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Earth Notes: Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest

A gingerbread display with a Pueblo-style house, barn, and four people in a drum circle beside a pen of sheep. All the materials are edible, including marshmallows, pretzels, and frosting. display from last year's competition.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
A gingerbread display with a Pueblo-style house, barn and four people in a drum circle from the 2022 Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest. All the materials are edible.

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque hosts a unique holiday tradition this time of year. It’s the Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest, an annual—and edible—celebration of Pueblo architecture.

Anyone who isn’t a professional baker can enter the contest with a Pueblo-inspired gingerbread creation, from a whimsical house, church, or village to a replica of a real-life historic building. Pueblo is a Spanish word meaning “town,” and it refers to the distinct architecture that Spanish colonists encountered in Indigenous villages on the Colorado Plateau, known today as the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico.

The great houses at Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde showcase this style, which features multilevel structures with flat roofs and few or no doorways but lots of ladders. Instead of adobe or red sandstone, however, entrants to the gingerbread contest must use entirely edible materials in their displays.

The gingerbread houses celebrate different aspects of Pueblo culture—you might see marshmallow sheep, gumdrop luminarias, or silver church bells fashioned from chocolate kisses. Not to mention lots of smiling gingerbread people, dancing, making music, or baking bread in outdoor ovens.

Visitors to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center can browse the displays throughout the holiday season and vote on their favorites. This year’s winners in the children and adult categories will be selected today.

But the real prize is mixing up a new take on old traditions. Now in its 13th year, the contest is a sweet start to the holidays.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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