Gingerbread houses a holiday tradition

IN A FAMILIAR ROLE — Doris Matyas of Toronto has become a seasoned gingerbread house maker through the years, having made hundreds in the past decade as part of a November holiday tradition that children and their families look forward to in Toronto as they put their decorating imaginations to work. This year, Matyas made 62 gingerbread houses that generated $900 split between Toronto Toys for Tots and the Helping Hands food pantry. -- Contributed

TORONTO — Doris Matyas has made a lot of gingerbread houses in the past 20 years or more.

It started as an at-home family holiday activity with her granddaughters, but in more recent years, it’s blossomed into something much more.

It’s a highly anticipated community event that not only is an occasion for enjoyment, it’s also an opportunity to help the less fortunate in Toronto.

For at least the past 10 years, the third Saturday in November is set aside for gingerbread house decorating day, which is held at Cornerstone Church of Toronto at 423 Clark St.

This year’s event was held Nov. 17 and featured the most gingerbread houses yet.

“I made 62 houses for kids to decorate — they had a good time,” noted Matyas. “I usually make about 50 every year, but so many wanted them that I went to 62. I really enjoy doing this as the kids and families make a big fuss.”

Participants have to register in advance, so Matyas knows how many gingerbread houses to make — an undertaking that this year began in September. She finished up earlier this month.

“I do about four houses a night, and after I glue them together, I put them up high on shelves to keep them away from the dogs,” she explained, noting the preparation and baking process involves a couple of hours each evening.

There is a $15 donation for a child to decorate a gingerbread house and take it home. Matyas said the participants bring a variety of decorating items, and the creativity unfolds from there.

The events are sponsored by the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization, of which Matyas is a committee member, and generate money that is donated to charitable causes in the Gem City. This year’s event raised $900, which was split between the Helping Hands Toronto food pantry and Toronto Toys for Tots, according to Matyas.

“My grandkids and I started making houses 20 years ago. The houses are all the same size. Sometimes I make a few birdhouses. The grandsons had trucks. My great-grandson had a green truck,” she noted.

One of the gingerbread houses is used as a drawing for the Christmas party held by the Toronto Senior Citizens. Matyas is its president. She also serves as president of the Toronto Beautification Committee.

Making the event happen each year involves a lot of help. The TCFR, for example, provides money for baking ingredients; Matyas’ husband, Fred, cuts and tape together the cardboard on which the gingerbread houses are stored; and her friend Mary Ann Parker helps frost the inside of the houses to keep them sturdy. A group of friends caravan in six or seven cars to help transport the gingerbread houses to the Cornerstone Church, which extends hospitality in accommodating the event, she said.

Next year’s event already is on the calendar. It will be held Nov. 16, 2019, beginning at 1 p.m.