The Story of Gingerbread
Most early immigrants to North America came from Europe, therefore most customs are from European origin.
Gingerbread is traced to Europe back to the 11th century. Crusader returning from the Middle East and brought back among other items a spice -- ginger. Soon after, different varieties of gingerbread appeared throughout western Europe. The variations varied widely from sweet, dark, spicy, soft or crusty, the only common characteristic was the ginger spice.
Gingerbread, the name comes from the Latin word "Zingebar", and was not used until the 15th century. By that time, gingerbread gained great popularity, especially in Germany and France. Bakers in both countries formed their own guilds, which gave them exclusive rights to make and sell the bread. However, a law was formed which prohibits them to produce gingerbread at Eastern and Christmas ("Government Red Tape" was well established). This law was eliminated in the 16th century, because of the popularity and favorite attraction of Gingerbread Bakers at market places, were gingerbread was freshly baked. Gingerbread gained such popularity at the already famous "Christkindlesmarket", in Nuremberg, Germany, that it was called the "Gingerbread Capital of the World".
The first gingerbread houses were made in Germany. Children story writer, Brothers Grimm, made them famous in the very popular fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel". The story featured a gingerbread house, which was called "Hexenhäuschen", (Witch House. The story goes, ...in which two lost children came upon and nibbled on the sweet gingerbread house, the evil witch caught and imprisoned them).