Gingerbread has been a part of holiday traditions for hundreds of years. Until the 17th century, the food was primarily reserved for religious ceremony. For this reason, only specially trained members of bakers guilds were allowed to make the sweet dessert in Europe, outside of Christmas and Easter. Some researchers connect the gingerbread house to the story of Hansel and Gretel. Soon after the Brothers Grimm published their famous collection of German fairy tales in the early 1800s, lebkuchen, spice cakes often flavored with ginger and decorated by artists, began to appear. The gingerbread cookie, shaped in the likeness of a person, has been traced back to Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth asked her chef to create life-sized sculptures made out of gingerbread to resemble her royal guests of honor.
History aside, we Central Texas families have many chances in 2014 to continue these holiday traditions. Here is what we found:
Candy Land Gingerbread Village at Four Seasons Hotel – November 25 – December 31
This annual tradition at the Four Seasons Hotel takes its inspiration from the popular children’s board game of the same name. The theme will take shape in 10 unique houses, including such whimsical landmarks as the Candy Castle, Licorice Forest and Gumdrop Mountains. Several smaller scenes and accessories — such as the iconic Candy Land sign, Rainbow Bridges and Queen Frostine — will also dot the fantasy Village landscape. The Village is on display 24 hours a day until December 31. See a photo of the display here. The hotel will host Holiday Open Houses on December 2 and 3 from 5-6pm in the lobby, which are free, open to the public and feature complimentary hot apple cider, Candy Land-themed treats, photos with Santa and the opportunity to meet the pastry chefs behind the village. FREE.
Gingerbread Workshops at The Thinkery – November 28-30, December 6-7, December 12-14, December 20-24
Gingerbread Workshops at The Thinkery celebrate creative families in a fun and festive atmosphere. These hour-long workshops provide everything needed to build and decorate a gingerbread house to take home and enjoy. Workshop participants are welcome to explore the Thinkery and play with friends afterward. Non-member adults are $8 and members are $4. The price for a non-member child plus gingerbread house is $28. The price for a member child plus gingerbread house is $24. Other non-participating guests are subject to a fee. Register online for children 6 and up here. Gingerbread Tot workshops are available for families with children ages 5 and under. These hour-long workshops feature pre-built houses and candy decorations sized for little makers. Register for Tot Workshops here.
Gingerbread House Decorating Classes at Central Market – November 28-29, December 5-6
The Friday Parent and Child two-hour classes begin at 6 p.m. and are geared towards children ages 5-17. Central Market will provide an authentic Swiss Lebkuchen gingerbread house, lots of royal icing and mountains of candy. Just bring your creativity and imagination. Boxes will be provided to transport your masterpiece home. Please note: one gingerbread house for each parent/child team. Cost is $65/parent and child and registration is available online. The Saturday two-hour classes begin at 10am and are for ages 5-17 only. The cost is $45 per child, and registration is available online.
7th Annual Gingerbread House Competition – December 2
Kick off the holiday season with the Omni Barton Creek Resort’s 7th Annual Gingerbread House Competition and FREE tree lighting ceremony. The general public is invited to participate in the competition and prizes will be awarded to the winners in each age group. This year’s theme is “Austin: Live Music Capital of the World”, and all music-related entries will be accepted. Entry forms must be submitted by November 30. It is FREE to enter and you do not need to be a guest at the resort. A FREE dessert reception will take place from 7:30-9:30pm on December 2 in the Wildflower Atrium, and gingerbread desserts and holiday beverages will be served. Also, Steven Stellingwerf, author of The Gingerbread Book, will conduct a FREE “How to Make a Gingerbread House” class in Live Oak BC at the resort on Monday, December 1 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Those who attend the class may submit their gingerbread creations to this year’s competition. Please call Julia Teague at (512) 329-4665 to reserve your spot in the class.
Georgetown Public Library Annual Gingerbread Extravaganza 2014 – Entries accepted December 5-8, public voting December 9-14
Break out your culinary and decorating skills, it’s time for Georgetown Public Library’s annual Gingerbread Extravaganza! You can build your masterpiece all by yourself or you can build it with friends or your whole family. You can build from scratch or you can buy a kit and add your own creative embellishments. All entries must be received between December 5th and 8th. All building materials must be edible and all entries should not exceed 18″ x 18″. Public voting takes place December 9-14th. Winners will be announced December 15th in the following categories: original design made by two or more persons; design made from kits (or enhanced) and original design made by one person age 8 or younger, age 9-12, age 13-17 and ages 18 and older. FREE.
Gingerbread House Raising at the Neill-Cochran House Museum – December 6 & 7
The Gingerbread House-Raising event will be an opportunity for participants to decorate and keep their very own gingerbread houses while learning about Greek Revival architecture and the history of the Neill-Cochran House Museum. Participants have the option of attending either Saturday, December 6th or Sunday, December 7th. Both days, the event will take place from 1-3 p.m. The ACC Culinary Arts Division will be baking the gingerbread houses. All materials will be provided and the Lake Austin Chapter of the National Charity League will be on hand to assist children. Parents/guardians are required to stay with their children for the entirety of the event. The Gingerbread House-Raising is $20 per participating child and $15 for members of the Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum. You can register your child here. Registration deadline is December 5th.
Frozen Magic Snow Castle Gingerbread House Decorating – December 6, 13, 20 and 23
Do you want to build a snow castle? Attendees will embellish freshly made gingerbread houses at Foodie Kids and turn them into Frozen® Snow Castles with royal icing and all sorts of Snow Princess candies and decorations. Kids will enjoy Snow Queen Punch and Tiny Snowball Cookies. Recipes included. This event is all ages, and registration is $35 with or without an adult. Register online.
Wilton Gingerbread Boy Cookie Event – December 7
From 1-4 p.m. at participating Michaels locations, learn to decorate cookies like a professional. Buy your kit and meet in the classroom! One kit includes everything you need to transform your sweets from simple to sensational. Call your local Michaels to confirm participation. FREE with purchase of the kit.
Bring the family from 10 a.m. until noon for the 2014 Family Gingerbread Workshop at the South Austin Recreation Center! Decorate gingerbread men cookies, make holiday crafts, and enjoy light refreshments with your family and friends. FREE.
A recovering workaholic, Nicole Basham now spends her time rediscovering Austin through her 8-year-old son’s eyes. A soccer-playing mom, Nicole also enjoys tickling too close to bedtime, taking in some live music and being silly.
Recent posts by Nicole include Where to Take Out of Town Guests to Experience Austin This Holiday Season, 50+ Places to Eat Out With Kids in Austin, Exercise on the Cheap in Austin, and 20 “Don’t Miss” Events in Austin This November.