Another tradition that seems to be evolving is the creation of a gingerbread house each year ready for the boys to delve into on Christmas Eve.
I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited to a group activity held in one of the local churches. About 100 women of all ages get the chance to take a bit of time out before Christmas and have a bit of a break from family….
There is some good natured competition, some of these ladies are obviously exceptionally talented and artistic, but everyone is free with the embellishments they have brought, happy to lend a supportive finger/hand and there’s plenty of sharing amongst all.
Despite it being a group activity with tables of five or so, and despite me being a blow in to this town, you would think that I would take the opportunity to make new friends.
The thing is though before I come across as downright rude, I love this type of activity, I mean I really love it! and am often starved of opportunity (or time!!!) so I’m that glad to get a bit of space to be creative, that I am (almost) unapologetically antisocial during the whole thing sorry-not sorry. Its a case of head down and craic on, talk when it’s over for me, I’m a bit rubbish at multitasking; working and talking seems to be beyond me, at least that’s my excuse!
I had a look at the history of gingerbread houses, I used to make proper old fashioned gingerbread on the open fire when I worked in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. There are all sorts of stories regarding the origin of gingerbread itself, but there doesn’t seem to be any record of houses being made before the brothers Grimm published their story of Hansel and Gretel. After this date they go viral, everyone has one, but I strongly suspect that the inspiration for the story can be found in the window of a long forgotten and overlooked bakery.
Luckily for me, I don’t have to go to the effort of making my own gingerbread this time as it is conveniently provided in an IKEA flatpack, along with icing sugar and almost everything else you might want.
This isn’t my first time making a house, and I have learnt from my mistakes, so this year’s blinder of an idea came in the form of pre rolled fondant icing – laid over the cake board this provided a “snow scene’ but more importantly, gave me some foundations, making the erection of the walls dead easy.
With the walls up and the roof on,it was time to unleash my inner Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and go to town on the decoration, I decided to go all Little House on the Prairie with a log cabin effect curtesy of some mint matchmaker’s. I had happily spent the afternoon turning the air blue making mini decorations for this. I can definitely say that miniature candy canes are without doubt the biggest faff going they are so fragile and fiddly. Then I had to strategically place the snowman, because one of his eyes kept falling off.
A quick dusting of sugar sparkles over the roof finished the job and it was time to wrap it, though the whole thing nearly went for a burton as I almost dropped it on the way to the wrapping station. That would have been a disaster!
So with houses made, I can relax and properly talk to the other finished house builders. Throughout the hall there are all sorts of magnificent creations, and it’s lovely to have a look at them all wrapped up.
Chatting afterwards, it turns out I am not the only one who finds the process meditative, zoning out to begin with, then talking afterwards. That’s a relief! So as ever I am grateful for the invitation.
Its now sitting, with pride of place. But I’d better not get too precious about it, because on Christmas Eve the demolition gang move in and there’ll be nothing left except crumbs.