Gingerbread cookies provide variety of Christmas possibilities.

As I walked out of the office this afternoon I thought to myself, “Let the baking begin!”  It’s the weekend before Christmas and I look forward to baking many goodies to share with family and friends. There’s nothing better than holiday baking to help create a festive mood. The house is warmed by the oven, the sweet aromas fill the air and the treats melt in your mouth.

One of my favorite Christmas cookies is the Gingerbread Man (or Woman!), a treat that dates back to Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen often presented gingerbread cookies to her guests in the likeness of each visitor. One source says the Queen’s cooks favored opportunities for extravagant decoration, and the cookies she presented may have included gold leafing.

In Europe the gingerbread man has a history of appearing as Christmas tree décor. In Germany the cookie was incorporated in fancy holiday scenes – gingerbread men, gingerbread animals and gingerbread trees. The decorations included candies and icing and were inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel. Nuremberg, Germany, is known as the gingerbread capital having created elaborate gingerbread scenes throughout the city.

While I yearn to create an amazing gingerbread house, I will probably stick to the traditional two-legged gingerbread man with red hot candies for buttons and white royal frosting for facial features and clothing accents. No matter what the design, these treats will not last long in our household!