“Text if you want to vote for Peppermint Place,” the sign says. That would be the gingerbread house that looks like all the rest except it’s got a peppermint swirl for a roof. You could also vote for the Cinnamon Shack or Cocoa Cottage, though the creative differences in houses that make up Gingerbread BLVD are so minimal, you’d swear you’ve landed in a cookie version of a retirement village in Boca Raton.
In reality, you’re in Madison Square Park, looking at a beautiful Christmas tree while companies hawk free goodies in order to persuade you to spend more money. Cater your holiday dinner, says one. Don’t bother baking dessert when we have ours ready to go, says another. Gingerbread BLVD takes precious childhood memories and turns them into a marketing campaign — and the holiday spirit here has about as much a chance at survival as a sequel to Sony Pictures’ The Interview.
The saddest part of this corporate gingerbread subdevelopment is that it competes for attention with the work of a real guy out there, chef Jon Lovitch, who creates a large-scale gingerbread village every year and gives away the pieces for free at the end of the season. It’s called Gingerbread Lane, and it’s located at the New York Hall of Science — the last place on earth a kid would think to spend the holidays.
His is a much more magical place than this goods-hawking attention ploy, but it’s located far from well-trafficked Madison Square Park, which lures tourists and locals looking for a festive stop.
If you or visiting relatives must see a gingerbread village this year, go to Lovitch’s version. If you’re just looking for a holiday pop-up with genuine cheer, on the other hand, head instead to Miracle on 9th Street, a pop-up bar with holiday-inspired drinks. See the “Wise Men,” served in a frankincense-smoked glass, or “Bad Santa,” a warm rum drink with coconut milk in a jolly St. Nick-shaped mug.
It’s a silver lining in a town covered in tawdry tinsel.
Gingerbread BLVD and Miracle on 9th Street close on December 23; Gingerbread Lane is open until January 12.