A college friend of mine lived in a family where Christmas was celebrated without the commercialism. The family was very involved in making beautiful decorations and a wonderful Christmas atmosphere, but there was little or no money spent on anything – not on gifts or decorations. Amazingly, it sounded like a beautiful Christmas. How did they do it?
Here are some of the elements of their family Christmas. The items on this list are not entirely without cost. Some of them may cost as much as a dollar or two, but compared to the ridiculous expense that many of us go through for Christmas, the cost is minimal. Incorporating just a few of these ideas into your Christmas celebration will not only save money, but make for a memorable family Christmas celebration.
Instead of material items, have everyone make a gift for everyone else This is a great idea for an immediate family. Many people seem to think this is a great, cute idea for children, but quite often it is the adults that give amazing gifts that tug at the heartstrings. Need ideas? Try making homemade chocolate or homemade soap, or make a book of coupons for things like “a romantic evening walk in the park” or “a trip to the zoo.”
Decorate with homemade decorations The family’s house would look completely different each year because they would use homemade decorations made fresh each year and arranged entirely differently. Here are some suggestions for homemade decorations:
Pine cone ornaments Save pine cones, then run a string through them and hang them up. Simple as can be, yet very rustic and beautiful.
Popcorn strings They would make long strings of popcorn by tying one end to a needle and threading the needle through popped popcorn. They’d also put dried cherries and other such colorful natural items on the strings as well. At the end of the season, the strings were emptied and fed to the birds, who enjoyed a little Christmas celebration of their own.
Aluminum ornaments Take ordinary aluminum cans, cut circles out of them, press them flat, punch a little hole in the top, and put a string loop through that hole. These sparkle amazingly well with twinkle lights. If you have young children, sand the edges of the circles smooth and make one long string out of them, preventing any “individual ornament” problems.
A living tree The family used an actual living hibiscus tree in a large pot as their Christmas tree. They tended it carefully, keeping it outside most of the year except in the most inclement weather The most amazing part was that they would allow it to begin to winterize, then bring it inside to the warmth on about December 12th or so. Almost every year without fail, a few blooms would appear around Christmas morning. In other words, a beautiful part of their summer landscaping became their Christmas tree as well.
Inexpensive lights The family would buy a package or two of lights at a post-Christmas sale the year before (usually for pennies) and leave them in the package until it came time to decorate the tree. They would always have a small number of twinkle lights (using the new strands and older ones from previous years) that reflected gorgeously off of the aluminum ornaments.
Make Christmas cards by hand – and have everyone pitch in! Instead of buying a few boxes of Christmas cards and sending out cold and impersonal cards, the family saved interesting photographs throughout the year and made Christmas cards that were image collages, capitalizing on any strongly Christmas-themed images. They also saved magazine pages that had useful text on them, like the words “happy,” “merry,” “holidays,” and “Christmas.” In their family, they gathered around the table one Sunday before Christmas to assemble them; the father cut out images out, the children laid out the cards and pasted the images into place, and the mother wrote messages inside. In the age of digital photography, one could just use some carefully-chosen digital prints instead.
On Christmas Day, spend part of the day serving food to others Instead of worrying about a giant magnificent Christmas dinner, head to the local homeless shelter and offer to volunteer doing whatever you can, then later on dine with some of the guests and other volunteers. This will give more meaning to the day than a mega-meal at home.