Note: I asked my new German friend about the heart cookies that I had seen at Christmas markets and fests. She answered with this article about Lebkuchenherzen. The best part? She’s your new German friend too! Sandra Ostrom has offered to be our German liaison. So if you have any questions about German language, culture, food or anything else Deutsche, send an email to submissions @germanyja.com and we will make sure to get your questions passed on to Sandra. Her answers will be posted here so that we can all learn! Sound good to you? Sounds wunderbar to me!
CONTRIBUTED BY SANDRA OSTROM
“Lebkuchenherzen” – traditional display of affection
They are colorful and definitely sweet! Every time you go on a Kirmes (Carnival) you can find them next to other delicious sweets in all sizes from miniature to steering wheel size. The later the hour on the Kirmes – the larger the purchased Lebkuchenherzen (gingerbread hearts) become. Usually one buys a Lebkuchenher’ for that special someone to show their affection. Statements like “I love you”, “Best Mama” or “I always want to be with you” will then be proudly worn around the neck by the recipient. Although these mass-produced Lebkuchenherzen are edible they are usually held in honor, preserved and displayed at home. The softer the “heart” is the fresher it is – over time Lebkuchen gets rock-hard! Lebkuchen (Gingerbread) goes back to the medieval times in Germany and was mostly available in the big market towns along the trade routes, since one needed exotic spices for their production. Due to the relatively easy recipe and long lasting freshness Lebkuchen was popular with nuns and monks who baked them in their monasteries and handed them out to the poor. Sometimes they were baked directly on oblates, which were also produced in the monasteries. Over the centuries, Lebkuchen has become popular not only in Germany but worldwide – especially during Christmas time. It’s available in loads of different shapes, sizes and subtle varieties of flavors, including “Honiglebkuchen” (gingerbread with honey). So don’t worry if you receive one of the wonderful decorated Lebkuchenherzen next time you visit a Kirmes or the Oktoberfest – it is a compliment and remember – if you don’t like the the sender you can always eat it on your way home!