There’s something special about the long-standing tradition of building gingerbread houses. Both children and adults alike enjoy them.

For one community, building this edible art has become a much-anticipated community event. On Saturday, the Denmark Congregational Church will hold its fourth annual Gingerbread House Workshop. All of the gingerbread is baked from scratch. The finished creations are judged and then prizes are awarded.

“This is such a busy time of year,” said church member Nancy Sanborn. “We wanted to give families the opportunity to spend some quality time together and make some lasting, fun memories.”

The first year the event was held, 40 houses were made. The second year the count increased to 60 and then to 80 on the third.

“The running joke in church is we need to make 200 this year,” Sanborn said, “but we really only have room for 80.”

Gingerbread is much older than one might imagine. Its roots go back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks who used it in ceremony. As a spice, ginger is thought to have reached Europe around the 11th century. Early versions of gingerbread were largely flourless and consisted of ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar and ginger.

This “bread” was once used medicinally for stomach ailments and became the fare of nobility. In France during the Middle Ages, gingerbread baking guilds were sanctioned by the government.

During the 17th century and the discovery of the New World, molasses was introduced and the gingerbread most of us are familiar with. At this point the creation became accessible to the masses, not just the elite.

Even Shakespeare evoked gingerbread. His comedic play “Love’s Labour’s Lost” features the line, “An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy gingerbread.”

In more recent times the gingerbread house is accredited to the Germans after the Brothers Grimm published their fairy tale collection that included “Hansel and Gretel.” Early German settlers are believed to have brought the gingerbread house tradition to America.

Perhaps it’s only fitting that a town named Denmark would carry out the custom with such zest today.

“We only have room for about 30 fully built houses,” Sanborn said of the event’s house-making space.

“The rest we sell as kits for people to build and decorate at home with their family or to give as gifts. We have a generous anonymous supporter who buys several and has them delivered to families that may not be able to participate.”

With a degree in the culinary arts, Sanborn came up with the community event idea during her stint at Southern Maine Community College. Each year gingerbread was baked and then assembled into houses at the college. They were then brought to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland for the kids to decorate them.

“That’s where I got the idea,” Sanborn said. “Just seeing those kids as sick as they were and the joy it brought them. It brings back the old-fashioned Christmas.”

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: [email protected]