For Wendy and me, holiday traditions, both old and new, are what really make the season special. Knowing that we will get to spend time with family, eat specific items, recall memories as we decorate our tree, and even watch The Christmas Story and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation at least two dozen times are all items that add a little familiar fun and anticipation to a festive time of year.

In previous posts we've mentioned what an awesome and friendly neighborhood we live in. Since we live about 400 to 500 miles away from the majority of our family, it's only fitting that we have a couple of holiday traditions we are able to celebrate annually with the people who have become our family away from home. 

Today we want to share one of our neighborhood traditions that seems to be most ideally suited to Old Town Home. What tradition could this be? I'm talking about our annual neighborhood gingerbread house construction competition. There's no better friendly way to settle who are the top DIYers than with a little baking and confection construction.

It all started two years ago when our good friends and neighbors, Steve and Eileen, invited us over for the first event on a snowy December night. Now that it has become an annual tradition, we eagerly look forward to it every year. The concept is simple, the competition is fierce, the alcohol can be plentiful, the rules are often bent, the activity is acceptable for all ages (except the drinking part), but fun and enjoyment of all participants is virtually ensured. Oh, and the boasting/taunting/blatant bragging can go on for the rest of the year.

To ensure fairness and equality, Eileen buys several standard gingerbread house kits. The kits are basic and come with everything you need to build a good looking decorative and edible abode.

Each kit goes to a team, usually made up of pairs or couples. We usually have about four or five groups participating, but you can do it with as few or as many people as you feel like.

A special drink for the event is selected. Did somebody say cosmos? And each team is left to their own devices. (Come on guys, I know gingerbread housing can be boring/perplexing, but you have cosmos.)

Though it is frowned upon (and technically illegal by the strictest interpretation of the rules), external contraband is sometimes necessary to set your house apart from the pack. In the 2009 competition we brought some Cinnamon Toast Crunch for shingles as I played the role of gingerbread roofer...

... And in 2010 Wendy snuck a set of cake decorating tips in under her jacket (pictured in the center of the table). Yes, we're that overkill.

Though we were technically disqualified for use of performance enhancers, we would much rather contribute a better product on the field than sacrifice our true potential. You be the judge.

Sometimes the competition can get particularly fierce, nerves can get a little frazzled, construction can be a little rushed and shoddy, and some taunting has been known to occur.

But in the end it is an event that is a ton of fun for everyone. We all have a great experience and love the time we get to spend with each other. The whole thing is something we highly recommend and are so appreciative of our neighborhood friends for hosting. And as evident by the following photo, even a little friendly competition can't sour the holiday vibe between friends.

Do you have any family or friends holiday traditions that you hold near and dear to your heart? These can be relatively new traditions or things you've been doing for as long as you can remember. Let us know some of your favorites.

An now through December 17th we're running our DIY Gingerbread House Challenge, which inlcudes a chance at a $50 gift card to one of our favorite home design stores. Check out the post for rules and how to enter. 

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Comments 4


11/17/2011 at 9:59 PM
totally inspired!
Great! Just wait until tomorrow's announcement on how you can get in on the action. ;-)
11/19/2011 at 6:25 PM
I'm totally planning on making my own gingerbread (house, people, animals etc) this season, and then decorating them. I'm interested in this upcoming announcement :)
Whitney, sounds great and ambitious. If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to head over to our Gingerbread Challenge for rules and prizes.
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