Each holiday season, a family in Delhi goes above and beyond for the community’s children, throwing a party that creates the joy of Christmas through gingerbread, toys and Santa Claus himself. And while the occasion has grown over the years, host Carina Singh will always remember why it began.
In December 2012, Carina and her husband, Jay, were preparing for their first Christmas as a family. Carina was 11 weeks pregnant, and the pair hoped to begin a new tradition of decorating a gingerbread house during the days leading up to the holiday. Jay, Carina and a few of their friends and family decorated and judged 12 gingerbread houses, and the tradition was born.
Shortly after the Singh’s first gingerbread house decorating contest, tragedy struck. The couple lost their baby, but despite her sadness, Carina knew she wanted to continue the tradition that the three had started together.
“It wasn’t fair, but we wanted to continue the tradition even though we didn’t have our baby anymore,” said Carina. “From there, it just kept growing and growing each year.”
The Singhs’ event started out as a gingerbread house decorating competition but has now grown to include a toy drive, an ugly sweater contest (which was changed to Christmas pajamas for this year’s event), ornament making, holiday-themed games and a meet and greet with Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Santa’s helpers. Carina’s sister and brother-in-law help out to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to life, and it was also Carina’s sister who suggested that the event begin giving back through a toy drive.
“It’s nice to have the family and everyone get together the two weeks before Christmas and see everyone having fun,” said Carina.
Family, friends and children throughout the Delhi community attend annually, said Carina, and at this year’s event on Dec. 17, nearly 100 people were in attendance.
“It’s amazing to look back at how small it was when we started and how big it has become now,” said Carina.
The event was a potluck, and attendees were asked to bring an unwrapped toy to donate as well. This year, the Singhs were able to collect five enormous bags filled with toys – three of which will be donated to Sierra Vista Child and Family Services in Modesto. One bag of toys will be donated to the Children’s Crisis Center in Turlock and another to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. In past years, the Singhs have also donated toys from their drive to a local shelter in Delhi and Jessica’s House.
The Singhs fund the event with money from their own pockets, and this year provided gingerbread houses for everyone in attendance. Baking and assembling the nearly 100 gingerbread houses took around three days, said Carina, and baking the dough for the houses took 18 and a half hours alone.
“We do this to see the joy in the kids’ faces,” said Carina. “When they come up to you and say, ‘Thank you,’ the excitement on their faces is what makes everything worthwhile.”
Jay and Carina have no children of their own, which she said makes giving back to the children in the community even more special.
“We’ll always continue this tradition to honor the child that we lost,” said Carina.