What I Learned From My Gingerbread Village Failure

I started a thing this year.

I think it might be a new holiday tradition at our house. I didn’t even do it on purpose, but I’m loving it. It all started with visions of a gingerbread village. I’ve always wanted a Christmas village, but I’ve never had the money to get (or even start) one. This year I was determined to make one.

I had images and designs and aspirations filling up my mind. There would be some cute little houses, a rustic cabin with a skating pond, a bank, a post office, a Christmas tree lot, maybe even a barbershop. And don’t forget the library!

I looked up recipes, I scoured the internet for design ideas, I bought an insane amount of meringue powder, and I spent nearly $30 at the dollar store on candy. I also bought a giant box of graham crackers as a fall back in case I couldn’t keep up with the kids’ demand for building materials. I was so prepared!

What I Learned From My Gingerbread Village Failure

I put all the candy in a big basket next to the graham crackers and made a big batch of royal icing.

Then we got to work.

The gingerbread didn’t turn out at all, and we just ended up eating a big mess of gooey, misshapen cookie pieces dipped in some leftover buttercream icing in the fridge. At first, it seemed like a Pinterest fail, but the cookies were super yummy, so we decided it wasn’t so bad in the end. Instead, we went through three boxes of graham crackers!

I quickly recognized my dream of a gingerbread village was a failure. Instead, I had oddly shaped buildings with gobs of hardened icing and mounds of unorganized candy on top. 

This was certainly not the cover-of-Family-Circle-picturesque beauty I was going for. But I immediately realized it was 1,000 times better than that. As I listened to the kids explain their creations to me, I realized we had a zoo, a space station, an alien space shuttle, a superhero training gym, a ritzy mansion, a children’s toy land, two trains, and even a cinnamon bear wedding, among many other unique and entertaining buildings and spaces.

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My kids were creating. They were laughing. They were helping each other. They were sharing icing bags and candies as well as ideas and techniques.

The next day they asked if they could make more. Luckily we still had plenty of graham crackers to use, so I set them up with all the supplies while I made dinner. Half the icing went on the roof of my four-year-old’s house. All the Christmas light shaped sprinkles were placed in a tight row on one-third of my nine-year-old’s roof. The eight-year-old started spreading icing all over the paper plates in a thin layer and then making mosaics with the sprinkles. At first, I had a hard time not controlling their creations and making them do it the way that my brain said was right. But I paused to see it from their perspective, and I caught a glimpse of the beauty before me.

I bit my tongue and gave them free rein and creative license. I saw their imaginations come to life and their confidence grow. 

This scene has repeated itself four or five times now. I’ve made a lot of icing in the last two weeks, and I’ve cleaned up a lot of sticky messes. It has definitely been worth every pound of powdered sugar I’ve stirred and every sticky counter I’ve scrubbed. All the creating has really helped me go with the flow and just be in the moment. Instead of making a perfect Christmas village, my goal has become to make happy memories with my kids. 

Have you had a gingerbread house failure? Do you find yourself getting a little worked up or on edge this time of year? What have you found to help let go of the stress and just have fun?

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Kristin is an Iowa transplant from Utah. Five years ago, she and her husband wondered what Iowa had to offer them, and they’re glad they decided to find out. Going on 12 years of marriage, and a proud mom of five, she devotes herself to motherhood and homemaking. A wildland firefighter turned stay-at-home mom, she spends her days fighting off imaginary pirates, building space-ship prototypes out of Legos, and belting out show tunes with her tiny ensemble.