This past week, my family and I visited one of our favorite places to go during the holidays. St. Georges Episcopal Church in Middlebury, Connecticut hosted its Annual Gingerbread Village. Want to feel like a little kid again? Come with me and marvel at these amazing works of food art!
Forty-four years ago, a few of the ladies of St. George’s church hosted a bake sale. One of the items was a single gingerbread house on a card table. From there, a tradition was born, and the Village has grown bigger every year since. My family first discovered it from a small clipping in the newspaper when my daughter was a baby. Now she’s nine, and visiting the Village has become a treasured family tradition.
The town of Middlebury looks like a post card picture of an ideal New England town, or like the setting for a Hallmark movie! I especially love to visit the Gingerbread Village during the evening hours, as the Christmas lights and the gingerbread structures through the windows of the church make for an even more magical invitation.
Speaking with Barbara, who is in charge of the Village, I learned just how much effort and work goes into making this Winter Wonderland. Each year, the Village boasts a different theme. This year’s theme was “Christmas around the World”. Baking the Village has become a tradition for many of the families at St. George’s. Children helping out range in age from two to teen and one baker even comes all the way from Maine! Bakers hunt for candy all year round. Each gingerbread house is made entirely of edible items. Creativity abounds!
My daughter poses next to her favorite Gingerbread House this year.
Barbara says the bakers also see architecture when they are out and about as inspiration. An interesting home or porch may just become one of next year’s gingerbread structures!
The Village is housed in a large room on a giant stage-like table, and visitors walk all around the large display covered in gingerbread art. There are little platforms with stairs so the littlest of visitors can climb up and see each home. The detail and scale is amazing. This year we saw elaborate homes with windows of sugar, and inside were miniature “baked” items, like cakes and pies. Snowmen, Santa on the roof, and even a kangaroo greeted us. Some of the buildings even light up!
The view from the other side of my daughter’s favorite house boasts a kangaroo!
Look at the detail of this one…a gingerbread house inside a gingerbread house!
Here comes Santa Claus! Here comes Santa Claus! I am just in awe of the talent and creativity.
From designing the pattern for the home, to the baking, assembly, and decoration, these beauties take from twenty-five to over eighty hours to complete! They use a special gingerbread recipe for a nice hard, base to their houses. As you complete your holiday baking, think about this: it takes over 350 pounds of flour, 168 pounds of confectioner’s sugar, 145 pounds of granulated sugar, and 15 gallons of molasses, among a hefty list of other ingredients, to complete the Village! Whew – how’d you like to complete THAT shopping list?
I love that St. George’s does not charge a fee to park or for admission. Donations are appreciated, and can be dropped in a jar by the door. Each structure is for sale, with prices around $75 to $100.00. Sold items are picked up the last day of the display. My hubby once surprised us years ago and brought one home. We had a Doberman, and without my knowledge, he would reach his snout around and nibble away – from the back! It wasn’t until I returned home one day and found it collapsed with my dog in hiding that I figured out what he’d been up to!
In addition to the sale of the houses, St. George’s has a special cookbook for sell and a Christmas boutique. The church also bakes 3,000 cookies each year! If looking at all that gingerbread makes your mouth water, wrapped cookies are for sale, and for $2.00 a piece, children can decorate their own gingerbread man, a tradition my daughter looks forward to. The Village is always open from the first Saturday in December, to the second Saturday in December. If you find yourself near our neck of the woods, it’s worth putting on your calendar!
My daughter hard at work on her cookie.
Each year, my daughter and I decorate a gingerbread house from a pre-baked kit. I admit, ours look like “shacks” compared to the homes at the Village, but they inspire us to be creative and have fun!
You can’t help thinking it must be Santa’s elves themselves creating the Annual Gingerbread Village display. It’s impossible not to feel kid-like when visiting. Like many of you, my family has dealt with a difficult year, and I found it harder to find my Christmas Spirit this season. After my visit to the village, I’m feeling jolly! I hope that the bakers at St. George’s know just how much joy their efforts bring, and how they are appreciated by so many in the community.
Do you decorate a gingerbread house? Are there any special places near your hometown that signal the “start” of the season for you? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear!
***Tune into the internet fitness radio channel at www.ftns.co (no “m”) on Thursday, December 15th at 7:00 PM Eastern Time. I’ll be the guest of the show “What’s Weighing You Down” with Dr. Marilyn. I’ll be talking with Dr. Marilyn about “Blooming Where You Are Planted”, eating organic, and writing the Suburban Farmgirl” Blog. MaryJane says she will be calling in! Hope to “see” you there!****