harley hay

Harley Hay: Real gingerbread house

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a gingerbread house. Except that gingerbread houses don’t actually say anything on account of them not having vocal cords, but if they could they certainly would.

I personally am not a fan of ginger, per se, even though it’s supposed to be quite good for your health but of course when it comes to lot of things that are good for you, I don’t particularly like them. The inverse is also true. But while I don’t like the taste of the weird ginger plant that looks like Shrek’s arthritic fingers, I do kind of enjoy a cold glass of ginger ale once in a while. Except the first slurp, whereupon I always sort of feel like I have the flu for a brief moment on account of ginger ale was what my mom gave me whenever I was sick. It’s true that taste and smell is a huge memory trigger, so the good part of ginger ale for me is that any subsequent slurps make me feel quite a bit better. Like the memory of mom’s cool and soothing hand on my fevered forehead.

But today isn’t about ginger ale, it’s about gingerbread houses, and all over the world at Christmastime, little cabins, castles and crofts made of ginger cookie dough and decorated with “snow” icing and colourful candies crop up faster than you can say, “Are you really going to eat that masterpiece?”

In Bergen, Norway, every Christmas, folks build an entire city of gingerbread houses, and a few years ago a group in Bryan, Texas broke the Guinness World Record with a 2,500 square foot, life-sized gingerbread house created for a hospital fundraiser. Ironically, it was estimated to have a disturbingly impressive 36 million calories! I’m pretty sure, though, that no one chowed down on that particular crazy crafty cookie creation.

And this brings me (finally) to Salt Lake City, Utah, where, believe it or not there’s an actual, real, honest-to-goodness gingerbread house. Virginia Hoffman lives in that house with her family, and every Christmas for the past three years people come from all around to stand in awe and stare with wonder and watering mouths.

I should clarify here that Virginia’s house isn’t really made of gingerbread but when she realized her red–brick century old Tudor-style home looked very much like a gingerbread house, she decided to go all in. And, boy, did she ever!

Virginia happens to be an interior designer and her husband happens to be a professional artist so their “gingerbread house” is now fully and festively festooned with chocolate (brown caulking), candy canes (striped pool noodles), gum drops (upside down plant pots), vanilla wafers (foam insulation sculpted with a soldering iron), and of course, lots of snow (fake snow plus, if they are “lucky”, real snow).

The family (including the kids and grand-kids) have spend literally “hundreds of hours” coming up with larger-than-life creations fitting for a fabulous live-in Christmas creation. They transform the kitchen into a workshop around Thanksgiving, and spend weeks making new, clever, giant pseudo treats to attach to the house.

But why? Why go to all that time, trouble, and expense? Well, I think we all know the answer. The house has become quite the “must see” and it has exploded on the interweb. And according to media reports, Virginia Hoffman says, if it brings a smile on someone’s face, it will be worth it.

Well, looking at the pictures and the videos of your wonderful house Mrs. Hoffman, sure made me smile with Christmas cheer, and I live 1,500 kilometers away. All I can say is, “Yes, Virginia, there is a real Gingerbread House.”

Merry Christmas everyone!

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Send him a column idea to harleyhay1@hotmail.com.