When I was a kid, the highlight of my Christmas season was an event my mom hosted every year: a gingerbread house making party with all of my cousins. I’m one of twelve cousins on my mom’s side, and from somewhere around 1985 on, everyone descended upon our house one Saturday every December armed with empty milk cartons and visions of Kit-Kats and Rolos dancing in our heads. After a pizza lunch, we all knew the drill: slather a plate with frosting, affix your milk carton, cover with graham crackers, and go to town.
I’m sure it started out as a simple affair, but by the time I got to high school, it turned into the Christmas equivalent of teenagers trick-or-treating. Which is to say an all-out, no-holds-barred candy extravaganza. I remember my pre-teen boy cousins locked in a competition to see who could fit the most candy on the one square foot of space afforded by a Chinet plate. I also remember them breaking their chocolate Santas into pieces and strewing his body parts around their houses’ yards, covered in red sprinkles as blood. Grandma may have gotten run over by a reindeer, but poor old St. Nick suffered an even grimmer fate at the gingerbread house party.
Now that the youngest of my cousins are now in their late 20s, it’s been a very long time since I’ve gotten to participate in a graham-crackers-and-milk-carton gingerbread house party. This year, my kids are ages 5, 7, and 9 (old enough not to dump entire bottles of red hots on the floor and young enough to think this activity is cool), so I thought it would be a lot of fun to invite the neighborhood kids over one afternoon after school for a version of this classic party. And it totally was!
Since kids tend to get overloaded with candy this time of year (and since I didn’t really want to see a recreation of my cousins’ candy landfill), I decided to make this party pretty simple, and even (what?!) a little healthy. I offered fresh raspberries, coconut, and dried cranberries as some of the decorating options, and kept the candies to a minimum. Spice drops, M & Ms, candy canes, and chocolate Santas were the only actual candies. And no one complained! Everything but the coconut completely disappeared by the end.
I have to say I really enjoyed the simplicity of this time with my kids and their friends, and that I was able to throw it together on short notice. As a wise person once said, a party doesn’t have to be perfect to be a lot of fun. I think the seven kids crowded around my kitchen table yesterday felt the same way.
So if you, too want to host your own Simple Gingerbread House Party this Christmas season, it’s not too late! All you need is:
- 1 Chinet or other sturdy plate per child
- 1 empty pint carton per child
- 1 tub of frosting per child
- Graham crackers (2 boxes was enough for 7 kids)
- Toppings (Healthier ideas include fresh fruit, dried fruit, pretzels, nuts, or even cereal.)
And for easy cleanup, I recommend a disposable tablecloth!