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Being Festive during a COVID Christmas
I am an artist not a baker so cooking and assembling the gingerbread isn’t where my interests lie. Some years our family uses gingerbread kits for the structures (purchased from the craft store) and other years use plastic forms that are reusable year after year so we never have to worry about walls or rooftops collapsing.
Everybody in my family embraces our artistic abilities and uses candies and icings as if paints on our palette. There is no age limit at our house when we pull out multiple gingerbread structures each year. The youngest (age 5) will begin by selecting an adult as their partner and the teams are formed. Several of us have art degrees so we are often matched up first unlike the school age days when the artsy kid gets picked last for the team, lol. 
A few years back my husband and adult son were partnered up and broke the rules by sneaking in their own decorations including blinking lights after a secret run to Michaels Craft Store. All items are supposed to be shared on the table for everyone to use so we all called foul that year.
We try to create our gingerbread houses at our family gathering on or right before Christmas. The grandparents love to watch as the two younger generations (age 5 to 55) begin to create their sugary masterpieces. No copying others peoples ideas is allowed so the creations are all very different. 
I try to provide a wide range of materials from the typical gum drops and sugar canes to seeds for a more unconventional decorations. You can see the kids and adults imaginations turn on when they explore all the possibilities that await them. I often save the leftover candy decorations to use the following year which helps me from snacking during the event and then for days afterwards. Needless to say we add new goodies each year so the kiddos can taste test their building supplies which adds to the merriment.
Creativity is a messy business so I bring out a large vinyl cloth to cover the floor or table as confectioner sugar is dusted galore on our winter wonderlands. It is an activity we look forward to each year and takes the focus off presents. It certainly gives us a way to interact with each other regardless of age (my kids are much older than my nephews) and creates some beautiful family memories. 
Our family gathering will be much smaller this year due to the pandemic but I am encouraging my siblings to have fun building their gingerbread house with their kids and we all share our unique creations with each other using todays technology. It is important more than ever to find ways to have fun and joyful activities between immediate family members that we already spend so much time with. Be creative how you can use this activity to bring you happiness and share the moments with those dear to you who cannot be in your living room this year.
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HELPFUL TIP- I recommend the reusable gingerbread house forms called Candy Cottage that I found at a craft show in VA if you want to skip the baking phase and jump right into decorating. The few parts easily snap together into  sturdy house and once you are done with it they can go through the dishwasher and be collapsed for easy storage. Here is there website if you are interested in purchasing them- https://www.candycottage.us/
December 12, 2020 — Holly Hagen

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