The other day while I was picking up groceries, I found a bunch of marked-down “EZ Build” gingerbread house kits and couldn’t resist grabbing one. “This should be a fun activity to do at home,” I thought, after checking to see if it had everything we’d need (icing, candy decorations, a tray to set it in, and a little gingerbread man and Christmas tree!). I’m all for trying new activities and creating special memories with my family and friends as we share that experience together.
We didn’t get around to building our little chalet right away, but after a couple of days Josh came home and said “I think we should make a gingerbread house tonight!” So, after we ate supper and made space on the table, we cracked our knuckles and set about the daunting task of assembling a picture-perfect cookie home.
It looked like it would be a fun kit for kids and I didn’t think it would take us too long to finish. After all, we’re two adults in our twenties, with much greater dexterity and coordination than your average 8-year-old. It couldn’t be that difficult.
I was, of course, wrong on that front. The directions on the back of the box were clear and “EZ” to understand, but the execution of the last few steps was messy and time-consuming. That was mostly my fault; I cut the tip of the icing tube too much so we couldn’t do anything with finesse or delicacy. Just a big, roaring waterfall of sugary icing that we tried to channel properly.
Josh was actually a lot more excited about the decorations than I was, and he decided to use every last piece of candy from the kit. Some ideas worked well, and some…not so much (see our Christmas tree–there were little baubles on it before a huge spearmint leaf slid all the way down the front and knocked everything off). I wielded the icing throughout the entire project, attempting to outline the doors and windows with little success.
One of my favorite memes on the internet is the “Nailed It” meme, so we kept comparing our quaint cottage with the gorgeous chalet pictured on the box and laughing about how much alike they looked. We had such a great time laughing at ourselves, licking frosting off our fingers and throwing candy around.
My favorite part of the experience, however, was the following night when we were eating the last of the house in companionable silence. Josh finished his half first, looked over at me and said “I didn’t think it was gonna be good, but it was actually pretty great. This should be a thing we do from now on.” I joked about running back to the store and buying another dozen of the same kits to store for years to come, but I was really happy to hear him say that.
Christmas is in the past for this holiday season, but this time of year always makes me think about traditions I’ve seen and experienced, and why they’re so powerful. I like this quote from Augusta E. Rundell:
Christmas…that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance…a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.
That’s the heart of why I think traditions are so special to us as families, friends, and individuals: they’re moments in time that span past, present, and future to connect us with loved ones and happy memories. Once something is a tradition, it ceases to be a simple activity done with other people. The activity itself really isn’t important at all. It’s the fact that it’s been done before and will be done again, together.
It strengthens the bonds between us when we share traditions, because we have something to look forward to together and a special, sacred knowledge that we’ll still be in each other’s lives when Christmas rolls around again.
We recently found out that Josh’s grandmother is terminally ill, and family has been gathering around her to share memories with her one last time before she passes. Time marches forward, and people leave us. The moments and memories we share will someday be the most important things we have left of each other. It is a wonderful blessing that we are given as much time with each other as we are, so that we have something good to look back on.
I believe that even as our loved ones pass on, they will be with us in the traditions we shared, the photos we took, and the difference they made in our lives. Remember not to take these things for granted, for they are often the warmest moments we’ll ever know.