“Gingerbread Houses—A Sweet Tradition” by Joan Leotta
In my own childhood and in the early years of our marriage and child rearing, gingerbread houses were not a part of the Christmas cookie baking regimen. But once our children were in school, and began to make graham cracker cookie houses, crafting edible accommodation seemed like a natural addition to our holiday tradition.
School-made gingerbread houses were really graham cracker habitats decorated with a bit of candy glued to individual milk cartons with a sugary icing. These mini creations ignited our family interest in the subject. However, it was a workshop at the National Building Museum that cemented the adding the making of gingerbread house to our annual Christmas celebrations.
Jennie and Joe were in upper elementary when I saw the ad for the workshop in the local paper, for a small fee. The Museum supplied the gingerbread house sides and the roof, baked by a local German baker, the icing and cups and cups of gumdrops, wafers, marshmallows and other candies. Participants were also invited to bring other treats for their own houses as they wished.
Each family group had its own table. We had a wonderful time making the house together. We liked it so much, I contacted the coordinator and signed up to perform stories at the event the following year.
For several years the children came with me and made a house while I performed. When their schedules no longer were as open on Saturdays, I went to the museum, performed, and brought home the house parts and assorted candies. That same night or the next afternoon they would sit at our round oak kitchen table and assemble the house.
Both at the museum and at home, I let the children take the lead in decorating. To avoid arguments, I assigned sides, allowing each total creative freedom in their own space.
Conversation around the activity was the best part of building the house. Lots of laughter. The house activity stimulated interest in houses they had known—our previous home, their Grandma’s house—and in houses I had known growing up.
When Jennie was a junior in high school, we hosted two Australian girls in early December.
While my husband ushered the girls and Jennie and Joe to see Washington sights, including a display of gingerbread houses at a local mall, I performed at the Building Museum and brought home the gingerbread house forms and fixings as usual.
Our Australian visitors were delighted to share the tradition of making the house with us. After all, a house has four sides, so it worked out perfectly.
Conversation around the table that year was particularly fun—I let the four young people work on their own, but as I made dinner that night, I did eavesdrop and loved hearing them talk about all of their family Christmas traditions which gave our two the opportunity to offer up the ways in which we kept Christ as the center of our celebrations.
After Jennie went to college, the tradition of the gingerbread house faded but not the memory of doing it together. Each time we worked on a house, I was reminded of the verse from Psalms 127:1 “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Each time we worked on a house, it brought our family closer together—the labor was never in vain.
If you would like to make your own gingerbread house this holiday season, be sure to visit the original websites where you will find the tutorial for each one. Visit these blogs and websites for step-by-step instructions:
All images and recipes are the property of the original websites. RUBY magazine does not own any of the images in this article and they are used only as part of a featured collection. To find any of the original articles, please visit the websites which are linked to each image.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling.
Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973