I just have a lot to say.
December 22nd, 2014 by

The Great King Family Gingerbread House Throwdown

I googled the word tradition. Among its definitions are descriptors like generations, long-standing, and customary. Can generations consist of merely the living or must it include deceased ancestors as well? How long is long-standing? How many times must an act be performed before it’s considered customary? What do we call an act that is immediately beloved and certain to stand the test of time? Is new tradition an oxymoron? Perhaps there is an appropriate word in another language besides English?

You see my dilemma, don’t you? I want to tell you about something that has only recently come about but is already part of Christmas folklore and ritual for the children of the King Girls and their growing families; yet, I don’t know what to call it. I want to call it tradition, but evidently, it is not. At least, not yet. I am going to borrow the word for this story, though, since I don’t know of another word to use.

Like most traditions, no one planned it or even saw it coming. Like most traditions, it began as nothing.


Emma had stretched a ligament in her ankle at a practice for the vicious middle-school girls’ church basketball league. She had surgery over Christmas break to tighten it. Jordan Lee came to Dothan to cheer her. While grocery shopping, I picked up a marked-down gingerbread house. I thought the kids would have fun decorating it together, especially since Emma was housebound.

Emma was high on Lortab and dozing on the sofa when the other three decided to assemble the house. I smiled as I imagined the priceless image of my children and their precious college-aged cousin sharing a sweet—albeit forgetful—moment. Soon, their shouts woke me from my daydream. They were about to duke it out in the kitchen over whose turn it was to squeeze the icing! They cared deeply about whether or not to put icicles on the roof! They were not SHARING! They were COMPETING! In between licking their fingers, they were smack-talking each other over the placement of gumdrops!



They had acted so mean to each other that I bought two gingerbread houses to diffuse the festive tension.

It didn’t really help.

Jordan Lee, Abby, and Emma participated in the “family bonding” activity. After their tempers cooled, we decided that everyone needed his/her own house, and if the kids insisted on arguing over this sugar-coated fun, then we needed to organize a competition.

gingerbread 2008


The Great King Family Gingerbread Throwdown officially began. Team Jeremy/Phillip out-decorated the girls in a stunning upset.

gingerbread 2009 - 2

Rules are ameliorated every year to adjust to new ideas and new cheaters added to the family. Basically, the rules are:

  • Everyone has a partner, which changes from year to year
  • A one-hour time limit, but houses are assembled before the clock begins
  • Impartial judges
  • All items must be edible and only items on the table may be used; no running all over the house for stuff
gingerbread 2011b

Finger-licking and nibbling are allowed, expected even.

gingerbread 2012

In 2012, Justin and Ellen couldn’t be with us, so they judged via skype.

gingerbread 2012c

Although the competition has always been held at Starla’s house, the location is not part of the tradition nor is the date. Starla likes to hold it before Christmas, because she enjoys using the bright and colorful gingerbread houses to adorn her own house for the holidays. She has saved them a time or two for the following year, and they hold up pretty well in her cool, damp basement. But location and date are just details. As more weddings are held and more babies are born, the act of gathering will become more difficult. The day might come where July 4th sees fireworks exploding outside the house and within it as well. If Independence Day were to be the best day for us to celebrate being an extended family, so be it.

Even then, we’ll be plotting and planning the most appropriate use of red and green M&Ms. Hopefully, we’ll be fussing about it until the Great King Family Gingerbread House Throwdown becomes true to the word tradition.

On your mark . . . get set . . . DECORATE!

gingerbread 2010





One Response to “The Great King Family Gingerbread House Throwdown”
  1. I love gingerbread houses! My Mother found a closeout on cast iron gingerbread molds at William-Sonoma Outlet in Memphis when my boys were in grade school, and purchased several for me. Every year we had fun making them and sharing them with the boys’ classes to decorate. This brings back so many great memories. I love that your almost grown children are still decorating them with their cousins. Merry Christmas!

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