepared Penelope in her sleep, so that when she appeared for the final time before her suitors, the effects of years had been stripped away, and they were inflamed with passion at the sight of her. On the other hand, in Alcman, nectar is the food, and in Sappho and Anaxandrides, ambrosia is the drink. A character in Aristophanes’ Knights says, “I dreamed the goddess poured ambrosia over your head—out of a ladle.” Both descriptions could be correct, as ambrosia could be a liquid considered a food (such as honey).
The consumption of ambrosia was typically reserved for divine beings. Upon his assumption into immortality on Olympus, Heracles is given ambrosia by Athena, while the hero Tydeus is denied the same thing when the goddess discovers him eating human brains. In one version of the myth of Tantalus, part of Tantalus’ crime is that after tasting ambrosia himself, he attempts to steal some away to give to other mortals. Those who consume ambrosia typically had not blood in their veins, but ichor the blood of immortals.
Both nectar and ambrosia are fragrant, and may be used as perfume: in the Odyssey Menelaus and his men are disguised as seals in untanned seal skins, “and the deadly smell of the seal skins vexed us sore; but the goddess saved us; she brought ambrosia and put it under our nostrils.” Homer speaks of ambrosial raiment, ambrosial locks of hair, even the gods’ ambrosial sandals.
Ambrosia also appears in many other Greek myths. In one version of the story of the birth of Achilles, Thetis anoints the infant with ambrosia and passes the child through the fire to make him immortal but Peleus, appalled, stops her, leaving only his heel unimmortalised (Argonautica 4.869-879). In the Iliad xvi, Apollo washes the black blood from the corpse of Sarpedon and anoints it with ambrosia, readying it for its dreamlike return to Sarpedon’s native Lycia. Similarly, Thetis anoints the corpse of Patroclus in order to preserve it. Additionally, both ambrosia and nectar are depicted as unguents (xiv. 170; xix. 38). In the Odyssey, Calypso is described as having “spread a table with ambrosia and set it by Hermes, and mixed the rosy-red nectar.” It is ambiguous whether he means the ambrosia itself is rosy-red, or if he is describing a rosy-red nectar Hermes drinks along with the ambrosia.
Later, Circe mentions to Odysseus that a flock of doves are the bringers of ambrosia to Olympus. The cyclops Polyphemus also likens the wine given to him by Odysseus to ambrosia and nectar. One of the impieties of Tantalus, according to Pindar, was that he offered to his guests the ambrosia of the Deathless Ones, a theft akin to that of Prometheus. In the Homeric hymn to Aphrodite, the goddess uses “ambrosial bridal oil that she had ready perfumed.” In the story of Cupid and Psyche as told by Apuleius, Psyche is given ambrosia upon her completion of the quests set by Venus and her acceptance on Olympus. After she partakes, she and Cupid are wed as gods. Some ancient Egyptian statues of Anubis read,”…I am death…I eat ambrosia and drink blood…” which hints that ambrosia is a food of some sort. In the Aeneid, Aeneas encounters his mother in an alternate, or illusory form. When she became her godly form “Her hair’s ambrosia breathed a holy fragrance.”
Among later writers, ambrosia has been so often used with generic meanings of “delightful liquid” that such late writers as Athenaeus, Paulus and Dioscurides employ it as a technical terms in contexts of cookery, medicine, and botany. Pliny used the term in connection with different plants, as did early herbalists. some modern ethnomycologists, such as Danny Staples, identify ambrosia with the hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria: “it was the food of the gods, their ambrosia, and nectar was the pressed sap of its juices”. Some thought that both nectar and ambrosia were kinds of honey, in which case their power of conferring immortality would be due to the supposed healing and cleansing powers of honey, which is in fact anti-septic, and because fermented honey (mead) preceded wine as an entheogen in the Aegean world; on some Minoan seals, goddesses were represented with bee faces (compare Merope and Melissa).
Ambrosia Salad was also created in the late 1800. A simple ambrosia salad , was made with citrus fruit, coconut and sugar. A genuine ambrosia salad should be served the same day it is prepared, though more modern recipes suggest overnight refrigeration of the dish. Other ingredients often added to the salad are pineapple, nuts, cherries, apples, bananas, whipped cream or yogurt.
National Poinsettia Day
National Poinsettia day takes place annually on 12 December. The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) (also known as Christmas Star) is a commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). The species is indigenous to Mexico. It is particularly well known for its red and green foliage and is widely used in Christmas floral displays. It derives its common English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825.
Euphorbia pulcherrima is a shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 0.6–4 metres (2–13 ft). The plant bears dark green dentate leaves that measure 7–16 centimetres (2.8–6.3 in) in length. The colored bracts—which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or marbled—are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colors, but are actually leaves. The colors of the bracts are created through photoperiodism, meaning that they require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change color. At the same time, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color.
The flowers of the poinsettia are unassuming and do not attract pollinators. They are grouped within small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch, and are called cyathia. The poinsettia is native to Mexico. It is found in the wild in deciduous tropical forests at moderate elevations from southern Sinaloa down the entire Pacific coast of Mexico to Chiapas and Guatemala. It is also found in the interior in the hot, seasonally dry forests of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. Reports of E. pulcherrima growing in the wild in Nicaragua and Costa Rica have yet to be confirmed by botanists.
The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl, meaning “flower that grows in residues or soil” Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as Flor de Noche Buena, meaning Christmas Eve Flower. In Spain it is known as Flor de Pascua or Pascua, meaning Easter flower. In Chile and Peru, the plant became known as Crown of the Andes. n Hungarian, it is called Santa Claus’ Flower, and is widely used as a Christmas decoration.
The plant’s association with Christmas began in 16th-century Mexico, where legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus. Poinsettias are popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere across North America. They are available in large numbers from grocery, drug, and hardware stores. In the United States, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.
Albert Ecke is credited with creating the American poinsettia industry. He emigrated from Germany to Los Angeles in 1900, opening a dairy and orchard in the Eagle Rock area. He became intrigued by the plant and sold them from street stands. His son, Paul Ecke, developed the grafting technique, but it was the third generation of Eckes, Paul Ecke Jr., who was responsible for advancing the association between the plant and Christmas. Besides changing the market from mature plants shipped by rail to cuttings sent by air, he sent free plants to television stations for them to display on air from Thanksgiving to Christmas. He also appeared on television programs like The Tonight Show and Bob Hope’s Christmas specials to promote the plant. Until the 1990s, the Ecke family, who had moved their operation to Encinitas, California, in 1923, had a virtual monopoly on poinsettias owing to a technique that made their plants much more attractive They produced a fuller, more compact plant by grafting two varieties of poinsettia together. A poinsettia left to grow on its own will naturally take an open, somewhat weedy look. The Eckes’ technique made it possible to get every seedling to branch, resulting in a bushier plant.
More Events and holidays happening on December 12
Festival of Unmentionable Thoughts
Gingerbread House Day
National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day
National Ding-a-Ling DaY