CrecheThe week after Thanksgiving our home begins to fill with the aroma of warm molasses, ginger and cinnamon as thick, sticky dough is pressed into cast iron molds forming the construction units for log cabin or Victorian gingerbread houses. Day after day the baking continues; roofs, short sides, pointy sides, chimneys, a veritable subdivision of gingerbread houses awaiting final construction with royal icing, a shiny, bright white concoction made with egg whites and powdered sugar that dries hard as nails.

The ladies at the Lighthouse squealed with delight when my art partner and I walked in with four assembled houses. They cleared off their tables in record time protecting each with a red plastic tablecloth. It was a holiday hurricane of activity; bags of candy spilled into bowls, small holes cut into bags of icing, heads pressed together in joint inspiration. We marveled at their ingenuity of reshaping gum drops and gummy worms into intricate new shapes. Slowly, methodically, pieces of candy, some completely transformed,  began to adorn each house – patterned roofs, gum drop angels, crosses, trees and snowmen, stained glass windows, even a trophy reindeer mounted on a wall. Ah, the spicy aroma of creativity!  

Another larger gingerbread house party followed the next day in Fresno for my grandsons, many of their cousins, and other assorted friends…after we’d replenished the candy supply drastically thinned by the previous party at the Lighthouse. Lara became our resident snow machine after I demonstrated how Lovana had taught me to make a delicate dusting of snow by scissor shaving Smarties.  Ice cream sugar cones became Christmas trees, pet cages, and missile launchers depending on each kid’s imagination. Some of the houses were highly patterned, others exceedingly random; not surprising, I suppose, when the ages ranged from 5 to 23.  Those kids who needed an adult’s help the year before now have mastered the one-for-the-house, one-for-the-mouth, do-it-myself process. I wonder each year if this year will be the last as the grandkids and cousins grow up, head to college, and begin careers. But each year there’s a hearty, resounding yes when I inquire at Thanksgiving about all things gingerbread. Ah, the fragrance of a decades long tradition. 

If you have long family traditions, what are they? Who introduced them to you? How have they been transformed or adapted over the years? If you were to create a new tradition, what might it be?

Looking forward to hearing about the spicy aroma of traditions!



4 comments to Gingerbread

  • Our family traditions have morphed with the times. For many years we played “The Game.” This consisted of each person bringing a wrapped gift which they had made themself. We then played that game where you can steal the presents from others. All of the items were amazing – wooden shelves, purses, jewelry, afghans, quilts, beef jerky – the list is endless. Now our family has some form of entertainment each year. Last year it was “skits” by each family. This year is “Holiday Hootenanny.” Each person must play something on a musical instrument (although we are flexible, I think at least one person is reciting a poem instead.) I like the traditions because they reflect our family values: being unique, creative and entertaining are all on that list. Gotta go practice “O Little Town” on my ukulele now!

  • Maria

    We share Reveillons (sp?) each Christmas Eve (or whatever day becomes that time shared!) My husband lived in France as a little boy. The tradition is to have a cold meal of French cheeses, bread, pate, escargots, caviar and the like after their Christmas mass services. We have made adaptations to fit our origins. When I hit the scene, hailing from the Pacific Northwest, we added smoked salmon. At a MOPS gathering at least 20 years ago, a woman demonstrated “The Best French Bread,” and that immediately became part of the feast. This year, my daughter and her husband will arrive with their brand new baby girl twins, and my son is flying home from West Point (exceedingly glad to be South-bound away from his massive gray digs), and we will celebrate Reveillons a day early with every treasured meaning cozied around our table – Christmas Eve captured no matter the date!

  • Michele

    Every year we make an Christmas Tree ornament. Ornaments have ranged from traditional shapes of snowmen or trains in painted balsawood, to felt diapers the year children were born, to graduation caps, and even a dreamcatcher the year we traveled to Ark and Ok to discover more about our Cherokee heritage. When the children were small the ornaments were simple, wood beads on ribbon, wreaths made from circles of recycled Christmas cards, pictures made with those plastic beads that you iron to melt together or plastic and yard cross-stitch. Recently we made a bell out of a small clay pot and this year we painted a Santa’s sleigh. 32 years of memories hanging on the tree and displayed chronologically on a wooden bead garland stretched across the livingroom. We make enough to share with family and close friends each year by Thanksgiving.

  • Karen

    One of my favorite holiday traditions is “The Christmas Box”. This tradition began the first year I was unable to be home Christmas day. A package of wrapped gifts with clues on each gift tag was delivered to me during the first week of December. The gifts were items my parents had seen and that reminded them of me throughout the year. During the following year, if there was something that reminded me of my parents while I was traveling, I would buy the little momento. I also asked my parents for a gift list so that I could get gifts they would need or want. I wrapped the gifts and delivered their package. Sometimes we have gifts that relate to a theme. This year my theme was “lights”.

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