An early form of gingerbread can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians who used it for ceremonial purposes (I have yet to determine what type of ceremony).
Gingerbread made an appearance in Europe when 11th-century crusaders brought the spice back from the Middle East. An early European recipe consisted of ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar and, ginger.
The first gingerbread man is credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who presented visiting dignitaries with one baked in their own likeness.
Gingerbread tied with ribbon was popular at fairs and, when exchanged, became a token of love. On a less appetizing or romantic note, aromatic crumbled gingerbread was added to recipes to mask the odor of decaying meat.