Marshmallows, gum drops, candy canes and icing are not unusual additions when it comes to the construction of gingerbread houses, but a scene featuring Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, vaccinating Santa Claus was fitting for the peculiar holiday season of 2020. The Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Medicine’s inaugural gingerbread house competition featured Fauci and many references to Mass General, COVID-19 and the current vaccination effort—all created with delicious treats.
Teams and individuals put their confectionary creativity on display, constructing Bulfinch Buildings, North Pole workshops and other holiday homes made out of gingerbread. Each master-crafter submitted a photo of their completed piece, which then was judged by the department’s chief residents. The winner, resident Ashley Ott, MD, was recognized for her stunning piping and frosting finesse. Although she does not have a background in baking, Ott credits her years of baking cookies with her grandmother and “extensive study of The Great British Bake-Off for her success.
“Because I couldn’t be with my family this holiday season, I thought I’d use some of my free time—or actually a lot of it since this took many hours—to try and build something beautiful for the competition,” she says. “Naturally, I attempted to build an Ether Dome, but when I cored out an onion and put it on top, I decided that the smell and tearing eyes significantly reduced the holiday cheer I was feeling, and it was removed.”
Two other sugary shelters were recognized for excellence. The “Bul-Grinch Building” by Elijah Darnell, MD, and Nathan Alhalel, MD, earned second place, and receiving the “Christmas Miracle Award” was Gregory Fricker, MD.
“In a holiday season so different from any that we have known, these imaginative ways of sharing holiday spirit mean so much,” says Katrina Armstrong, MD, MSCE, physician-in-chief of the Department of Medicine. “These entries have set the bar high for the now annual Department of Medicine Gingerbread House Contest.”
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