Christmas at my maternal grandparent’s home always included gingerbread cookies, as my papa was Swedish, and my grammy was German. Papa’s versions were always shaped as a traditional round cookie or a dala horse, and grammy’s were the traditional boys and girls. As a child, I adored teddy bears, so most of mine of course turned into ginger bears!
But in all those years of baking, we never made a gingerbread house or a stable for the horses or even a cave for my bears. It wasn’t until my son Shaun’s eighth Christmas that I ventured into gingerbread architecture. My brother Paul arrived for his yearly Christmas visit with everything imaginable to craft and decorate a gingerbread abode with his nephew. My son’s eyes lit up thinking he had hit the candy jackpot!
Off to Home Depot they went to get a small section of plywood to cut out the base, and a small hinge for the front door and some plexiglass for window panes. Then the two of them drew up a design which turned into a blueprint, that then translated into walls with a roof complete with a chimney. The front door actually opened to show a fireplace with a upside down ice cream cone Christmas tree complete with gumdrop presents. Uncle Paul’s carry-on bag was full of candy, but at least two more trips needed to be made for more. I’m sure much ended up in their bellies!
By Christmas Eve, the house was complete, and ready to eat. My son was horrified that his and his beloved uncle’s creation would be consumed, so we agreed to save it for the next year. There was talk about adding a second story and a gingerbread tree with a swing.
Fast forward to the next Christmas, the arrival of Uncle Paul and Shaun eagerly awaiting adding on to their gingerbread home. I had wrapped it lovingly (and carefully) in saran wrap - seemed like miles of it
as I wanted it to stay as “fresh” as possible. Paul and Shaun tenderly unwrapped last year’s creation. And what to their wondering eyes should appear? A crumbled heap of icing with a sticky gooey mess of candy, and a gingerbread house ready to cave in. So, into the trash can it went, and they spent the next couple of days making traditional Christmas cookies, seeing who could make the grossest looking or the
awfulness looking frosting. Boys will be boys!
Now a days when you walk into your local Michaels, Target or Walmart, you’ll find these great kits to build gingerbread houses of all shapes and sizes, dog houses, tree houses, row houses, log cabins, a hot cocoa stand and even a football stadium! So, this year, I bought a kit to make a gingerbread doghouse to go with my gingerbread dachshund cookies.
If you want to see grand gingerbread creations, Disneyland’s Grand Californian hotel always has a spectacular gingerbread house and the ballroom in the Haunted Mansion sports a gingerbread creation that you can smell as you waft by in your tomb-buggy. Also visit the Mission Inn in Riverside, the Hotel del Coronado, and the Science of Gingerbread at the Orange County Discovery Science Center. And of course, the White House chef always makes a special gingery creation. This year it is modeled after the White House and includes a sugar cookie replica of Independence Hall.
No matter what your holiday baking traditions are, the board of the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden
Tour wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year