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Credits: Annika Tudeer

A Christmas story

Oh these Christmas times. There is so much to do, all these things to prepare. This year I will make an even bigger gingerbread house.

Gretel Johansson took another sip of her morning coffee, wrinkled her forehead and started to plan. Her oven was a regular sized oven, which meant that the house that she envisioned that would be so big that a small child could enter it, needed to be made out of oven sized elements. The question was, would they last? When you make a big house, you did not want it to crumble into pieces before its opening hour.

Crumble, she chuckled. No, we do not want any crumbles. A shadow passed over her face and she shuddered. No more crumbles for me, no more of that. She swallowed, and set to work. Halfway through the calculations of the amount of flour, sugar, butter, syrup, spices and all the decorations that she would need for the house, it was a remarkable amount, it hit her. I need a car, she thought, and somebody to carry the sacks up the stairs. 

Most of Gretels friends were dead or too feeble or gone gaga, so they could not help. But Gretel wanted to maintain her yearly gingerbread  house tradition and this year it was going to be something very, very special and spectacular.

There must be a strong person somewhere who could help me out, she thought. At that moment her cat meowed and she bent over to strike its black fur. What a great idea. I did not think about that, she said appreciatively to the cat. That is how I will do this. But first I need to finish my calculations, the question remains, she said and turned towards the cat. How will I make the material of the house last? To mix concrete in the dough as mr Woolf did back then, is out of question, it needs to be edible despite it’s size. 

Gretel Johansson placed an ad in the local Facebook group: “strong person needed to carry Christmas surprise materials, once or twice” (in case something was forgotten). She did not want to give away her plan, but still wanted to make the ad tempting enough for some strong Christmas charitable person. Therefore she was mighty surprised when the doorbell rang and a small elf looking woman stood outside.

I am not buying anything, Gretel said harshly and was about to close the door, when the woman smiled and said: I am here to help you. Oh, said Gretel and lifted an eyebrow. You need some management skills, the woman said. Well yes, answered Gretel, and asked the woman inside. After some coffee and cigarettes the plan was ready. We take Hans the Hunk. She is reliable and discreet. Great at building and great at carrying, and she has a van, concluded the woman.

The next day Hans the Hunk appeared early at Gretel’s door and they drove to the local food thrift store to get 100s of kilos of flour, eggs, sugar, syrup and all the rest of the ingredients. Hans was as strong as promised, and everything was carried inside and placed so that Gretel easily could access it all. That was not too bad, said Gretel and smiled at the cat. However, it was bad. It was simply too much flour, syrup, sugar, butter, eggs and decorations. For the first time in her gingerbread house baking life Gretel felt conquered by the mass of the stuff and the enormous task she had in front of her. How on earth will all this be turned into a house, she sighed and squeezed past a stack of flour on her way to the sink. Listlessly she picked at a crate of gingerbread spices, when the doorbell rang.

I thought you might need some building help, said Hans. Gretel fell into tears, I do not need any building help. I do not want to build a big house anymore, I do not want to build any gingerbread house, not big nor small. I have done it every Christmas as long as I can remember and despite them growing in size, less and less people saw them. I do not want to do that anymore, Gretel was crying her heart out. Oh dear, said Hans and looked at Gretel sympathetically. It is fine, we give it all away and then we do something else. 

Snow started to fall as people in need for different reasons flocked to Gretel’s little flat where Hans, the elf woman and Gretel portioned out all the ingredients that they had bought. Some offered to bake gingerbread in the oven, “just for the smell, darlings”, others made coffee and everybody had a great time singing Christmas carols and feeling overall joyous and happy. This went on until close before Christmas, when everything was gone. Gretel looked at the empty house that felt so much bigger all of a sudden.

I have never had so much pre-Christmas fun before. Now it is our turn to have some Christmas eve fun, Gretel said and showed Hans and the elf the tickets that she had booked for them all. Amazing. I always wanted to go away for Christmas, Hans looked at Gretel gratefully and the next day they all flew to Bangkok to celebrate Christmas on the playa. Then they lived here and there and in the flat that was big enough for all of them and the cat, happy ever after.