There are very few people of European decent who do not associate the scent of gingerbread with the winter holidays. It has been baked in Europe for centuries going back to the pre-Christian celebration of the Winter Solstice, when small cakes marked with symbols of the sun were part of the Yule celebrations.
Who does not remember standing at the kitchen table and watching as your Mother, Grandmother or Great-grandmother mixed flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves into that wonderful-smelling, dark-brown dough? I know I remember vividly.
This is one of the universal elements of our culture. Even busy executives and heads of state take time before the holidays to make gingerbread with their families. Most of us associate the scent of cinnamon and cloves with the happiest times of our childhood.
Every country and every family has it’s own variation of gingerbread. In some places it is a soft cake served with lemon sauce or whipped cream. In others it is in the form of small hard cookies which must be soaked in milk or tea (or perhaps even wine) before it will soften enough to eat. It may be dark or light, sweet or spicy, but whatever form it takes, it is always meant to be shared with those we love.