The Rich Heritage of the Licitar: Let's Explore the History of Croatian Gingerbread! - eat2explore

The Rich Heritage of the Licitar: Let's Explore the History of Croatian Gingerbread!

Holiday time is filled with visions of trees, presents, gift wrapping, feasts, and yes, treats. We think of peppermint candy canes, velvety hot chocolate, and rich, fragrant gingerbread.

Who doesn’t love the thought of decorated gingerbread man cookies!

eat2explore features Croatian gingerbread decorations in their World Holiday Treats box!

Let’s explore the tasty history of this wonderful holiday treat.

Gingerbread may have been baked as far back as the 11th century when crusaders brought back the spice, and the bread, when returning from expeditions to the Middle East.

The original Croatian gingerbread biscuit, called a licitar, was shared as far back as the 16th century as a gift and reminder of pilgrimages the faithful would make to the Marian shrine in the Zagorja region in northern Croatia.

The bakers of this famous biscuit, called Medicari, handcrafted these ornamental keepsakes. People considered licitars more sentimental than a bouquet of roses!

Even though they are technically a cookie, the recipe the Medicari used came out of the oven rock-hard, and it wasn’t the custom (or even advisable) to eat them, just admire them for their artistic beauty.

The Croatian gingerbread makers of today still create these stunning works of art by mixing flour, sugar, baking soda, and spices to make a stiff dough.

They cut out simple shapes and bake them. Once cool, that’s when the magic happens. Each licitar is dipped in colored icing (often red) and hand-decorated with curly lines, flowers, and sometimes pictures, dates, poems, and even mirrors!

This craft is so special, back in 2010, UNESCO named the licitar on their list of representations of intangible cultural heritage.

While gingerbread cookies are a feature of holiday celebrations, you’ve probably also seen gingerbread used to create houses and even whole villages and decorated with candies and white sugar icing to represent snow.

Gingerbread men and gingerbread houses feature in popular fairy tales but no one knows which came first, the house or the story of Hansel and Gretel. Back in the 1800s, German bakers began to create fanciful cookie buildings

Today, whole festivals revolve around these decorative creations where people come together to marvel over stunning miniature houses, cabins, and castles that bring back memories of fairy tales.

Of course, some gingerbread house builders have lofty goals. In 2013, bakers in Texas built an enormous gingerbread house so large it broke the Guinness Book of World Records. The house was an incredible 2520 square feet and used 1800 pounds of butter!

Croatian bakers don’t strive to break any world records for their amazing licitars. It’s enough for them to carry on the tradition of crafting beautiful ornaments and keep their heritage alive.

You can build your own gingerbread house for fun, or bake some fun cookie shapes like gingerbread men, horses, trees, or snowflakes. You can even use them as ornaments on your tree!

But you can also bake melt-in-your-mouth gingerbread to have as dessert this holiday season.

The World Holiday Treats box includes the recipe to make delicious Medenjaci gingerbread, along with packets of special ingredients ready to use.

Let us see your gingrbread creations!

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