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2013 Contemporary Christmas: Gingerbread Houses Forever First Class Postage Stamps

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The fondest holiday memories often include the scent of warm ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and molasses used in gingerbread drifting throughout the house. With a little imagination and a lot of patience, gingerbread can be converted into a whimsical house decorated with stiff royal icing and sparkling candies.

Gingerbread recipes originated during the Middle Ages, when maidens tempted knights with the spiced bread. By the early 1600s, American colonists were enjoying the richly flavored treat, although Christmas would not be widely celebrated for years to come.

Over time, bakers learned to cut or mold the dough into a variety of shapes, including animals and people. Heart-shaped gingerbread tied with ribbon was a popular treat at European fairs. The 1812 publication of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, inspired German bakers to create witches’ houses out of gingerbread. By the time Christmas was declared a national holiday in 1870, gingerbread houses had already become a beloved winter tradition in America.

Building gingerbread houses today can be as simple as buying kits or as complex as constructing small buildings from scratch, giving people of all skill levels the chance to create joyous holiday memories.

Baker Teresa Layman created the gingerbread houses specifically for these stamps.  Sally Andersen-Bruce photographed them and art director Derry Noyes designed the stamps.