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Every year for as long as I can remember, my sister and I have constructed graham cracker “gingerbread” houses around Christmas time. There aren’t many holiday traditions in my family that remain now that my sister and I are in our twenties and our parents live six hours apart. That’s okay; I’m not complaining. After all, many traditions are generally pretty silly, and some are even dreadful. It just means the traditions we have chosen to continue celebrating are even more special.
Gingerbread Village Inspiration
A little snowbird told me you’re feeling ambitious and want to create an entire gingerbread village from scratch. That’s exciting! What’s your theme?
If you are undecided on a theme, Pinterest is a great place to start from the convenience of your phone, tablet, or laptop. The D20 Theory Pinterest page includes some of our favorite themes, and there are hundreds – if not thousands – more to discover.
Philly-area readers can take advantage of the uber-inspirational gingerbread house competition at Peddler’s Village in the northern suburbs of the city (Lahaska, Bucks County, PA). The annual display is open to the public from mid-November through the first Saturday in January. Be prepared for the likelihood of a line outside the display area during peak hours. The best way to pass the time while awaiting entry is with a cup of hot cocoa and the company of good friends and family!
Themes to Consider
Candy Land » rainbow colors, gingerbread people, and oversized candy
You really can’t go wrong with a colorful explosion of candy…
College Town » team colors, mascot, and sports motif
For a future gingerbread village, I’m strongly considering showing my team spirit for my alma mater, Jefferson University (PhilaU), with blue icing, a ram mascot, and a snow-covered basketball court. I’m accepting gingerbread challenges in this post’s comments!
Woodland Winter Wonderland » log cabin by the lake, snowmen, and a campfire
Keep reading as I go into more detail on the featured theme for this post.
Woodland Winter Wonderland Gingerbread Village
- House foundation » graham crackers
- Log siding » pretzel sticks
- Stone facade » dried beans (navy beans)
- Roof shingles » Life cereal
- Chimney » peanut-butter filled pretzel
- Door + doorknob » English licorice + dried navy bean
- Front window » pretzel wheel
- Back window » pillow mints
- Lake » blue confetti sprinkles
- Stoop/walkway » Smarties
- Gravel trail » dried beans (16-bean mix)
- Bushes » spearmint spice drops
- Trees » sugar cone + green spray can icing (star tip) + lightbulb sprinkles
- Snowmen » marshmallow snowman Peeps
- Campfire » pretzel sticks + lightbulb sprinkles
- Sleigh » mini candy canes + pretzel sticks
- Stacked logs » cinnamon sticks
You will need…
- Several hours » possibly longer if you are a perfectionist or attempting to make a larger village
- Cardboard base » most of us have an abundance of boxes from all of the online orders arriving after Black Friday and Cyber Monday
- Gingerbread cookies » baked into wall/roof shapes
- (Alternative) Graham crackers » can be cut into desired shapes fairly easily with a knife, but keep a few extras for when one inevitably breaks in the wrong place and turns into a snack
- Frosting » thick frosting (the cheap stuff in the plastic jar) is best for holding the walls and roof together; thin icing (royal icing) is best for decorative details
- Candy and snacks » for decorating and snacking, of course!
- Cupcake tin » a way to organize and keep loose pieces of candy from ending up all over the table and floor, this is (1) totally optional, and (2) one of the best ideas I’ve ever seen on Pinterest
Let’s do it!
First, find inspiration and sketch a few rough plans. The main objective is to make sure your vision will fit on your base. I’m a visionary with surprisingly poor spatial skills, but I also enjoy the process of planning as much as I enjoy actually completing a project. If you, however, have a good sense of space and prefer to figure out the placement and details in real time, then go for it!
Next, construct the houses and other frosting-heavy items (i.e., trees). Let them dry for at least 8 hours. One of the most common sources of frustration for gingerbread architects is a structurally unsound house falling over after hours of hard work. The culprit: partially hardened icing that is unable to hold an increasingly decor-heavy house upright.
Then, create the base, such as trails, lakes, and other landscape features.
Attach the houses and trees to the base once they are sturdy enough to handle.
Decorate the houses and add final embellishments to the landscape.
Finally, take lots of pictures, post to Instagram, and tag @d20theory!
You can also share your gingerbread house décor ideas below. If you have questions about how I achieved any of the effects on the village featured in this post, ask in the comments!