Once upon a time a young 17 year old girl made her first gingerbread house. Yes, I was a senior in high school and that year we had just moved up to Michigan after living in Ohio most of my life. I saw a recipe for a gingerbread house in a McCall’s Magazine; very simple and it was called a “Swiss Chalet”. Decorations were limited but there were pretty green trees surrounding it. So appetizing Dad had to take a bite out of one tree after coming home late from a business trip! Of course I had to blame my 3 siblings until we saw evidence of green on Dad’s mouth and he had to confess 🙂
Most of my pictures are scanned and came from my two Gingerbread Creative Memories Albums. So, they are not the best pictures but it will give you some ideas should you want to start a tradition like this in your family.
Why I was interested in making it I am not sure but it started a family tradition years later. Mom saved the magazine article with the recipe and directions and even my grocery list which are now yellow. I do not have many things from back then and for Mom to have saved it must have meant something special to her as well. Do you want to know the year? That’s my secret!
A few years went by and I made another one with Gene’s help right before we got married. He came up with a rather plain design and you can tell I was not very creative in what I did with it but it was a gingerbread house.
A few more years passed and I came up with the idea of getting family members and some friends together to make gingerbread houses and celebrate the holiday season. I actually still had the pattern and for the first year we just stayed with that design.
We decided on the first weekend in December to have this annual event and it would not interfere with Thanksgiving or Christmas. Gene and I always let the kids spend Christmas with their significant others family or their mom (I was the stepmother). Then I had two sisters who shared in this special occasion but came at different times. My brother’s daughter from Hawaii joined us one year which was really special. Even Gene’s mom was able to join us one year and she pitched right in helping to decorate.
Gene made this sign for the golf cart…
So, thus began 18 years of making gingerbread houses in my family. Unfortunately I lost the first pattern but Gene made a bigger one which had cut out windows and a door. I also bought lights for the houses so each family could turn on their gingerbread house and smell the heated gingerbread.
I made all of the houses – one year it was a grand total of 6. I baked and assembled them and provided most of the candy. Each family brought their own “roof” materials such as cereal, slivered almonds, licorice and so on, whatever they wanted. I spent the year looking for different kinds of candy to decorate the houses so they would not look the same every year. I did save what I could that was not all yucky from little hands and froze it. If you would like to see my gingerbread dough recipe and royal icing “glue” just click on the pictures below.
Gene designed the patterns for me, what the heck he had an engineering background. Nothing fancy like you see on the Food Network Channel, but perfect for us. Besides I had to make each house, buy the candy, prepare appetizers, bake cookies and decorate our home for our holiday celebration.
The big job for me was making the dough, cutting and baking all of the different pieces for each house. There were 2 sides with cut out windows, front with a door and window, back just plain with a little hole for the cord on the light to come through and then the roof with a separate chimney. I also made little gingerbread boys and girls to place on a sled or perhaps under a tree. Then I applied royal icing to glue the gelatin sheets to the windows and let dry before the final assembly.
Some of the fun things I provided included a Santa to be placed in the chimney. One year it was a gummy sucker, then a chocolate Santa and finally we all liked the maple Santas that everyone got to paint – very cute! I made sleds with graham crackers and small candy canes, marzipan snowmen and in the beginning I colored some trees for each family with ice cream cones.
One year Gene made doghouses as three families all had dogs. A sister made a reindeer out of fudge – adorable as we had a lot of deer roaming around our 75 acres at the time. A gazebo was a welcome addition and all kinds of different characters such as a skier or “cone man”. One father/son team made a Ford truck. There was even a pool with a diving board and a gingerbread boy floating in the water. So many different things we made. The fences around the houses were always different and added a special final touch. The kids and Gene started to get creative, even some of the adults including me!
Sadly, this family tradition came to an end when only one family could make it. Lots of excuses and it was an event Gene and I hated to see come to an end.
The following pictures are some of the GINGERBREAD HOUSES over the years…
I am bringing a very special family tradition that we celebrated for a long time. I know there are a lot of people who like gingerbread, whether it is in cookie or cake form and many who might make gingerbread houses like we did. Happy Holidays to Angie over at The Novice Gardener where Fiesta Friday #47 is going strong. Thanks also to the co-hosts this week, Indu @Indu’s International Kitchen and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook.