When my children were small Christmas Eve was the longest day in their lives and to pass the time and add some magic we would make a ginger bread house together.
I don't have a single picture of any of the houses we made but you will believe me I'm sure.
If I was organised I would have the pieces for the house made days before, if not then the house stages took most of the day; making the mixture and letting it cool, rolling it out and then cutting out the shapes, baking and cooling and then finally the assembling.
The house shape was and is always the same, from a recipe I kept from an old Handmade magazine.
Christmas Eve is a long day, sitting so close to the summer solstice and with our long southern twilight it seems to never end.
In the afternoon of December 24th we would assemble the house ready to be decorated, cover a tray with Christmas paper or foil and consider the best position to build our house.
Edges of gingerbread were dawbed with royal icing and then little hands would hold things in place while the mortar dried and stuck fast.
Lolly bags were sorted through and plans for decoration would begin but then there was a break in the proceedings. The church up the road for some years held a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve. It wasn't well attended so it was quite an intimate affair. Members of the congregation would read parts of the Christmas story and there were happy hymns to sing and the finale was a big birthday cake complete with candles and the children sang Happy Birthday to baby Jesus. Then we would all go across to the hall where I had gone to Sunday School so many years before and there would be party food spread out on tables and lots of happy smiles and eating and chatting.
By the end it was around 6.30pm and we would walk home, one year we were surprised by a neighbour dressed as Santa giving out lollies to passers by.
Stephen would be home from work by the time we got home and it was time to decorate out gingerbread house.
This was a children's only activity, adults only got to join in if there was adult help needed.
And may I say the houses were always beautiful .
The house then had to stay untouched until the New Year.
The past couple of years the gingerbread house hasn't happened.
Kate was determined that it would happen this year.
She made the gingerbread dough a couple of days before Christmas and we bought the lollies ready to decorate but time and willing helpers were in short supply.
New Year's Eve she managed to talk Andy and me into helping her get it all together.
I helped with the baking and Andy chimed in to help out with the construction and then the two of them happily worked away for more than an hour decorating the house.
Perhaps a new tradition has been born.