On December 4th, comes The Gingerbread Man
The Gingerbread Man was always welcome with a mix of apprehension and joy. He is always lovely to look at, light in the hand, and delicious. But…
But eating the Gingerbread Man is a bit of cannibalism, which makes one hesitate when one encounters his button-like, coloured eyes and his smile.
But the Gingerman has a whole story to himself alone and it is a grim story that we are invited to repeat when we start munching on the spicy pastry. And this is disturbing.
As all fairy tales not retold by Disney, there is an element of cruelty in it. The little man escapes from its sugary evironment and family to seek liberty. After many an adventure, he ends under the teeeth of the fox. One gets rather fond of the Gingerbread Man and mourns its death, blaming the fox, as children often prefer freedom and exloration of the world to a sweet and too protective environment. A slight punishement would certainly be appropriate. But to be devoured by a fox… This is a bit too much.
Then the Ginerbread Man reminds one of Hansel and Gretel and the house of the Witch. Not a very funny tale either. One that sent me under my duvet and made me ask whether Mother or Father had well looked under my bed and in the wardrobe and in all nooks and crannies of my bedroom.
Oh, the house is wholly seducive and alluring but what about the Witch who is ready to cook and eat Hansel with the non willing help of Gretel? There is no need of a psychiatrist or a feminist or Bruno Bettelheim for a child to see that something is absolutely wrong in this tale. Gluttony, for one.
Is it gluttony to eat the Gingerbread Man? Or worse than that, is it greed?
On a practical level, having lived in Sweden, the Gingerbread Man has a more positive or less culpabilising version there under the form of the cinamon and spicy Annas Peperkakor.
No eyes to look at you and no story of foxes and witches or of bishops as with Saint Nicolas, Sankt Niklaus or Sankt Nicklas, the ancestor of Santa Claus, saving children from the furnace where there have been locked up – another story of cooking. But more on December, 6th.
Those Swedish biscuits were my joy when I was a child and after. There was no Christmas without them. When we were in Paris, we went to the Swedish shop in the Rue des Ecoles to buy our load of blue tins or the special, red ones, made forJuletime. Crunching, munching one’s way through one biscuit, then let another one melt slowly in the mouth, a scented paste gulped down with tea or coffee, what a treat!
Oh Gingerbread Man, I may look at you, admire you and rejoice myself while eating without guilt your brother biscuit without human form!
And the Advent calendar may display you, all beautiful to be admired.
An Earthly Tree (Magdalene College Choir)