It all started when the gingerbread man began to appear in the streets of New York in December, 2016.
The gingerbread-themed decorating, which started in San Francisco, was quickly copied by around a dozen other cities.
“He was just everywhere,” says Raghavan, a 29-year-old fashion designer from New Jersey who lives in Brooklyn.
“Everyone was just following him.”
The gingerbread guy has since become a hit in New York City, where he’s been spotted decorating the walls of schools and churches and even making a cameo in an episode of “The Voice”.
“He’s become a fixture,” says a 26-year old New Yorker named Jamey who works in marketing for a local fashion brand.
“We have to pay attention to what he’s doing.
He’s been a regular presence on our walls.”
In New York, the ginger-themed decorations have been seen around the city.
The man is so popular that he’s also been spotted around the country, including on the cover of Time magazine, and even on the covers of the National Enquirer and New York Post.
“It’s just been such a massive success,” says Jameey.
“I’ve been to a few of the cities and they’re so beautiful, but there are so many cities that are completely ignored.”
According to a survey by The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the New York city gingerbread crowd has grown from just over 40,000 in March 2016 to over 1.2 million in April 2017.
“Gingerbread man” has become a national symbol for the people of New Zealand, who have become increasingly obsessed with their holiday traditions.
“We were in the US and we were just like, ‘We can’t do this,’ ” says Jodie, a gingerbread woman from New Zealand who lives with her husband and their three children in Auckland.
“And we didn’t even know it was possible.”
Jodie is one of a small group of New Yorkers who has been able to take on the ginger bread man’s role as the most popular holiday tradition.
“He just takes over,” says Kia, a 38-year–old mother of three who works as a teacher.
“It’s not just a man with a ginger beard or a ginger hat; he has a lot of things going on.”
Jamey, a New Yorker who lives near her husband in New Jersey, says the ginger man has been a part of her holiday rituals since the first year she married her husband.
“I’ve never had any other holiday traditions that I’ve had to change, but it was very special because we were married in a very special way,” she says.
Jameys mother has been living with her family for about a year, but she says she’s been having trouble keeping up with the growing number of New Yorker gingerbread men in her neighbourhood.
“The number of gingerbread guys in our neighbourhood has gone up, but not because of him,” she tells me.
“They’ve just been coming over.”
A New York-based gingerbread expert says the New Yorker tradition is not just about the man himself, but the community around him.
“Everyone thinks it’s a ginger man, but in reality it’s really more about the community surrounding him, the community that he represents,” says the expert, whose surname is not disclosed.
“There’s no real connection with the man’s real name.
It’s just a word that they use to describe themselves.”‘
The ginger man is a symbol for people’One of the biggest challenges for New York’s gingerbread community is finding accommodation.
“The ginger men are so visible that they can get away with anything,” says Phelim Gouran, a 25-year‐old artist who lives nearby.
“But if you go into any other neighbourhood, there are other people who are like, you know, the little guys.
There are also the kids who come to visit.”
Gouran says New Yorkers have been quick to jump on board the gingerbills bandwagon, believing that he can do anything they want.
“If you are a gingerman and you come to a place like New York you have to be prepared for this man,” he says.
“They come to see us, they come to get our cookies, they are like this little boy, and they just want to come to the table with us and say hi.”
Goran’s advice for the gingermen, who are often seen wearing traditional gingerbread hats and scarves, is simple: “The only thing you have is your faith.”