Christmas parties are a dime a dozen this time of year, and some are more fun than others. Make yours memorable by adding a competitive element to your gathering. A gingerbread house contest is a festive competition in which everyone at your party can participate no matter their age. Here’s how to organize your own crafty Christmas contest.
Unless your get-together involves only a few people, divide into teams, so there are less entries to judge between. Two to four people on a team is a good number. If your party has both child and adult guests, form mixed-age groups. To help with the judging later in the party, each team should choose a name. Each team will need a work area separate from their competition so their is no peaking or stealing ideas. If you don’t have enough table space, ask guests to bring card tables from home.
Although it’s not the traditional gingerbread medium, graham crackers require no advance preparation and provide each team with a standard material with which to do their work. Give each team an equal number of grahams. They’ll need a minimum of 10, but you could even give each group a whole box with which to work. The best adhesive for gingerbread houses is royal icing, made with egg whites, powdered sugar and cream of tartar. Whip up a large batch before the party, so there’s enough for each team to use, and put a bowl of icing at each work station. Ask each party guest to bring an edible decoration to share such as, mini marshmallows, gumdrops, Andes Mints, mini candy canes, Hershey’s Kisses and any other candy you can think of. Set these candies out on a long table for all teams to select from.
The gingerbread house contest should be held in two parts. After dividing into teams and explaining the guidelines for the competition, allow half an hour to assemble the basic structure of the houses. Only the graham crackers and the royal icing should be available to contestants at this time. After the 30 minutes are up, take a one-hour break from the competition for the icing to harden. During this time, serve snacks, play games or just allow time for socialization. Regroup after the break for the second phase of construction. This is the decorating portion of the competition and should last for one hour. At this time, participants may make use of any of the candies on the selection table. Teams will also need additional royal icing with which to adhere the decorations to the houses.
By awarding prizes in multiple categories, the gingerbread builders can also be the judges. Give each participant a ballot with three or four categories for which to vote, such as Most Creative, Most Delicious-Looking, Largest Structure and Most Festive. A team name may appear only once on each judge’s ballot. This will prevent participants from voting only for his or her own team’s work. After tallying the ballots, it’s time to award prizes. Because the fun of this party is plenty of reward in itself, there’s not need to go overboard with extravagant goodies. Keep prizes simple and entertaining, such as holiday CDs, hot cocoa mixes or small gift cards to a local coffee shop. Before wrapping up the party, be sure to take pictures of each team with their delicious creations. These photos will be a colorful keepsake from your one-of-a-kind Christmas get-together.
Meghan Ross is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.