One of our traditions is to build gingerbread houses with Spencer and Templar sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We started doing this probably ten or eleven years ago, while Spencer and Templar were attending graduate school and before Hill or Danaan were born.
The first year we each built our own construction. I constructed the John Hancock Building. Whirl built a jail scene from rural Louisiana. Spencer succeeded at a traditional gingerbread house, and Templar added a giant “atomic duck” to Spence’s backyard. The next year we decided on a combined project: a big gingerbread castle. Spencer was in charge of all the Disneyesque fantasy themes while Whirl, Templar and I subverted it with candy-on-candy warfare. We deployed a gummi bear army to defend Gingerbread Castle and rallied a huge band of marauding barbarian marshmallow men to assault it. The castle grounds were covered in candy-gore. We cut gummi bears in half and dripped red food coloring over the icing for blood. We constructed small siege engines and then smashed them. It was deliciously gorey. This set the tone for the project from then on. A somewhat coordinated effort using the combined creativity of the group, limited by the construction properties of gingerbread and the availability of particular cookie cutters.
The third year we built a zoo — but not your ordinary zoo this one came complete with a Jurassic Park-styled velociraptor pen. Of course in our version of the zoo the velociraptors escaped and began eating the hapless gummi bear zookeepers. We had giant gummi worms, and gnostic bears worshiping a mysterious coyote-god. In 1999, we included our friends Viv and Rio in on the fun and built a Star Wars: Phantom Menace inspired gingerbread pod race. (Templar built a Sarlacc Pit to go with it.)
For several years the gingerbread tradition languished when Spencer, Templar and Hill moved to Philadelphia. We got together for Thanksgiving in 2004 in Philadelphia and reprized the tradition in an abbreviated form, building a Gingerbread Race Track for Hill and his Hot Wheels.
This year we got back into the full swing of things and built the Gingerbread Field Museum. While we considered adding some horrorshow elements to the construction, we generally kept things on an even keel, and did our best to try and represent the museum in gingerbread. We included elements of well-known exhibits like Sue, the lions of Tsavo, the hall of gems and Bushman the Gorilla. Whirl meticulously fashioned a pair of peregrine falcons out of jelly beans and installed them on frieze above the south entrance.
We are not particularly reverent with our portrayals. Spencer has pictures from several of the years projects, but most of them were shot on film. We talked about scanning them in sometime and including them online. If she can find them.
This year’s was big. It took the six of us — four adults and two children — about six hours to complete. It measures a little more than three feet wide by two feet deep by about a foot high. Both Spencer and I took pictures before, during and after the construction.
It will remain at the Perry’s house and serve as decoration, snack and dessert for the next couple weeks. The candy usually goes first, and then the gingerbread. Sacrifices to the spirit of Christmas sugar.