Homemade for the holidays
Instead of buying last-minute Christmas gifts, make them and create memories at the same time.
This year, as Linda Tetzloff marks off gifts on her Christmas list, she heads for the kiln, not the store. She's making fused-glass bowls for friends and a dragon with stained-glass wings for her son.Skip to next paragraph
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Handmade gifts have been a tradition among her circle of friends for years, explains the executive assistant from Kalamazoo, Mich. The reasons aren't necessarily financial (although that's certainly a side benefit). Ms. Tetzloff says the creativity and the colored glass help see her through months of frigid temperatures and lake-effect snow.
But this year, with daily reports of layoffs and the country heading into a second year of recession, 1 out of 6 Americans decided to dust off their craft skills and see if the Grinch was right: "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store."
"I think everyone's going to wake up to this a little more," she says. "When you think back to the origins of the holidays, we're not talking extravagance or going broke to give someone a gift. We're talking about generosity and sharing with others and seeing what would please others."
But what, you may be wondering, if your handicraft skills don't extend past the glitter macaroni sculpture you made in second grade?
For youngsters, Professor Myers-Walls suggests ideas such as prop boxes filled with items found around the home or at Goodwill stores, such as a beauty-parlor kit with curlers, brush and comb, sparkly nail polish, and a broken hair dryer. Or a spy kit with an old cellphone, a trench coat, and instructions on how to make invisible messages with lemon juice.
"[Kids] may not be as excited when they first open it," she cautions. "It helps to put it in a nice box with some signs." And the best way "to get them started is to play with them."
If you can write, make up a story starring your child. If you're handy with a computer, you can make scrapbooks, calendars, or photo storybooks on sites such as Hoorray.com or Serif.com. She also suggests giving homemade gift certificates for "a game night," or "one hour of book reading" or "date night with Mom or Dad."
If you have a limited budget and daughters with a literary bent, retired children's librarian Virginia Allain suggests creating an old-fashioned "Little House" Christmas.
"Instead of making it sound like 'You're going to be deprived this Christmas and aren't going to get any toys,' " she says, "it's more of an adventure: 'We're all going to play together and have a pioneer Christmas.' "
Ms. Allain says to start by reading the Christmas chapter in "Little House on the Prairie," by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Activities in it include decorating a tree with strings of popcorn and cranberries, making gingerbread as a family, and singing carols by a fire. Christmas morning, give the type of gifts Laura and Mary got: a rag doll and a stocking filled with hard candy and an orange.
Homemade presents were always a part of Allain's childhood holidays in Kansas. She still has the Monopoly board her dad hand-painted on Masonite one Christmas, and her sister treasures the doll's clothes her mother sewed out of fabric left over from making curtains.
Allain sees the recession as an opportunity for families to think less about shopping and more about the making memories with their kids. "Do you want them to remember that you got in line at 4 a.m.?" she asks.