The Historical Roots of Holiday Treats

The Wassail Bowl, 1860. From The Illustrated London News, December 22, 1860. Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Tasty treats associated with winter holidays - candy canes, wassail and gingerbread - have some slightly hazy origins, because the evidence of their histories was eaten. What do we actually know about these foods and their place in the holiday menu?

Holly's Research:

  • Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Gingerbread.” Smithsonian. Dec. 24, 2008.
  • Rolek, Barabara. “The History of Gingerbread.” The Spruce. Oct. 5, 2017.
  • Reuters. “21-foot high gingerbread house in Texas sets world record.” CBS News. Dec. 7, 2013.
  • Guinness World Records. “Largest gingerbread house.”
  • Avey, Tori. “The History of Gingerbread.” The History Kitchen. PBS. Dec. 20, 2013.
  • Eveleth, Rose. “We Don’t Know the Origins of the Candy Cane, But They Almost Certainly Were Not Christian.” Smithsonian. Dec. 11, 2012.
  • Parkinson, Eleanor. “The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-cook, and Baker.” Lea and Blanchard. 1844. Accessed online:
  • CBS News. “The History of Candy Canes.” December 21, 2014.
  • “Keller Machine.” New Georgia Encyclopedia.
  • Doares, Robert. “Wassailing through History.” Colonial Williamburg Journal. Holiday 2006. Reprinted online:
  • McKibben, Beth. “The Centuries-Old History of Wassail.” Tales of the Cocktail. Nov. 30, 2015.
  • Castelow, Ellen. “Wassailing.” Historic U.K.

Topics in this Podcast: Christmas, culinary history, European history, U.S. history