Monday, December 15, 2008

Gingerbread houses in Hong Kong

While overseas, we always wonder if we will be able to make the holidays come together for the kids without family nearby and without some of the traditional elements we love from the states. Despite the worry, the holidays typically sort themselves out with positive local innovations like beach BBQs on Christmas day and Christmas trees delivered to your door (and also taken away after the holidays!)

At Christmas time, Hong Kong also provides nice gingerbread house, or in our case, gingerbread village making venues. For the past few years, we have taken Tori to the American Club where a pastry chef replete in a puffy white hat walks her through the steps of gingerbread house making. The age requirement on this holiday fun is five years old. The twins have waited in the wings, licking any stray icing that comes their way. This year, however, Adam and Royce, were old enough to build their own house and did so with great creative flourish, including gummy worms on the roof of one. Phil and I sat back, drinking coffee and enjoying the mess somewhere other than our apartment.

In kindergarten, Adam and Royce are also enjoying a week of Christmas centers, where they rotate through different Christmas crafts. This year I am stationed at the gingerbread making station at school. It is a far different experience than our family gingerbread making experience. At school, the kids use a milk carton as a frame. Fearful of Chinese milk, more than one kindergartener has asked me if the milk cartons contained Chinese milk or the preferred Australian milk. I tried to explain we were not eating the carton and regardless, they had been washed but these savvy little kids would have none of it. The kindergarteners then use icing to stick crackers on the carton and then decorate on top of that. Again, we sort the candy not only for nut allergies but also for Chinese origins.

So, we have had the high end and the lower end gingerbread house making this year. Our typical middle of the road approach using graham crackers might be out this year. I think we are happy and satisfied with what we already have. We might try to move on to sugar cookies, though of course Christmas cookie cutters are not available here. A few little things are hard to find but all in all, the spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Hong Kong and we could not be more excited!