Picture a quiet, peaceful place to escape from all the exam hustle and end-of-the-semester bustle. You need a break from the grind, and you want to get some good old-fashioned Christmas spirit pumping. Now imagine that place is free. Welcome to the Gingerbread Village at the Ford Center.
Each year, the Ford Center asks local bakers to make gingerbread houses to create a display that is open to the public and gives people a chance to connect to some fun holiday cheer and traditions. According to Ford Center Marketing Director Kate Meacham, the event began six years ago and has only grown since.
“The original idea was Norm Easterbrook’s,” Meacham said. “He was the director of the Ford Center from 2004 to 2015. Really, it just seemed like it would be fun to do. Norm had seen one while traveling and thought we could do something similar that would be fun for the community. The first year we only had four houses, and this year we expect over 30.”
In fact, the Ford Center is hoping to display 33 gingerbread houses this year, which provides a great variety of decorations to view, and enjoying the designs is half the point.
“It’s always so much fun to see people’s creations,” Meacham said. “The designs cover a broad range from traditional to whimsical.”
When asked about the main reason to see the village, Meacham acknowledged there is plenty of fun to be had, but it also has a charitable side. Entrance is free, but visitors can bring non-perishable food and cash donations to help local food pantries, including the Ole Miss Food Bank.
“It’s fun! Really, that’s the main reason,” Meacham said. “It’s free and a nice way to enjoy some holiday cheer. We also collect donations for the local food pantries, both the Oxford Pantry and the Ole Miss Food Bank. In previous years, we have collected a substantial amount of food and cash for both.”
The Gingerbread Village has become an Oxford tradition and is considered a part of the holiday season in the city that residents and visitors alike should visit.
“The Gingerbread Village is a great holiday tradition in Oxford,” Director of Visit Oxford Mary Allyn Hedges said. “It’s a great activity to bring kids to view the houses as well as a visit with Santa Claus. Our office does a big advertising campaign surrounding all of the holiday activities happening this time of year, and this event is definitely a highlight of the holiday season.”
The village will be open Dec. 1 through Dec. 16 with several fun activities thrown in along the way, such as pictures with Santa, a Christmas parade after-party and story times. A schedule is available on the Ford Center’s website. Group visits are also an option and can be arranged by calling (662) 915-2787 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gingerbread Village is an opportunity to spread some good will in a setting that not only is peaceful and beautiful but also gives everyone a chance to experience some Christmas cheer.