Become a Part of Our Giving Tree!

Give the gift of play to a family in need this holiday season! Gifts of any amount will be added to our scholarship membership fund which provides free, one-year memberships to families that would not otherwise be able to experience the Museum & Theatre. All donations are tax-deductible. Donations of any amount are welcome and $95 funds an entire scholarship membership for one family for one year!

Make your gift in honor of a friend or family member and share the gift of play with someone special this holiday season.  We are happy to send a personalized holiday card to the recipient if you would like.

How It Works:

If you’re visiting the museum, simply remove an ornament from our giving tree and take it to the front desk to make your tax deductible donation. Then take the ornament with you and share it with a friend or family member to let them know that a donation has been made in their name! We can also mail an ornament to a recipient of your choice accompanied by a complimentary holiday card (see the Front Desk for details).

If you’d like to make a donation now, simply click here and choose the option that works best for you!

Thank You and Happy Holidays,

The Team of the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine

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Thank you for sharing the gift of play with families in need!

 

Gingerbread!

Ginger has been used in many ways for thousands of years, from ancient Greek and Chinese recipes and medicines to spices of the Middle Ages to the Christmas tradition of cookies and, of course, gingerbread houses. But how did the gingerbread we know today come to be, and when did it become so popular at Christmas?

Ginger itself is a knobby root that hails from Asia, from the Middle East to China. Ginger made its way to Europe in the 1st century AD, and gingerbread variations through France, Germany, Scandinavia and England began rising in popularity around the 1400s. Ginger is mixed with honey and molasses to give gingerbread its trademark sweet spongy, cake-like quality. Each country has its own spin on gingerbread, with many delicacies being referred to as “pepper cake” or “pepper bread.” Many countries in the Middle Ages had Gingerbread Markets!

Making shaped gingerbread (like gingerbread men) was a 16th century spin on the confection. Queen Elizabeth I of England (who reigned from 1588 to 1603) popularized shaping and decorating gingerbread people when she decorated cookies with the likenesses of other kings and queens of Europe! Gingerbread was so popular in England during this time that it even made it into a line of William Shakespeare’s 1597 play Love’s Labour’s Lost. Many European bakeries still craft gingerbread hearts, and it was once a symbol of affection to give gingerbread to another person.

Like many Christmas traditions celebrated in America today, gingerbread came to our country with early German settlers in the 1600s. In Germany, the art of baking and crafting ginger sweets goes back nearly 600 years, and gingerbread is such a delicacy that the occupation of gingerbread baker is not only in high regard, it’s in a league and class all of its own!

The gingerbread capital of the world is indisputably Nuremberg, Germany, where a gingerbread baker’s league was established in the 1640s. Only certified bakers of Lebkuchen (gingerbread) were allowed to craft gingerbread creations for many, many years… with the exception of Christmas and Easter, when it was declared acceptable for any household to make their own gingerbread cookies. Lebkuchen bakers fashioned kings, hearts, animals, and other beautiful shapes out of gingerbread, purchased at high prices and crafted exclusively by hand until the later 19th century, when mass production techniques made a major impact on European industries.

The gingerbread house itself has a history dating back to the early 1800s – it’s hard to say whether the practice of making gingerbread houses inspired the Brothers Grimm or if it was the other way around, but after the publishing of the Grimms’ still famous fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, gingerbread houses became quite the rage. Though the practice of decorating cookies with colored icing was already an established tradition, a house was a new undertaking. Icing or chocolate holds flat pieces of gingerbread together, while bright candies trim windows and roofs, chimneys and doors. Much like the house that Hansel and Gretel stumble upon in the woods, these houses are fully edible works of art, irresistible to children and marvels of artistry to adults.

The tradition of constructing gingerbread houses also made its way to America (and specifically, to the Museum & Theatre). Many real Victorian homes that appear to have “icing” around the roofs and windows are referred to colloquially as “gingerbread homes.”

Other gingerbread treats through the years have included gingerbread nuts – which evolved into what we know as ginger snaps, Swedish Papparkakor, and animal crackers.

Easter Around the World

Saturday, April 11
2-3 pm

Do you use eggs in holiday celebrations? Join us for Easter Around the World and learn how children in other countries celebrate Easter. This egg-cellent celebration will include eating chocolate eggs as they do in Denmark, coloring wooden eggs similar to those decorated in the Ukraine and creating Greek Easter cards to wish one another “Kalo Pascha!” (Happy Easter!)