All this week, Tracey, Jane and I have been carving small chunks of time our of our lunch break to work on our house for the gingerbread competition. We pooled our resources (and the talents of Jane’s husband to cut some of the gingerbread with a saw) to complete our entry, which is due on Monday.
I received an email from another team informing me that theirs is, without a doubt, the entry that will win. Stefanie stopped by this afternoon to tell me that she and her partner are excited about their entry and enjoyed working together. I saw them after school hunched conspiratorially over their pre-boxed kit, quite happily exchanging ideas.
On the down-side, there are an equal number of teams who are scrambling to get their house finished by the deadline and another few who didn’t enter this year at all because they didn’t have time. Depending on the spirit in your workplace, the competition needs some key enthusiastic participants to energize the larger group, and it doesn’t have to be expensive–time is, perhaps, the most valuable resource. Fortunately, a pre-made house kit costs under $10.00, and, depending on the rules you create for your group, costs very little to decorate. Last year, the display was up for three work days in a common area, and it received a lot of enthusiasm. Everyone had a favorite or just plain marveled at the effort of their co-workers.
Our friend Pam duplicated this idea with her extended family by hosting a holiday get-together with each family bringing and decorating a pre-made kit. Then, they voted on the best house. Similar to a chili-cookoff and family game nights, the large group was gathered together for a cell phone-free evening, with some actively working on the house and others enjoying the spectator support. A gingerbread competition puts the capital “F” in Family.
Children can join in their own friendly competition, decorating houses made of graham crackers or decorating more simple shapes like pre-baked ginger people and trees. Providing equal candies and helping with the assembly (hot glue is your best friend, unless you are purist and stick with icing) can control the time commitment for younger children. This is an excellent activity for Girl Scout troops, winter birthday parties (have a Cake Boss-type party), mother-daughter gatherings, youth groups and more.
There are plenty of local gingerbread house competitions–ones where the contestants must bake their own gingerbread (been there, done that–once) or can create using a pre-made shape. These are a great opportunity for groups or individuals to enter if you are looking for more competition. Jeremy and I will be taking gingerbread houses to the Kennedy Krieger Festival of Trees next year. Here are the rules for their display (which is a display and auction, not a competition).
I am including a link to the Gingerbread House Heaven website where you can get ideas, purchase items, and copy patterns.
Finally, if you are having a gingerbread-themed gathering, and you lean toward the scale of Martha Stewart-style preparation, check out this blog, ironically titled “Not Martha” with instructions to make mini-gingerbread houses to adorn mugs of coffee or hot chocolate.