On the House

This is a tale told in piped icing and punctuated with gilded dragees . . .

The Pilgrim told this story in that strange, unsettled time between Christmas Day and Epiphany. Her listeners gathered round the fire, eager for a tale. Draughts made candle flames bend and swirled the scent of spices inside the Chapel-in-the-Sands.

‘Can we have something spooky?’ asked a girl with long tight plaits, wearing a black tutu .

‘But I want something sweet!’ said a boy in a thick jumper. A fleecy snowman spread across his front like foam.

‘We can have both.’

The Pilgrim dipped her hand into her bag. ‘I brought these back from the US. Enjoy,’ she said and pulled out two candy canes. One licorice with grey-and-black stripes, the other white-and-red with strawberry flavour. Keen hands took them.

The Pilgrim pulled a shawl over her head. Then she took hold of a crooked stick and leant on it as if terribly old. As the children sucked and slurped, she began in a faint American accent:

Start with the scents. The nose entices folks, draws them closer for one thing. For another, it by-passes lists and orders, warnings and being sensible. Folks go back to being kids when there’s a fine smell in the air.

This time of year, you want warmth. Cinnamon, cloves, tangerine peel – pick your aromas from lands visited by the sun and their imagination. Choose the dreamy and the traditional for their power. There’s much enchantment in memories.

Stick with warm colours too, the ones that shine comfort across a cold earth. Make your windowpanes from melted barley sugar, cherry drops and lemon sherbets.

Dust your eaves with gold. Pipe lines of snowy white icing to make those ginger-spiced walls glow. Use your arts to plant lollipops for trees, with fondant blooms and glacé leaves. Startle and delight with marzipan shrubs and crystallized fruits.

Lure them inside your white chocolate picket fence with drooling expectation. Light and sparkle are our allies – use sugar crusts to dazzle and distract. It doesn’t ALL have to be edible: try draping fairy lights among strands of sugarpaste ivy. Don’t hold back on the food-grade glitter. Think twinkle – and you’ll have them up that garden path in no time.

Remember to move with the times. It’s not the old days with starving mites left to find their own way in the forest. Kids these days have so many distrations.

So animate silhouettes inside. Project lightshows over your Swedish gingersnap rooftiles. Can you make cotton candy smoke appear from your chimneys? Maybe leave a trail of coconut ice mushrooms from the mall right to your kitchen door?

The Pilgrim lent forward and spoke quietly as if confiding a secret.

There are still plenty of unwatched brats about. The ones folks ignore. The hungry ones easy to fatten. The lonely ones so easy to tempt inside.  Likely the ones who never heard a fairytale.

The girl gave shudder and then laughed. The boy drew sugary juice from his sweet in a noisy swallow.


header Image Public Domain, altered by K. M. Lockwood


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