Nearly every year, my family hosts a gingerbread-house-making party. These parties are very simple to execute because your attendees help out with provisions and the children provide the entertainment as they craft their houses. The neat thing about doing this from the farm is that instead of going completely commercial, we build our houses with items that come directly from our land. Don’t get me wrong—there’s a healthy helping of sugary treats, but it’s nice to have farm flavor in our traditions.
Who To Invite
Invite your family, friends and neighbors. Invite school friends, church friends and people you’d like to be friends with. Invite the elderly couple down the road, even if they no longer have children at home. Invite your single friends. Invite anyone and everyone you think could use some old-fashioned fun this season.
Pick A Date
To be honest, finding a day to host your party is the hardest part. People’s calendars fill up quickly during the holidays, so we usually schedule our party for the first weekend of December. Use Picmonkey.com or Canva.com to create cute digital invitations that can be emailed. You can also print and mail them if that’s more your style. Be sure to include the party time and location, of course.
What To Bring
Constructed Gingerbread Houses
Ask your guests to bring an already-fabricated gingerbread house, so they don’t waste time on construction during the party. Discourage them from buying the kits—the gingerbread is inedible and the candy is cheap and gross. While making a gingerbread house by hand takes several days, it’s a labor of love. If a house seems too daunting, you can try a gingerbread tree, or easier still, construct your house out of graham crackers.
They’ll need to assemble their houses at least the day before so that the royal icing will have time to dry before decorating. Royal icing is a particular kind of sugar icing that dries hard and works well as glue for gingerbread houses.
Your guests should also bring several kinds of candy, homemade treats or dried fruit to share with all guests. Not all the decorations need to be healthy, but encourage a happy mixture of sugar and snacks. Here are some ideas you can give them:
- dried fruit harvested from the farm
- homemade raisins
- homemade caramels or other candies
- nuts from the orchard
Keep track of RSVPs for final headcount, so you can tell your guests how much they should plan to bring.
When it comes to decorating gingerbread houses, the more, the merrier, but you must insist on an RSVP so you can ensure your venue is big enough. We had to change ours to a larger home one year at the last minute because we realized we’d exceeded the capacity of our family room. Just make sure you have enough table space and paint tarps to cover any carpet because you will make a mess. We’ve found that two or three gingerbread decorating teams will fit nicely at an 8-foot table, allowing enough space for kids, the gingerbread house, and bowls of decoration candy and icing.
As the host, you’ll provide the royal icing. You may need to go back to the kitchen to make more icing for your guests, so make sure that your own family’s gingerbread house can be left in the capable hands. You can also provide decoration fodder out of your stash of homegrown and home-preserved treats.
Judging Your Houses
If you’d like, you can have a quick contest at the end of your evening with an impartial judge to hand out prizes for the most original, the best built or the most creatively decorated gingerbread house of the night. The prizes could be simple items like ornaments or a holiday CD —don’t award any more sugar, as I guarantee everyone will be sugared out from sampling during decoration.
Displaying And Eating Your Gingerbread House
After its initial display, we keep our gingerbread house covered with a light towel and eat off it for about a week. The leftovers go to the chickens, so we try to keep the amount of truly junky candy to a minimum.