“A Christmas Built on Tradition” by Colleen Ritchie

Holiday traditions are often the foundation of family bonds.

Christmas Eve for us was spent at my maternal grandmother’s home. Lots of food and baked goods and many generations of our family including the requisite kids table for dinner. Nanny Lawrence was the understated matriarch of our family. When she passed away the loss was great. How would we celebrate without her?

A Christmas Built on Tradition by Colleen RitchieNew traditions are born in times of change and it was no different for us. My aunt came up with the idea of gingerbread houses. We could decorate and compete and honor our grandmother’s love of baking!

For nearly 2 decades my aunt made not one or two but 8 gingerbread houses for her nieces and nephews. This meant that most of us were well into adulthood and were still creating on Christmas Eve. We have hundreds of pictures of houses and everyone had to take theirs home. This was a challenge for my Mother since there are five children in my family!

A Christmas Built on Tradition by Colleen Ritchie

This tradition has morphed again and for many years my sister and I have been making houses for our nieces and nephews and our friends' children as well. (I will admit that my sister is really the expert and I now have her assemble the houses for me.)

A Christmas Built on Tradition by Colleen RitchieThe smell of fresh gingerbread cookies made with real ginger, watching as each house takes on a life of its own under the direction of a child’s mind and the time spent with friends and family make memories that are not soon forgotten.

Houses have been castles with stained glass windows and cabins in the woods, cityscapes and junk yards and even the United Nations building.

So here’s to tradition and its ability to ebb and flow with the times. Give this recipe a try and see where it takes your family. CR

1 cup shortening 1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs 1 cup molasses

½ c water 6 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda 1 tsp. salt

6 tsps. Fresh grated ginger 2 tsps. Cinnamon

1 tsp. allspice

This recipe will make your house plus lots of cookies. It can be halved if you wish. (see blueprint at the bottom of this post)

½ c shortening

½ cup of margarine or butter

4 cups of icing sugar

4-5 tablespoons of milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Cream shortening with sugar. Beat in eggs, molasses and water. Combine dry ingredients, blend into shortening mixture. Chill if necessary until firm enough to roll.

On a floured surface roll dough to 1/8 to ¼ inch thickness. I use a piece of wax paper with flour on it. Place the paper pattern on the dough and cut out the shapes.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until firm. 12-15 minutes. Allow pieces to cool completely before building the house or they will break.

A Christmas Built on Tradition by Colleen RitchiePrepare a base for your house. Place icing on the base and set the house pieces in this. Then using the icing recipe begin by running a line of icing down the side edges of the front piece. Using the icing as glue place the side rectangles to the front edge. Do both side pieces and then the back. Let set for a few minutes. Then do the front and let set for a few minutes. Then apply the roof. Use lots of icing. Let the finished house harden before you begin to decorate.

Colleen Ritchie is a free-lance event planner in Halifax with a passion for food.

Check her very cool venture DISH on Facebook.



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