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In just two weeks, a large, bearded man in red velour will be committing the year’s most anticipated B&Es worldwide.
Scented candles with adorable, seasonally appropriate names like “candy cane crackle,” “vanilla snowflake” and “natural decay of organic matter” will be burning behind frosted window panes. Fruitcake and Quality Street will be deemed appropriate breakfast foods. Work effort will be 33 per cent, at best. And family and friends will gather to embrace the out-of-control, calorie-laden, alcohol-infused, garland-wrapped chaos together.
God, I love the holidays.
One Christmas tradition that really warms my heart (in an undiagnosed angina sort of way) is making a gingerbread house with the kids. My love of constructing geometrically precise, architecturally sound dwellings from hardened pastries with a two-year old, five-year old and open tubes of icing is second only to my love of beaver fever, or calculating the square root of pi.
In six easy steps, you too can experience a holiday joy so profound you could punch a snowman. So grab a cup of cheer (bourbon) and join me, won’t you, in wringing every holly-jolly ounce of fun out of the most cherished, yuletide clusterf--k of all.
1) Buy a pre-packaged gingerbread house, just like our ancestors did. It doesn’t even have to be a house anymore. Perhaps you’d prefer a gingerbread Starship Enterprise or a gingerbread “Original Set of The Golden Girls” (cast sold separately). You do you.
2) As you wait for the gingerbread to “set” (sit on the table, still in the packaging), drink 1-3 rum and eggnogs. It is imperative, during the setting process, that you also make up the words to beloved Christmas songs, such as the second verse of “Jingle Bells.” You know, “A day or two ago, I thought I’d take a ride …” Then make random, unintelligible sounds to the melody, like we've all been doing for years. While you’re at it, can you tell me anything about the tree in “O Christmas Tree” besides it’s lovely branches? Of course you can’t! Christmas carols are all about improvisation. Take another sip of eggnog. Pretend to be reading the instructions on the back of the box if the kids are looking antsy; this step must not be rushed. Attempt verse 3 of “Jingle Bells”; you know, “Now the ground is white …”. No one knows that verse either! Bonus points if you can sing it like an old-timey crooner. Your kids/spouse will love it!
3) Open the box. Relish the “oohs” and “ahhhs” of the youngsters as they sort through the various gingerparts and candy bits. If you have, indeed, made your own gingerbread from scratch, savour every second of praise, because you’ve won parenting.
4) Emphatically agree to every request from your children to explore the gingerbread house parts. Of course they can dump the contents of the little package of decorative candy balls on the table. Cherish the pitter-patter of 10,000 candy balls hitting the floor and scattering in every direction. Sit on the floor and salvage what you can. Accept futility, as most of them have, likely, gone under your fridge or stove, never to be seen again. Return to your gingerbread station. Pick the hairs off the balls you’ve managed to recover.
5) Throughout the ginger-house construction process (and, indeed, throughout the season), startle your children and anyone in an earshot by proclaiming “ho, ho, hold the payments!” every time someone enters the room — just like dad’s been doing for two decades. Thank you, Leon’s, it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
6) In a heartening display of teamwork and refusal to accept gravity, attempt to make the four walls of your house stand using nothing but the adhesive power of the packaged icing. Laugh with your children each time the four walls collapse into each other; tell them your tears are from laughing so hard.
After 7-10 failed attempts, you can each take a wall, cheers them, and get your chomp on. Realize (halfway through emotionally smashing your stale ginger-wall into your face hole) that there was a plastic base into which the four walls were supposed to be inserted, no edible adhesive required. Don’t mention this to the children. Rather, offer to share the recovered floor balls and turn on a Christmas movie.
It’s about the ginger journey, folks, not the ginger destination.
Also, my sister just informed me that you can buy pre-assembled gingerbread houses at Bulk Barn. She and I are no longer on speaking terms.
Let us raise of glass of nan’s slush: Cheers to finding joy — or at least humour — in the mayhem. Cheers to not taking ourselves too seriously.
And may you all heed the advice of Father Christmas himself, Clark W. Griswold, and have the "hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f--king Kaye.”
Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger (www.heatheronarock.com), wine advocate and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook. Her column appears monthly.