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Carry It With Me

Steeped in Tradition: The Gingerbread House

Well.  Here it is.  December! 

I thought that this year, I would share some of our longstanding family holiday traditions with you all each Thursday during December.  I like following tradition during the holiday season -- because it ties us to memories of holidays past.  I don't like following tradition, though, for the simple sake of tradition.  I don't mind mixing things up . . . leaving things out . . . or adding new things to the holiday jumble, either.  (It was one of the most liberating moments of my holiday-self when I realized I did NOT have to drag my children to The Nutcracker EVERY year. . . just because it had become a tradition!)


So.  Let me begin with the Gingerbread House.

It all started. . . back in 1992. . . when Brian was a tiny baby and Erin was a toddler.  And I got roped into attending a Pampered Chef party.  I ended up ordering this. . .


a cute little gingerbread house mold.  I had never made a gingerbread house before, but I thought it might be fun.  The little mold makes great gingerbread building materials!


And, so, as my kids grew up, we started building gingerbread houses every year.  My mom used to come over and we'd do two houses --- one for her to display at her house, and one for us to display at our house.  One year, when Brian was an exuberant 3-year-old, I remember him working in tandem with Nanny on a gingerbread house -- and in his enthusiasm, he stuck a candy on so hard that he mashed the whole house in and we had to start all over!  (My mom has a LOT of patience.  She may have whimpered, but she kept a stiff upper lip!)


Brian's interest in the gingerbread house building waned as he grew older, but Erin was always a willing participant.  In fact, over the years, she hosted many a gingerbread-decorating party for her friends.  When she was a young host, we used to make gingerbread houses from graham crackers with a base of small milk cartons (this works great!), but as she got into high school, she used to invite fewer friends and use the little gingerbread mold to make all the pieces for her pals.


Despite her love for the gingerbread house decorating concept, though, Erin really wasn't that into the decorating of the houses!  Erin has never been "crafty"; she likes doing. . . she's not big on making.  So she always tended to lose interest once the house was assembled and the basic candy-placement was complete.  In fact, her houses always looked a bit like a candy factory had exploded!

Which brings us to this year.  Erin was home for a few days at Thanksgiving (she won't be home for Christmas, however) -- so we decided to drag out the gingerbread mold and make a couple of houses. 


Royal icing is the glue that holds the pieces of the gingerbread house (or graham crackers!) together.  (Don't even ask how much trouble we had separating the egg whites. . .)


The assembly is really the tricky part.  You have to be patient.  You have to let that royal icing glue dry!  (And it's best to keep exuberant toddlers away!!!)


And then. . . the fun begins!


Sometimes, you need a little input. . .


This year, Erin had a great idea for roof decoration.  She got out my meat mallet and smashed up peppermint candies in a baggie.  Then she painted and dripped these all over the roof - and, ultimately, all over the base of the house.


It is so pretty that way -- it just glitters!  (I am SO copying that idea for my next house!)

Erin had a great time decorating her house.


No exploding-candy-factory this year!

And, luckily, the house made the trip back to Pittsburgh all in one piece.  It's now decorating Erin's apartment and looking very festive, indeed.


(Note:  The house at the beginning of the post is my contribution this year.)

Happy December to you all!  Here we go. . .

What's your favorite holiday tradition?


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Wonderful little houses! I did a Halloween gingerbread house kit with the grandkids once. I think they ate more icing than went on the house... :)


I've never made a gingerbread house but always loved to look at them. Your house is totally charming. In 1995 I went to the White House and saw a gingerbread house replica if HRC's childhood home. It was AMAZING!
My tradition is to ignore all the hubbub.


So cute!! We took a gingerbread house and fixings to great grandma's one holiday when the kids were little and let them have at it while we prepared the meal, etc. It kept them happy and occupied!!

One of our holiday traditions is that St. Nicholas brings each of the girls an ornament every year. It's been great fun building their collection, and even more fun to sit back and watch/listen while they put them on the tree!


You inspire me! Those houses are awesome! Tradition...I've always got DRD and DGD the same present???


The houses are awesome! We did gingerbread houses one year at the library. The Children's Librarian and I baked and assembled 4 houses and then let the kids decorate them. We put them on round wooden bases and then planned to have them in the display case at the library for the month. The only problem was that we didn't measure the display case first and the bases we built the houses on wouldn't fit in the case. Whoops.


Beautiful gingerbread houses !!!and what a smart mold!
We used to make graham crackers gingerbread houses for my daughter's birthday party since her birthday was close to Christmas and the girls would take home the final product instead of party favors. They liked it so much that they kept asking for the same thing for 3 or 4 years in a row and they loved to take the small houses loaded with candy home.
Our holiday tradition is a breakfast of crepes and maple syrup with cut up fresh fruit and hot chocolate on Christmas morning.


Erin looks as if she's having the time of her life. One of our favorite traditions is not at all onerous. It is bringing out my husband's 1940's era Santa Claus to grace our white brick chimney wall. He is getting a little crusty around the edges by now, but still cheers us through the Christmas season with his warm and twinkly smile. My daughter also has a wonderful gingerbread house tradition with the family down the street -- everyone's all grown up now but they still try to do it every year if they can.


oh my...I LOVE the house you've decorated for this year...and the photos you've captured of all those that led to that one. I don't think I have a favorite tradition (but I know it's not gingerbread houses :-) ... but now I'm going to keep my eyes open for one! (p.s. how in the world did that house make it back to pittsburgh in one piece?)


How much trouble "we" had separating the egg whites? I only remember messing up one egg myself. ;) The pictures turned out great! And I love the gingerbread house in my kitchen. I've even sacrificed my bread storage space for it. (Where is the bread you ask...it may be living in my soup pot. Ah, the stink years). It was really fun to decorate houses with you, Mom! I love you.

As for the house making it back in one piece? A Zappos box and plastic grocery bags...and more than a little luck. :)

Barbara S

What a great mold. I started making the houses with the milk cartons and graham crackers when my first daughter was in kindergarten and we invited her friends. Now my oldest daughter is 26 and youngest is 23 and we're still having the annual house party with friends. Their friends look forward to it each year, even the guys...and the engineering types make some interesting houses!
As for the icing, I stopped using raw egg whites and switched to Deb El "Just Whites"...powdered...so much easier. It seems to start out a little thinner, but dries just as hard.
It's really nice to have fun traditions....makes for great memories.

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