Christmas Gifts and Traditions

Starting Early

A hint for next year's savings -- craft stores are now selling at very reduced prices the small unfinished plaster tree ornaments that you paint and decorate. These come in different patterns and make lovely inexpensive gifts when you just want to say 'thank you' to people. You or your children can paint them throughout the year and have them ready for the holidays. Just paint the person's name on the back and add the year and you've created a Christmas memory.

Gift Alternative

Well, I don't know if this covers the topic but it has simplified holiday gift decision making for us. Also, we don't have to make room for more stuff of take care of it and it is far cheaper in the long run. My husband and I have been married 29 years and have enough to enjoy. This year, when we discussed what we wanted for Christmas, we decided we really didn't want anything. But we know of a congregation in the center of the city with a food pantry and clothing room that has been hit hard this year. Also, we learned that they also have an "Angel" tree for at risk children. So, we decided to spend what we would have spent on each other to buy groceries, collect used clothing, and purchase gifts for a few children. Next Friday we'll go to the grocery store together and then shop for the kids and bundle everything up to deliver in the city.

We are both feeling good about spending this money on those really in need and in doing this together we're building on our own relationship. Isn't this how Christmas is supposed to feel?

Great Gift Bundles

Here are some I've collected and used over the years. Many can use "homemade" substitutes as well as "Dollar Store" finds. Most can be had/made for under $10.00.

  • A bag of popcorn and two shakers of different seasonings
  • Sausage, crackers, cheese & Dijon mustard
  • Three tins of flavored instant coffee, a mug, and cookies
  • Two jars of ice cream toppings, sprinkles, nuts & an ice cream scoop
  • Two bottles of flavored vinegar, olive oil and vinaigrette dressing recipes
  • Two fancy pancake syrups, a packet or box of mix, and a new spatula
  • Two muffin mixes, paper liner cups and a new muffin tin
  • Two jars fancy preserves, a bag of English muffins, and some honey-butter
  • A new cutting board & bread knife
  • Collection of facial products: firming gel, cleanser, toner, moisturizer, new face & hand cloth
  • Makeup brushes
  • Lip pencil & lipstick, or collection of lip balms
  • Shampoo & conditioner, wrapped in a new towel
  • Bird feeder, a bag of food, suet & cage & bird book
  • Rain gauge & outdoors thermometer
  • Photo album, film, and 3x5 frame
  • Set of 4 or 8 wineglasses
  • Table runner and new cloth napkins
  • 2 fluffy bath towels, 2 face cloths and 1 hand towel, stacked & tied up with ribbon, soap on top
  • Note card assortment, stamps and a nice pen
  • Page-a-day calendars, or a theme calendar & a felt tip pen
  • Address book and nice pencil
  • Nature/relaxation tapes or CDs
  • Padded hangers
  • Fancy fruit basket (made yourself. Just copy one from a store)
  • Colored pastas, bottle of sauce, pasta ladle and hard Parmesan cheese with small grater
  • Christmas candles with golden holders
  • Ceramic, brass or wood light switch covers
  • Outlet extender & extension cord
  • Jigsaw puzzle, cocoa mix, warm socks & cookies
  • List pads & magnetic fridge frames (acrylic)
  • Fancy jellybeans, in a pretty jar
  • Bath gel, sponge, and soap and towel (wrap stuff in the towel, tie with raffia)
  • Three-bean soup mix, crackers, soup ladle and big mug
  • Tea bags, jam, in pretty tea cup, honey and lemon drops
  • Flavored ground coffees and mug
  • Sidewalk chalk, bubbles and jump rope
  • Puzzles, dominoes, playing cards and an all-day sucker
  • Scarves (wool or silk)
  • Unique vase
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Salt or pepper mills, with refills.
  • Assorted kitchen gadgets
  • Metal or ceramic garden markers.
  • Gallery picture frames.
  • A clock (suited to the receiver)
  • Subscription to a magazine wrap up one copy of the magazine to give
  • A bottle of wine, wrapped fancy, with a unique wine stopper, or cool opener.
  • Computer disks, or write-able CDs
  • A book or book on tape.
  • Candle holder, and a bunch of candles, wrapped in raffia.


Encouraging Gift Giving

Every year since my son was born I have had him make or contribute to a gift for grandparents, aunts, friends, or other people that give him a gift. These were all easy, quick, and cheap gifts that people really liked.

  • The first year I got plain off-white potholders from the dollar store ($1 for a pair). I used red & green fabric paint & painted his hands & he put handprints on the potholders. I used gold fabric paint to add his name & the date to them. I did 8 sets for about $10. The grandparents loved them!
  • The second year I got some red foam squares from the craft store. I cut each a little bigger than a post-it note pad (the 2"x3" ones). I hot-glued a magnet on the back of each square. Then, after I outlined where each pad would be glued, he used paint markers to 'decorate' the borders. We glued on some beads & sequins, then I attached the post-it pad. Voila! A useful addition to the fridge door. Since I got the off-brand post-its, these cost about $ .75 each to make.
  • This year's gift is hand-painted mugs. I got plain mugs from Goodwill or thrift stores (white or cream work best, but I also used green, black, & gray). I bought 2 kits of Perma-Coat Air Dry ceramic paint at the craft store (comes with 5 colors plus surface preparer & sealer), plus an extra bottle of sealer (Step#3 on the instructions). We also used a few sponge shapes (star, heart, teddy bear, etc.). After I prepared the mugs he painted them any way he wished, and used the sponge stamps. After sealing, they are supposedly upper-rack dishwasher safe. The mugs were $ .30 each at Goodwill. The entire cost ended up at about $1.25 each.

hese gifts have all been fun & easy for him to do, plus I believe it teaches him that we don't just get gifts all the time, but give them too.

Maybe Better the Second Time

My grandmother's friend Ruthie saved her greeting cards to use as name tags for her gifts. These were easy to read because they can be as large as the picture you choose. It also saved money on purchasing a card for every gift.

  • Cut the front of a card with a picture that matches the gift-wrap.
  • Finish the edges with pinking shears and poke a hole in the upper left corner.
  • Cut a solid blank piece of paper a little larger for the back of the card, and poke a hole in the left corner.
  • Run the ribbon through both holes to attach them, and tie a bow with thin ribbon.
  • Write in the TO and FROM on the back piece. This was very easy to read.

I saw this, and started saving Christmas cards to use as gift tags. I don't always bother with the ribbon, sometimes I just use a fine marker and write on the front. It makes sorting very easy because the large "tags" are easy to spot. Some cards can make two or three tags.

Christmas Reading

One of our family traditions is I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to my family. We all sit around the dining room table drinking hot chocolate as I read. We even kept the hot chocolate tradition when we moved from Virginia to Hawaii. I begin on December 20, and since the story is only five chapters long, it ends on Christmas Eve. I've been doing this for over 10 years and my 16-year-old daughters still look forward to this every year.

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