You have to admit that during these economic down times the holidays are lacking their normal cheer for us adults. We know and understand the financial difficulties that “Santa” is facing this season. Having to cut back on everything has left Santa’s Elves scurrying to pull a Christmas miracle out of their hat.
There are several ways to spread holiday cheer on a tight budget. Putting Santa’s helpers; aka: your cute little kiddos, to work is one way to do this. Not to mention, there is no better time to bond with your children than through hands on creative learning and doing.
Decorations of any sort can start to add up at the cash register. This season, try some of your great grandmother’s techniques for Christmas decorating. My Nanna used to describe her childhood home as a place of warmth and love, especially at Christmas.
O Christmas Tree
Her father would head out into the woods the day after Thanksgiving in hunt for a special tree. He would take all the children along to help with the search. She remembered the excitement in checking every fir tree they stumbled upon. She would always say, “What makes the perfect tree isn’t its size or shape, it’s the feeling you get when you first lay your eyes on it. You just know its right for you.”
If you live in an area where you have the ability to cut your own tree, this would be the perfect activity for you and your children. The tree is free and it truly is a wonderful start to the season. It could become an annual tradition in your home as well.
Deck the Halls..with popcorn?
Christmas wasn’t as commercialized as it is today. Most of the ornaments used to decorate for holidays were handmade from scrapes or hand-me-downs from mothers to daughters.
Popcorn garland was my great grandmother’s favorite decoration at Christmas. While the children were out with their father cutting down the tree, great-great grandmother was back at the house popping up pot after pot of popcorn to use as decoration. Some she added a hint of coloring to the oil in the pot so when the kernels popped they turned colors. When everyone made it back home, the children would string up rows of popcorn into garland with needles and thread. Nanna recalled having popcorn garland circling the tree, and hanging in loops from windows and hallways.
This is a tradition that kids of all ages still enjoy doing today. For less than a $1 for a bag of popcorn kernels and a little thread, you and your little ones (I suggest waiting until they are able to hold a needle without poking themselves) can spread popcorn festiveness throughout your home. I like to string up popcorn garland in the bushes outside my home for the birds as well. The kids can watch the birds eat the popcorn through the front window.
Nature is the perfect Ornament
When the leave would begin to change, Nanna and her brothers and sisters would head out to the yard and woods looking for acorns, pinecones, and blooming mums or other colorful wild flowers. They would press flower blossoms with books and let them dry till Christmas time.
When it was time to decorate the tree, all the kids took turns tying little scrapes of ribbon, colorful cloth, and/or string to the acorns, pinecones, and stems of the dried flowers. This is what they decorated their tree with.
This is such an easy and fun activity for you and your children to do together. Go on a “treasure hunt” for natural things that you can decorate your tree with. My children start collecting during the summer time. They dry all sorts of summer flowers to use. And thanks to the invention of the hot glue gun, we attached inexpensive hooks to nuts, pinecones, and other natural objects we hang up.
The Perfect Gift
Our children’s Christmas lists can be a frightening thing. The cheapest item is on average $50. If you are like me, you can’t afford that this year. What we have done this year is bring Christmas back to the basics.
My family actually started downsizing Christmas a few years ago when the economy first started going downhill. We reiterated why we celebrate Christmas and how all of the traditions of the holiday began. We now make gifts for each other instead of buying them. Santa has also downsized as well. Each of our children can expect at least two Santa gifts each year.
My husband and I caught ourselves going into debt each year buying toys and games that they would break or quickly lose interest in, all because we wanted our children to have better Christmas’ than we had growing up. Instead, our efforts have resulted in unthankful children.
Now, we make each other gifts. Our youngest loves to draw, so he draws each of us a special picture. Our daughter learned how to knit and makes everyone a new scarf for Christmas. I give everyone “get out of a chore” coupons, which by the way get used every year!
This helps us save money and makes Christmas more about family and friends rather than the hustle and bustle of trying to buy the department store out. It also makes those Santa gifts more rewarding for the kids.
So, if you are needed to do Christmas on tight budget this year, try a Christmas like my Nanna grew up with. You will see how rewarding it is for you and your kids.