These families start traditions that will last for generations

Making Christmas Memories

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Santa's Bootprints

Several years ago, after our 3 kids were in bed, we made Santa's footprints. We cut 2 boot shapes out of lightweight cardboard and using a small sifter, sprinkled baking soda around them. The footprints led to the tree and then to the table with the milk and cookies. The kids were thrilled to find Santa's prints. Last year, our 13 year old asked if he and his sister could take over this task and do it for their little brother. They really had fun and are looking forward to doing it again this year.

Tradition Brings Family Closer

We do a holiday tradition in our family. We sit around the dining room table and have a large candle burning in the middle of the table. Everyone has a long taper candle that we save from year to year. One of our children reads the traditional Christmas story. After the story, each child lights their candle and tells what they are thankful for in the past year and what they hope for in the New Year. We all feel so very close. It is a wonderful experience for our kids. Tears are invariably shed. I feel that this will always be something that our kids will look forward to. Our children are now 7, 15 and 17. It is truly amazing to see their faith flowing during the holiday season.

Pictures Make Easy Gifts

We have a new baby this year; he'll be 4 months for Christmas. So we decided since we also just moved, to save our sanity this year & money - we got a family picture done. It cost $120. I'm sure other places could do it cheaper like a department store, but oh well. We got 4 packages of pictures & have plenty for our family members & friends. We even have some extras. Plus we got a large picture specially framed for us with matting & all.

The local drug store has been having "buy 1 get 1 free" picture frames & so that's our Christmas shopping. One night out with the baby to the mall & it's done. Now I just need to fill out cards & frame the pictures.

More frugal holiday baking and recipes

Bread Makes a Tasteful Gift

What I like to do is make bread. I only recommend it if you have a bread machine, as it is very time consuming. I like to make special loaves like a cinnamon loaf or garlic cheese bread or onion bread. You can add just about anything to basic bread dough. I like to wrap it up in a pretty dishtowel to match the person's kitchen and make a little dish of butter to compliment the bread. I take real butter and let it get soft and add a pinch or two of powder sugar and cinnamon and whip it all together. Or you can add garlic powder or onion powder and dried cilantro or anything that you have on hand that looks good. Put it in a pretty little jar with a little tag that says what kind of butter it is and you have a very nice gift for a neighbor or doctor or teacher and it didn't break the bank.

High Tech Decorations

Last Christmas was my first away from home, so needless to say I was pretty broke. My roommates and I had a Christmas tree but nothing to decorate it with. We are all computer buffs, in fact one of us is a network specialist, so we themed our tree "Christmas 2.0".

We used red and green twinkle lights, and various computer cables and phone wires as garland. For ornaments, you can get creative. Some of the things we used were: extraneous CD ROM's old no good ones, floppy disks, empty printer ink cartridges popular computer-related logos printed from the net and mounted on cardboard ("Intel Inside" "Yahoo," things like that). These can be "jazzed up" with glitter outlines or even mounted directly on the CD-ROM's. I topped it with my old mouse, adding a cluster of lights around it.

It was really inexpensive, but certainly got attention from our holiday guests.

Advent Boxes Make a Great Christmas Tradition

This has been a tradition for quite a number of years. This will be the ninth year we have been doing this. I purchased a kit from "Current" catalog, made from card stock, where you assemble a long holder for 24 little boxes that are decorated as gifts. It is called the "Penguin Palace Advent Chimney Calendar". You fill up the boxes and stack them in the holder in order for December 1 - 24. It gets more worn and beat up each year, but I think it will go through another with a few repairs. I have put various items in each little box: stickers, little toys, candy coins, and an assortment of small candies. If something would not fit in the little box, I would put in a little note and send my boys on a "treasure hunt". They really love that part. So there would be at least 3 or 4 boxes containing a note.

Creating frugal holiday traditions

On the 24th, there is always a note, leading them to what has become the "usual" spot: In the front of the base of our oak platform bed is a tiny decorative "door". We know it as the "Elf Door", and that is where the goodies will be on the 24th. There is usually candy, snacks, books, and toys hiding behind the Elf Door. The tradition of the Advent Boxes is something my sons enjoy and look forward to, even though the two oldest are now 16 and 11 years old. They have already mentioned it a few times in the past few weeks. We had a little addition to our family nearly 2 and 1/2 years ago, a third son, so now I put three items in each box. He really liked the boxes last Christmas, so I am sure he will be excited again this year. It seems like such a little thing, but to my boys it has always been lots of fun.

I never saw it in the catalog again. I have seen a similar one made of wood (Amy's Loft Countdown Chimney Advent Calendar), but I think it would be easy enough to design your own Advent Boxes out of heavy paper, or use little boxes and wrap them if you want to be fancy and make a holder the height of the 24 boxes with light cardboard or card stock. Or if you are not the arts and crafts type then what I think would be just perfect is one of those little cabinets with the plastic drawers in it that are used for nails and screws, sewing items, or fishing items. Paint the front of each drawer so you can't see inside. Number each one. Each night your child can open a drawer and find a surprise.

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Dinner Tradition Strengthen Roots

Our family has enjoyed the tradition of a special Christmas Eve dinner, celebrating our "roots". Our menu includes one or more ethnic dishes from our family tree. We always have pirogues (Polish), a fish dish (Danish), something British (thanks to my daughter-in-law's joining the family), and a Mennonite dish.

Our dessert is always the Danish Christmas Eve rice pudding, which contains a whole almond. Whoever gets the almond in his/her serving expects to have good luck for the coming year!

In the Slavic tradition, an extra place is set at the table in honor of dead family and friends and of Christ. This is a cooperative meal that also honors our origins, and we all look forward to it.

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