What traditions will your kids remember next year, in 20 years, for a lifetime? Will he remember the piles of presents, or that Grammy and Grandfather took all the grandkids to the theater every holiday? Will she recall that "perfect gift" you bought for her when she was 3, or 10, or 16, or will she remember the year Daddy's gingerbread house was a train station with the town clock on top (it's always 5 o'clock somewhere!), or the year she created a wonderland gingerbread castle that looked a little like Hogwarts, in red and black on a shimmering lake of silver nonpareils?
Traditions create memories.
What are your holiday traditions?
Ours are simple. Every year, on the Saturday before Christmas, Grammy and Grandfather take all the grandchildren to the matinee of the Holiday Panto at our local theater. Each year, the kids search excitedly to see what this year's Panto will be, and what role their favorite actor will play. They have to see Mark Lazar!
Then when they return, we have the family traditional dinner in the oven: Hot Cheese Monkey. One of the kids is sent down to the "dungeon" to catch the Monkey, and we all enjoy this traditional egg, cheese, bread and sausage or ham casserole, served with cooked and raw carrots for the veggie, and pickles on the side, because... well, because it's a tradition, this one passed down from my husband's grandmother, Gran. For some reason, no one seems to need dessert.
And we decorate gingerbread houses. This tradition is old enough to have taken on a life of it's own. The extended family, and now boyfriends and girlfriends, all join us for gingerbread houses, each with his own house and her own theme. And each year their Dad creates his "secret" project. No one knows what it will be until he's done. Grandfather helps the little ones, while Grammy creates amazing snowmen and other hand-built decorations for whoever wants them. As the kids are growing up, sometimes she even decorates her own house!
We collect the decorations for weeks beforehand. There are always graham crackers for constructing add-on porch roofs or school bell towers, ice cream cones for church steeples, and Necco wafers, Christmas colored nonpareils or frosted shredded wheat for roofing materials. There are gummy lifesavers to turn into wreathes, and licorice allsorts that become stepping stones or window candles, roofing materials or presents under Peeps Christmas trees.
And then there are this year's unique candy finds, those special decorations that we've never seen before. These new decorations delight and inspire! A few years ago, it was chocolate "rocks." They turned into a rocky hillside a garden path, and a rock garden for the turtle. No one knows what new surprises are in store for this year!
One year, we had a Jewish gingerbread house and a Muslim gingerbread house. The kids researched to be certain to provide thoughtful decorations, and they learned about different cultures in the process. Gingerbread as social studies!
Another year, we had a spring house with beautiful spring flowers, a lake and a garden path. And another saw a Halloween masterpiece. One year was a "foil" theme - kisses wrapped in various colored foils were stripped and the foil used to roof and decorate. Last year included an attached garage with a lift-opening door and a candy car stowed inside, at the end of the gingerbread house's driveway. I'm told a black-and-white theme might be featured on one house this year; I can't wait to see it!
Like most traditions, this one isn't quite so simple. We collect candies for months before, making certain we have fruit-striped gum and gummy bears to become sleds and their passengers, holiday M&Ms, and plenty of coconut and mini marshmallows, so everyone can have their "snow of choice."
The gingerbread must be made in advance, and even that's another fun family tradition. We've discovered new gingerbread house molds over the years, including last year's coup thanks to a new boyfriend: a gingerbread train mold! eBay is our friend, for buying out-of-print gingerbread molds. We've mastered forming the dough and then peeling it out onto baking trays to speed the process, but baking 12+ houses is still a two-day adventure. We have egg-white powder to make Royal Icing, and we assemble all the houses at least a day in advance of decorating. We learned the hard way that Rome was not built in a day, and Royal Icing needs a day to set firm!
It's worth every minute of the prep to watch our kids and their cousins, and parents, too, sitting around the tables, passing candies back and forth, sharing ideas and keeping secrets until the big "reveal," and making tons of great memories.
And year after year, the question is always the same... not when will we shop, or what am I getting, but what day is the Panto and Gingerbread Houses?
If you still need a little something to wrap, visit Hoagies' Gifted: Smart Toys and Games. You'll find tons of toys and games for gifted kids and families, all reviewed by gifted kids for gifted kids. These are the toys and games that last more than one day or even one play, bringing years of joy, without driving gifted parents completely batty.
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This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop on Holiday Gifts: Bye-Bye to Buy-Buy. Click here to visit the Blog Hop page, and find all the blogs PLUS a bonus Pinterest Link! And from here, you can visit all the great past Blog Hops, including Gifted Advocacy, Gifted Friendships, The "G" Word, and lots more...