Making gingerbread houses has been a traditional holiday activity in many families since immigrants from Northern Europe brought it over in the late nineteenth century. It is an activity that children and their families love to do each Christmas season, but over the last few years it has developed into much more than just a family tradition.
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Professional exhibits have been popping up, dedicated to the largest and most impressive gingerbread houses chefs -- and sometimes even architects -- can create. Luxury hotels features these life-size gingerbread houses in addition to their trees and other holiday decorations. Often these gingerbread making extravaganzas are used to raise money for charity or as contests for bakers from around the nation to participate in. One would assume that these jaw dropping creations must involve glue or other indigestible tools, but Susan Matheson, co-author of "The Gingerbread Architect: Recipes and Blueprints for Twelve Class American Homes", insists that every gingerbread house must be 100% edible.
Hotels around the country participate in the festive gingerbread making. Dozens of New York City bakeries gather together to craft the display of gingerbread houses located in Le Parker Meridien hotel in midtown Manhattan. These houses aren't what one would think of when they think of the traditional gingerbread houses. These bakers work together to recreate historical monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Egyptian Sphinx, and the Mexican temple Chichen Itza -- all of gingerbread!
The Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut proudly displays a life-size gingerbread house. The house, made from 6,000 gingerbread bricks, stands over 28 feet tall and weighs over 20,000 pounds! Visitors can even walk through the house to see the rooms which feature a Christmas tree, complete with stockings and cookies for Santa. Now that is impressive!
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In Hawaii, the Waikiki hotel sets the stage for the holidays with a miniature village, all made of gingerbread. This display also features historical landmarks, such as London's Tower Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, and even Hawaii's own Iolani Palace.
A gingerbread contest in Asheville, North Carolina lets ordinary people put their gingerbread house-making skills to the test. The national competition has more than $7,500 in cash and prizes for the best houses. A panel of judges including pastry chefs, cookbook authors, and museum curators will decide the lucky winners of this contest. The most important requirement- that all entries are 100% edible!