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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!)

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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. . .

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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!

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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!)

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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.

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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. 

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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. . .)

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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!!!)

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And then. . . the fun begins!

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Sometimes, you need a little input. . .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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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