Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dreaming of a Cheap Christmas

Tea Time by Judy Gibson


There are probably a number of young mothers who feel a lot of pressure this time of year and wonder how in the world they can do it all. There really isn't any law, Biblical or civil, that says you have to celebrate this season, but there are a number of ways to enjoy it if it is kept in perspective. Basically, people can do exactly as they please, and if they don't like something about the Christmas rush, they are absolutely free to skip the whole thing, if it gives them more peace. After all, its motto is "peace on earth."


When we were first married, we had no money to spend outside of our normal expenses of food and rent and gas. A friend noticed that we didn't have any signs of the season around our house, and she surprised us by coming over and creating a festive centerpiece for our table. She provided a few gifts and brought us a casserole. I was all for skipping the occasion, but after she had worked in her special way, I loved the effect of the tinsel and lights and the warmth of the table setting.

Our own children had a marvellous time one year just wrapping up their old toys and books, in small baby blankets, and giving them to each other. They had loads of fun discovering what was in the gift, because they had not seen some of the toys in such a long time.

One way to ease the busy-ness of the season is to say "yes" to any invitation of the parents or grandparents on either side, to spend the holidays with them. Everything there is usually all prepared.


There are many ways to create a sparkly Christmas without spending money, or spending very little. Below, you see the card stock weight cut-outs, outlined in glitter glue, with extra glitter sprinkled on. A small hole-punch can be used to provide a place to insert a thread or string to hang the ornaments.


The pattern below can be printed on card stock in any color. I have provided little stands for the candle and the teapot, in case it is to be used for a place card or a greeting card. Put some floral stickers on the teapot to make it look like fine china. Cardboard stands can be made for the other ornaments if desired, but they can also be hole-punched and used for ornaments.
Print this out on cardstock

The house ornament could be cut on a strip of folded paper so that it makes a garland. Some of you who are experienced in drawing houses, can put doors and windows, window boxes, and even candles in the windows, and add white glitter on the roof. Punch a hole in the top for an ornament, or cut on multi-folded paper and make a garland.

Most people already have some kind of paper in the house. We used to save business mail, because one side was always blank. These were used for our paper crafts. If you do not have card stock, you can glue your cut outs to the cardboard from cereal boxes or other boxes you normally would throw away. Glazing the ornaments with a brush dipped in glitter glue makes them look more expensive.

When you read the Little House on the Prairie series, you get the sense that the children were happy with just a pair of hand knit gloves as a gift. In Victorian times, people spent time secretly scurrying about trying to get materials to make little things like handkerchiefs and bags or holders for things.




Sentimental hand made gifts from Ladies Home Journal, 1890


Some of the materials used in that era were not available today. I used heavy brown paper for several of these projects.

One lady in her 80's told me she wondered why people didn't just send her a hand made patchwork potholder trimmed in bias tape, the way they used to. People used to look forward to getting an interesting dish towel or some soap and bubble bath. Christmas used to be the time we received our socks and slippers for the year. In some stores, here in the north, they run a sock sale just after Christmas. People go into the stores and pick out their socks and hide them behind other merchandise so they can go straight to them when the sale is on. I don't know if the proprietors have caught on yet, but this has been a tradition for many years at the local Fred Meyers, a department store.


Old Fashioned Patchwork Potholders With Bias Binding. Two on the right are vintage and the one on the left is an updated immitation. They take only a little time to make, and can be prepared all year long.


This year I noticed more and more hand made cards which are just beautiful. The card companies have to work hard to compete with the dimensional specialness of hand crafted cards. Cards, whatever the season, seem like a very bright and interesting enterprise for young ladies at home.The hand made cards are so special, they are worth saving in a box for someone to find years later. The hand made ones are so intricate, it seems that it would be gift enough. Some of them should be wrapped in paper and ribbon and given as gifts.

The only thing I do is string up some lights, and I put them on the inside of the house, along the top of windows. If someone drops by, they get a cup of hot cranberry-apple spiced punch. I mainly like the sparkle, the lights, and the brightness of the season.

Here you see the glittery chenille wired stems that come in a package of 20 for a dollar, used as initials on small gifts. Inside the packages: a small calendar, and a blank notebook with a beautiful cover, each only costing a dollar. On the left is an icicle ornament made by wrapping chenille wire around a pencil. An entire tree of these is just beautiful.

Wrapping paper can be made by rubber stamping the inside of brown paper bags or any white paper. It is much more challenging to the intellect to think of ways to manage a celebration without spending money.

28 comments:

Laura said...

Greenery from the yard (I have a holly - Ilex americana - with more berries on it than I have ever seen before!) and from public woodlands can grace a home for free. I made my Nativity set when my girls were little, at a church-sponsored ceramics workshop. The greenware was very reasonable, and the workshop provided a much-needed social outlet. I'm not buying a tree this year, but am stringing up the fairy lights around the windows and a couple of picture frames - and the sparkly balls are in a large glass serving bowl.

The first Christmas my dh and I were married, we got balsawood ornaments and painted them at night while we watched tv. My daughters have those now. A friend made homemade dough ornaments with cookie cutters.

You can have a lot of fun for very little money, or even for none at all!

Elizabeth-Plain and Simple said...

I enjoyed reading this post. You are correct about not having to spend much money to enjoy Christmas. I am finding that more and more people are looking for ways to simplify their lives, myself included. Our enjoyment comes from being together. Thank you and I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

Elizabeth

Marqueta said...

Thank you for this reminder, Lady Lydia!

Christmas really shouldn't be made into something stressful; I think this hurts our Lord, when He lived such a simple, humble life, for us to be extravagant and to go into debt "in His name".

Love,

Marqueta

BarbaraLee said...

This yr we did a home made Christmas. We picked names last yr.
It is the most stress free Christmas I have had. All we had to do is get supplies. I bought yarn for a blanket and some flowers for a jar lamp. DH got wood for free from work to make his gift and ds to make his. It has been fun. Dh finds it hard to find time but he has managed.
I have made the gkids things too.

Theo-Ann said...

Thanks so much for this--what a great reminder to think creatively in making gifts for others. I've done this for a couple years now and it is so special to me as well as the recipients. I love your blog--you're listed as one of my favorites on mine.:)

Anonymous said...

I'll bet you are a wonderful hostess, Mrs. Sherman. And I love your suggestions on how to bring a little more sanity to this blessed Season. I just love making gifts for people. I do purchase things too, but thinking out of the box a bit gives me so much satisfaction.

Brenda

Anonymous said...

dearest Lydia,

this brings back memories!! as a child, we had next to nothing; Mum was a single parent raising my brother and I; many lean years; for quite a few, we didn't have a tree; mum got her hands on a eucalypt bough; fairly fine with many more fine branches off of it, painted it white, and made baubles; got hold of polystireen balls, covered them in material and wound strings of sequins and the like about them. One one year I received a lovely night twinset and nightgown, all in beautiful liberty lorne (excuse spelling) that she'd made (mum was a fantastic home seemstress) another year i received a kimono, these home made gifts were among the most treasured I ever received. One year, a very grim year, we spent Christmas with our Uncle and Aunt with their kids interstate; though i received little gifts, only a handful of nicknacks, they wer so lovingly wrapped that it didn't matter, the thought truly impressed me; i was thirteen and I still remember crying for joy over the simple things.

Married nearly four years now, this is the first year my hubby and i are getting a tree, a little living pine about two feet tall that will be our table centrepiece (we're hosting both our families this year).

You've touched upon many very happy memories; though we were poor, we were so very happy...

Blessings,

Mrs. E.,
Australia. .

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I am feeling very stressed right now about Christmas preparations. For me, all that matters is that we make it to Mass, as that is our obligation as Catholics.

However, I am feeling outside stresses, and I am not proud of this. A friend insists on buying my children gifts, so I feel like I have to go buy them gifts. We do this grab bag among the grandchildren, which is totally unnecessary, especially when the children literally have everything a child could need. I still haven't sent Christmas Cards, and I feel guilty about that as a few cards are rolling in, although I will say fewer than last year. My husband believes that kids need at least 10 things each to open under the tree (not all are big or expensive) and I believe that three or four are just fine, but ten it will be.

I admire your simple plan. I am really going to have to rethink this one for next year!

~ Ann

Anonymous said...

This post reminded me of my childhood Christmases. We always got new socks, gloves/mittens, and usually some new flannel pj's or a nightie. There was always a new package of Play-Dough and a new box of crayons. Whenever I smell either of those items, it takes me back...We always had an orange in the toe of our stocking, some nuts, a candy cane, and a few small toys.

You will never believe this: Our local paper prints the local school-children's letters to Santa and the kindergarteners are asking for lap-tops!! What is this world coming to? What does this say about our society? What a shame.

Thank you for the templates. I have printed them out and I am going to have some fun this afternoon after all my household chores are completed. God Bless You!

Amy said...

Thank you. My family is seeking to return to the simplicity of the celebration. My children are making many of their gifts to us and each other, and friends as well. My husband and I give each other rather useful things (such as a wheat mill) that keep on giving.

We have about given up finding just the right gift for our parents and grandparenst and have begun giving a donation to a ministry in their name each year. We then send them a certificate stating which ministry and some information about that ministry and also make an ornament that in someway depicts the ministry for their gift.

I was also spurred on this year by an Advent Conspiracy video on YouTube to give what really matters - time and relationship.

I know my dears will enjoy making the paper ornaments and creating the sparkle!

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Laura: yes, greenery from the trees and bushes outside are the best choice because you do not have to store them in an attic or a box somewhere. This year I lost several boxes of things, including an artificial tree, because I couldn't find them. I can't remember where they were put. Also, the paper ornaments can be thrown away and no storage, if a person was not in a permanent type situation (moving a lot, job transfers, not a home owner, etc) On the homestead, each year we covered egg carton shells in tinfoil and put chenille wire through them and hung them as bells on the tree. We made paper chains for the tree. We used a lot of glitter and in those days you could only get gold and silver, sometimes red and green. The tree was thrown out to be used in burn pile later on, decorations and all.

I have cedar branches in th house and they smell wonderful. It does not hurt the trees and bushes, as the trimming seems to do them good.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Ann,

In my opinion, you do not have to send cards. One lady I know buys just two or three really great cards (not boxed cards) for three special people, and does not send out thirty.

As for gifts, my opinion is this: everyone has a birthday, and that is their special day when they can receive gifts. On Christmas it makes no sense to get a gift for each person and put everyone, particularly the homemaker, under tremendous stress. We used to be happy with a stocking with the orange in the toe and the nuts and a candy cane...the smell was divine.

Aelwyn said...

When I was in middle school, my brothers cleaned out the basement and accidentally threw away most of the Christmas ornaments. We did not have money to buy new ones, so I used old Christmas cards and construction paper to make new ones. It was a lot of fun. I always looked forward as a child to making paper chains.

I also noticed from a family's photographs once that they used just plain brown paper and string to wrap their packages, alluding to "brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things." It was not a poor family, btw.

Elizabeth said...

Those are some wise words about not feeling pressured to keep up with either the holiday rush or the commercialism of it.

Laura Ashley said...

The Salvation Army has HUGE toy drives this time of year to collect toys for needy families. They collect everything from action figures to Ipods.

I wonder if maybe they shouldn't just focus on collecting food and clothes. Certainly most parents have $5 to buy a little toy or book for their children. If they don't or they are foster children, then maybe the Salvation Army could provide a little something, but they should really be focusing on collecting food and clothes rather than toys imo.

The Salvation Army does great work, don't get me wrong. I just don't see the need for "toy drives". They get new and used toys donated throughout the year. They should use their resources in other ways imo.

~~Deby said...

WOnderful ideas..this year I watched thrift stores and yard sales all year long and got some WONDERFUL treasures for friends and family...one year we did all our shopping at a Thrift Store...our kids were young and didn't even know the difference...
My heart hurts for those who have lost so much this past year, due to no fault of their own....
Help out a family..it doesn't need to be much...
Deby

Anonymous said...

You are very right as always Lydia!

I am going to have to be more forthright next year and tell people I don't want to exchange anymore or participate in various grab bags and such.

And yes, pare down my card list to the most important people. Or perhaps make some and at least it will be something fun for the children to help with, instead of feeling only like an obligation.

~ Ann

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

No one needs gifts, and even hand making them can bring on more burden to a homemaker. If we just had the splendor and atmosphere of the season without the stress of a gift list or a card list, we would be better off. Sashing away things throughout the year is a good idea. I am afraid I haven't had any gifts for the last 10 years. It was all I could do to put a good meal on the table. As you get older, your life does not wind down, it seems to escalate.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

I meant stashing away goodies from yard sales and dollar stores throughout the year, is a great idea. Making soaps and candles is also fun, but time consuming if you wait too long. My attitude is that it is a privilege just to get up in the morning, still alive, and enjoy life. That's a great gift, and if I am able to make or buy gifts, its a bonus.

Anonymous said...

We would put any pieces of jewlery we might have on the tree and cut out the pictures of past or new Christmas cards and pin them to the tree. Almost any little thing like pine cones [glittered or not} can have a string on them and hung. If we have any, we nestle little bird nests in the branches. Paper chains and pop corn on a string are always fun for the kids to do. Now that mine are grown I try to help out mothers of little ones through out the year. Providing books and other things I still have around here or find that they can use on a rainy day or when ever they need them. It is mostly the gettting together that is fun and being together as a family. On other days the father may be away from home part of the day and on Christmas he is home and can read the traditional Christmas stories and such as a family. Have hot chocolate and maybe a cookie or such and enjoy the memory. When I was growing up the late night candle lite church service was a big highlight. To be out at almost our bedtime and to such a service made Christmas for us each year. Christmas is to remember Him and thank thank Him for our family. Looking back we didn't have much by the way of gifts but oh did we have the gift of memories and warm good ones too..the memories last forever and the gifts are long gone and forgotten. They layed down a foundation or our lives. Jody

Candy-Faith said...

Very lovely ideas and a wonderful post!

Candy

Deirdra Doan said...

It is all ways nice to come and visit you....such sweet idea's.
I have many snowy photo's posted on my blog...please come and see.
Snowflake Christmas Blessings,
Deirdra

KTHunter said...

I just LOVE that shoe pattern!

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Deirdra, I clicked on your name and I see you were able to visit with the president of Ireland!

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

This is an interesting year for us, as we are trying to encourage everyone to make something of paper to give. I am "into" paper books, and my favorite paper type is construction paper. It is more flexible and it can be easily torn on the edges. Someone gave a tip about torn construction paper dipped in water, and I've completely lost the post. If they would be so kind as to repeat that, I'd be grateful. Others in the family construct little things and wrap them up. One boy made a page with little colored pockets of paper, that is quite charming, for his Dad to put reminder notes in, or business cards. He also covered a box that used to have the Clementine oranges in it, and made a tray to carry things in. Those boxes are made of heavy cardboard and can be used more than once. You just take a paint brush and paint glue all over it and paste your paper on it and then decoupage over the top. First, trace the outline of sides of the box onto your paper to get an exact measurment.

Of course I can never do anything plainly, and will probably go allout with dazzle to make a box of some kind, probably costing a m illion times more than the free box, when I add up the glitter and trims. However, I am trying to use up everything in my craft collection.

Anonymous said...

We have always been very frugal with our Christmases. The children get a small gift (this year they wanted bicycles, but it was out of the question - then someone had two used bicycles they were willing to sell for $25 for both - so this will be the Year of the Bicycle! :-) But we have always regarded it as a holiday for the children as far as gifts are concerned. They each receive one gift, and then they get oranges, apples and homemade candy/cookies in their stockings.

The same goes for baking and everything else...if it takes away from your peace there is no point to it. We always attend Midnight Mass, taking all the children. We can so easily lose sight of the reasons. Mass is what is important, Christ is Who is important, He who had no place to rest His Head, while we have comfortable homes, refrigerators filled with food, electricity and indoor plumbing....the list goes on.

As Catholics, we have the season of Advent and our Christmas extends from December 25, to January 6 - the twelve days - and right now we are in the eight days preceding Christmas. For each day we have an antiphon that is sung solemnly, starting yesterday actually:

Dec. 17: O Wisdom, that proceedest from the Mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end mightily and disposing all things sweetly, come and teach us the way of prudence.

Dec. 18: O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel, who appearedest to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai; come and redeem us by Thy outstretched arm.

Dec. 19: O Root of Jesse, who standest as ensign of the people; before Whom kings shall not open their lips; to Whom the nations shall pray; come and deliver us, tarry now no more.

Dec. 20: O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel, who openest, and no man shutteth; who shuttest, and no man openeth; come, adn lead the captive from prison, sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Dec. 21: O Orient, splendor of eternal light, and Sun of justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Dec. 22: O King of nations, and their desired One, and the cornerstone that maketh both one; come and save man whom thou didst form out of dust.

Dec. 23: O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and the Savior of the nations, come and save us, O Lord our God!

GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO, ET IN TERRA PAX HOMINIBUS BONAE VOLUNTATIS!!!!!

(Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.)

Even amidst such a mess as this world is in, Christmas is still coming, and He is still born again anew each year in our hearts. No matter what the economy does!

Merry Christmas everybody!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

We have always been very frugal with our Christmases. The children get a small gift (this year they wanted bicycles, but it was out of the question - then someone had two used bicycles they were willing to sell for $25 for both - so this will be the Year of the Bicycle! :-) But we have always regarded it as a holiday for the children as far as gifts are concerned. They each receive one gift, and then they get oranges, apples and homemade candy/cookies in their stockings.

The same goes for baking and everything else...if it takes away from your peace there is no point to it. We always attend Midnight Mass, taking all the children. We can so easily lose sight of the reasons. Mass is what is important, Christ is Who is important, He who had no place to rest His Head, while we have comfortable homes, refrigerators filled with food, electricity and indoor plumbing....the list goes on.

As Catholics, we have the season of Advent and our Christmas extends from December 25, to January 6 - the twelve days - and right now we are in the eight days preceding Christmas. For each day we have an antiphon that is sung solemnly, starting yesterday actually:

Dec. 17: O Wisdom, that proceedest from the Mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end mightily and disposing all things sweetly, come and teach us the way of prudence.

Dec. 18: O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel, who appearedest to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai; come and redeem us by Thy outstretched arm.

Dec. 19: O Root of Jesse, who standest as ensign of the people; before Whom kings shall not open their lips; to Whom the nations shall pray; come and deliver us, tarry now no more.

Dec. 20: O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel, who openest, and no man shutteth; who shuttest, and no man openeth; come, adn lead the captive from prison, sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Dec. 21: O Orient, splendor of eternal light, and Sun of justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Dec. 22: O King of nations, and their desired One, and the cornerstone that maketh both one; come and save man whom thou didst form out of dust.

Dec. 23: O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and the Savior of the nations, come and save us, O Lord our God!

GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO, ET IN TERRA PAX HOMINIBUS BONAE VOLUNTATIS!!!!!

(Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.)

Even amidst such a mess as this world is in, Christmas is still coming, and He is still born again anew each year in our hearts. No matter what the economy does!

Merry Christmas everybody!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Dearest Lydia,

Just a quic, note, for book covers, mum used to use cloth remnants; very effective and very nice - over the cardboard or paper. From memory, I think she used simple craft (or was it fabric) glue? It didn't make the cloth nasty and hard, tacky or plastickie either. Just a thought for something different......you may need to experiment with different adhesives to achieve the same effect.

Blessings,

Sarah.,
Australia. covers...

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