How the Giant Gingerbread Man Joined in the Joy of Christmas

Gingerbread man cookies for Christmas

How much fun is it to drive through neighborhoods during the Christmas season to check out decorations people have on exhibit in their yards? Look! There are red and green lights around the windows of this house and a bobbing, inflatable Santa near the garden. Every single tree beside the next house is adorned with large, colorful ornaments. And oh, the people who live in this house certainly know how to put on a show…they have a manger scene complete with the Holy Family and Wise Men, a row of light-up candy canes along the sidewalk, and a giant gingerbread man that smiles and holds his arms out to passersby. How cheerful! We should wave back!

And that got us to thinking: how in the world did something like gingerbread—and giant gingerbread men in particular—become associated with Christmas? They certainly aren’t mentioned in the New Testament recounting of the first Nativity!

Interesting story….

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The Best Things About Christmas That I Miss the Rest of the Year

Contrary to what the National Weather Service reports, I maintain that January and February are the darkest months of the year. Valentine’s Day doesn’t count because lights and lawn decorations aren’t involved.

The Christmas season is bright and brilliant. Outdoor nativity scenes shine across streets, in front of homes, and next to churches. Houses are flooded with twinkling lights inside and out. Colorful reindeer dot snow-covered lawns while each barren tree branch boasts a string of lights.

These magical pools of light illuminate the forgotten streets of our cities and vacant alcoves in our homes. They cast honesty and hope during the darkest month of the year. Even if you tried, it’s hard to find darkness during the Christmas season.

My yuletide creativity was stunted by growing up in a city where delicate white lights were the only acceptable outside Christmas decorations. As a kindergartner, I lobbied passionately for two, fuchsia and gold life-size nutcrackers on our front lawn – a plan that was promptly thwarted by the decorative restrictions of my town’s Historical Society. “Permissible lighting displays only,” indeed.

When I moved 500 miles away to my current residence, the colorful Christmas displays made me feel like a kid in a candy store. The church two doors next to my house erected a stunning outdoor nativity scene that outlined each figure with a delicate thread of white bulbs. The family next door to me proudly anchored a 25-foot fiberglass Snowman with interior illumination on their front lawn.

This exquisitely detailed fiberglass, giant Snowman, who I’ve named Bob, glinted and glistened from the Church lights across the street. And when the sun set each evening his carrot nose shined brilliantly against the snow.

I foster dogs from my city’s Animal Care and Control Center and each new dog seems wary of Bob the Snowman, but only briefly. With enough exposure, each new dog realizes that Bob, the fiberglass snowman is harmless and we continue our walk without incident.

Desensitizing my foster dogs to Christmas season decor was added inspiration for decorating the outside of my house. I drew design concepts and took measurements. Yes, I was going to enshrine my house with enough wattage and Christmas cheer to crash an electrical grid.

One week before Thanksgiving my lights went up. I quickly realized that I lack the balance necessary for safely stringing lights around every outside window, so I concentrated my efforts on my porch. I spent that Saturday tightly coiling any accessible fixture with lights of every color.

Against my shrubs, I stationed my very own white lighting display of a nativity scene. Small bulbs of green, red, yellow and blue flashed rhythmically beneath my porch overhang and clapped my hands with all the delight of a four-year old when I finally plugged in the extension cord.

The volunteer fire department was less enthusiastic about my megawatt display and told me so two days later with a fire-hazard citation warning. I reluctantly removed a third of my coiled lights.

I loved watching my tree lights and porch lights reflect simultaneously off my window. I toyed briefly with the blinking and rolling functions but decided against it after my friend said I shouldn’t let anyone with a history of seizures near my living room.

Perhaps in the summer time I’ll replace them with a set of tropical fish lights. I haven’t decided. But for now, those tiny lights wrapped around the pillars and banister of my porch do a fantastic job of casting warm, Christmas light into my living room.