It’s ten on a Wednesday morning, and six kids and I drive into the church parking lot with our big old van. We unlock the church and head into the fellowship hall with baskets and bags and packages. We’ve got graham crackers and frosting and red hots and gummy bears and smarties and licorice and almost anything else you can think of that’s colorful and sugar-laden. The kids set down their goodies and start lining long tables together. Soon other friends stream in, similarly sugar-laden. After everyone trickles in, there are 27 kids. Our homeschool craft co-op gets together every month, but candy houses at Christmas are the kids’ favorite, no contest.
Once the tables and chairs are lined up, paper bowls are set down the whole length of the mega-table, then filled with candy, candy, and more candy. Some moms scurry around handing out graham crackers and frosting, while others whip royal icing, the glue-like frosting used to construct the graham cracker houses.
Kids choose foil-cover rectangles of cardboard for the bases of their houses. Most are the size of a sheet of paper, but one of my 14yo sons, planning a castle, chooses one twice that size. House construction is done with royal icing piped onto graham cracker edges from ziplocks with holes snipped in one corner. Candy is glued on with regular frosting from tubs.
Little ones get construction help from parents and older siblings. Once the base of each house is constructed and given 5 minutes or so to set, the houses will be sturdy. But the initial bits of construction take more hands and more skill than most younger kids possess. This year my 10 year old puts hers together on her own. My 8 year old still needs lots of help.
Chaos builds as houses get to the candy stage. Fingers are sticky. Kids call for more royal icing and more of favorite sweets. Moms scurry around helping here and there as needed.
Houses begin to take shape. There’s a happy sugar-hum in the room.
Once the little kids have the most complicated building done, moms sit back and relax a bit. There’s a round ‘mom’ table set next to the long one, and a coffee pot brews on another table. Visiting happens in between hopping up to help kids. I’m not sure if all the moms were seated at the same time ever, but as always, we enjoy our stolen moments of visiting in the midst of the chaos.
Graham crackers disappear and my son asks for more and more and more. His building is bigger than I’ve ever seen a graham cracker house to be. I wonder if it will stand, or if he will use all the crackers in the place and run out before finishing. But other kids seem to have enough, and are busy adding candy, not walls. So I hand him one of the last packs of crackers, and he builds on.
Others aim for more modest houses, just as charming.
My youngest pours sprinkles on the roof of her creation, all concentration and sticky fingers.
My son, one of the last to be done, smiles in victory behind his castle. The construction took so long that he got less candy on it than is typical for him. But the scale of his creation more than makes up for the lack of decor. Even more amazing is the fact that he later got it home without it falling apart.
Finished projects are carried carefully to the ‘done’ table, and end up looking like a bright crazy little village, each house as unique as its owner. We moms may end up doubting the wisdom of so much candy consumption in a day. But somehow I think that this morning and others like it will be in their memory banks when they’re grown and have kids of their own. Maybe they’ll make similar memories with their own children.
Come to think of it, some of them already are. Here’s my daughter and her little guy with the house ‘they’ did this year.