Gingerbread dates back to the 15th century, and figural biscuit-making was practiced as far back as the 16th century. The first documented instance of man-shaped gingerbread biscuits was at the court of Elizabeth I. She had the gingerbread figures made and presented in the likeness of some of her more important guests.
Gingerbread men share a roughly humanoid shape with ordinary people, but while many gingerbread men have a face, their feet are stubby and they have no fingers.
Whether the features are indentations within the face itself or separate sweets or choc-drops stuck on with icing varies from recipe to recipe.
Other decorations include hair, bow-ties, shirt cuffs, belts shoes and shirt buttons.
The term gingerbread came from the Latin zingiber or preserved ginger. It can also refer to a confection made with honey and spices. Gingerbread is often used to translate the French term pain d’épices or the German term Lebkuchen.
The first trade of gingerbread biscuits also began in the 16th century when monasteries, pharmacies and farmers’ markets began to sell them.
A century later the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire became renowned for its gingerbread. This fact is proudly displayed on their town’s welcome sign.
Gingerbread became more widely available from the 18th century onwards and has been a firm favourite with kids of all ages ever since!