Each Christmas season, we see friends and family post their latest gingerbread creations on Facebook. Many of our neighbors have made building gingerbread houses an annual tradition. But, even if you don’t commit to making them every year, it’s a fun activity that can help you spend quality time with your loved ones this month. We’re not gingerbread experts, but retired educator Becky Buice, who was a paraprofessional for 25 years in Cherokee County, helped connect us with local pros, Jane Free and Steve Bell, who have been making gingerbread houses with their daughters annually for about 10 years.
My daughters, Eliza and Emma Nunnally, really enjoy it every year. It’s really about the decorating and eating the candy as they decorate. They’ve gotten creative and more “skilled” with the candy and icing as the years passed. I’m going to be sad when and if this tradition ends, but I’m pretty sure the girls will want to keep it going. I create a whole theme around it in my kitchen, with a gingerbread tree, a Santa baker, etc. A lot of happy memories have been made each year!
We save our Halloween candy, buy extra decorating icing (the kits never have enough), and candy trees and snowmen are fun to add. I always fix our table with a bright disposable tablecloth and open the candy to make an inviting display. It’s almost like a surprise awaits … It’s more fun when you can see all the options.
I divorced in 2010 and was looking for a tradition I could do specifically with my girls, Sarah and Catherine, around the holidays, to make it fun and have something that we could look forward to each year. The arguing over design ideas, fighting over who controls the icing lines and color schemes for the placement of candy are just a few of the gingerbread house traditions that continue each year.
I’m definitely not a baker, so we always opt for the store kit and start looking for them just before Thanksgiving each year. The girls typically will go with me to see which one
they want to tackle. It’s something we look forward to each year. I’m not sure what part they enjoy the most — the creative construction process or the eventual smashing of the gingerbread houses.
Helpful Hints and Tips
- Parents must be involved in the process! This is not a hand-the-kids-a-box-to-occupy-their-time-so-you-can-get-some-quiet-adult-time activity. Get your hands dirty, get in there, and include yourself in the decisions and creativity. Those are memories that you can reflect on years later.
- Don’t stress over mistakes. You can always eat them! Some years the houses have really turned out fantastic, and other years might not be Martha Stewart masterpieces. They all end up tasting pretty good once you get to that fun part of the process.
- Build on a large surface and on papers or a towel. These can be messy depending on the age of the kids and how many moving parts there are with the decorations. We typically have little cups or glasses set out to separate each decorative candy, since most of them are small and can get everywhere quickly.
- Turn on Christmas music. Why would you ever build a gingerbread house without Christmas music playing in the background?! This sets the tone and helps to put everyone in the proper mood for the afternoon. Avoid having the TV on; it totally defeats the purpose of what you are trying to accomplish, which is family time, interacting.
- Have fun! Be silly, laugh and do all of those things that make memories. This is totally something I want my kids to do with their kids years from now and remember how much fun it was making them with Dad.