Holiday Houses

US Wealth Napolitano |

By: Tom Fletcher, CFP®

One of our favorite family holiday traditions is heading over to 75 Chestnut, a local restaurant just down the road, to do some heavy building construction.  In addition to serving a delicious weekend brunch (complete with Bloody Mary's), the restaurant hosts an annual holiday gingerbread making party. Our family has enthusiastically participated for the past five or six years, and I can tell you that if you don't mind getting sticky icing encrusted all over your clothes and hands, it really is a fun way to get in touch with your creative side. 

The restaurant supplies fresh, pre-constructed gingerbread houses, a pastry bag of sickly sweet icing not only for simulating snow but for use as an effective adhesive, and a massive (all you can eat) candy buffet bar for decorating your house complete with jelly beans, Necco Wafers, candy canes, gum drops, and licorice spirals. Depending on how you look at it, this is either a dentist's worst nightmare or perhaps with the exception of Halloween, the happiest day of the year for a sweet tooth.

Reservations for this event, which takes place post-Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, are a hot commodity and are taken as early as August. Last year we forgot to book them until October, and if it wasn't for my wife's painful, (but lovable) persistence with the restaurant manager, we would have gotten shut out.  

Looking around the restaurant there are lots and lots of kids, parents and grandparents who participate in the festivities. The fun part of course is that no two houses are ever identical. Each participant inevitably has a different construction technique - this is especially true with our family as well. The good news is if you goof when constructing something, you can always pull it off the house, eat your mistake and start over again.  In my humble opinion, I've yet to meet someone who can build a better Necco Wafer tile roof than me, though each year my son is chipping away at my lead. Next year I think I'll switch to Chex to replicate an English cottage.

Once we have completed building them, they are brought home and placed on the dining room sideboard where they park until the New Year. It turns out they are a great conversation piece.  There's no wind or rain in the house, but occasionally a roof will get damaged - a gum drop here, a sweet tart there, or a gummy bear will mysteriously go missing.  I can't explain it, but there is always that pesky elf on a shelf to blame.