Today I’m sharing some of the things we do around Christmas time that are free or inexpensive and bring unending joy to our lives. The absolute best parts of Christmas don’t have to cost money to be amazing and memorable.
My Mama says: “My favorite part of Christmas growing up was the countdown to Christmas. The first day of December Mama would get out a red crayon and let me make a big “x” over the date on the calendar. I can still remember the anticipation building as the marks got closer to Christmas.
You don’t have to buy an expensive advent calendar although there are plenty of them available , an ordinary calendar works just fine.”
Mama says ”One year we had a Dirty Santa exchange for our stitch group and the requirement was that you had to bring something from your sewing room. No buying something special. It was really a lot of fun to see all the gadgets that people had bought and never really used.”
We used to do Dirty Santa in our church group a lot back in my younger, unmarried days. One year, I wrapped a big package of toilet paper and people actually fought over who got to keep that one!
There are all kinds of ways to make a gift, the options are endless. Embroidered handkerchiefs, stitch tote bags, bake cookies and bread. Want bigger gifts? My sister in law makes up baskets of bread, spiced nuts, jams, and jellies she has made throughout the year. You could even can barbecue sauce to include. Round it out with some dish towels and wooden spoons from the dollar store.
Dealing with a “money” person? Many of us have people in our lives who don’t consider “made” gifts to be gifts but make it clear to us that they expect a store bought gift instead. We’ve all been there! Here is a thought: Maybe if we quit trying to live up to their expectations we’d be happier and less stressed and they’d learn not to have those expectations when it comes to us :).
A family recipe cookbook would make an excellent gift. Print off some of your family’s favorite recipes and assemble them in a small book. It doesn’t have to be a grand production, 10 recipes stapled together with a cover page works just fine. Be sure and include notes with each recipe stating who it is from, the recipe origins, or any funny stories that might relate to the recipe. Here is a link to a post I wrote about some family cookbooks I’ve made over the years.
When we were little we made all manner of homemade ornaments. We’d color pictures and cut them out to be ornaments. We’d save pot pie tins and glue cut outs of christmas cards we’d received in the center, then surround them with cotton balls to make a snow scene ornament. We traced our hands onto construction paper and cut that out. We made paper chains and tied bows onto candy canes and did little pipe cleaner bead crafts. Anything we could think of was made into an ornament and put on our tree – and they were beautiful. Here is a link to a post on how to make these cute Mice with Candy Cane Tales, complete with printable tracing template for the mice.
When I was little, we always made special cookies for Christmas (pictured above and recipe here). This was the first thing I did with my own family. Brady was only 6 months old on his first Christmas but I rolled out that dough and had Ricky hold him up on the counter. I’d put a cookie cutter on it and use his little hand to gently press down to cut it out. He had no idea what he was doing but he laughed every time we removed the cookie cutter to reveal a new shape!
Over the years, after seeing how much my in laws enjoy decorating cookies with us, we now have a tradition of making these cookies on Christmas Eve and the whole family sits down to a table filled with cookies, icings of all colors, and sprinkles. It’s one of our traditions we look forward to the most!
The lights! The lights! I love Christmas lights. Set aside a night each week to drive around looking for them. Many communities have an entire area that is absolutely awash in lights. Ask around and then go adventuring. Be sure and listen to Christmas music while you do. Your family will never forget these evenings!
Several years back my mother in law mentioned that Christmas morning was a little dreary for them. All of the family celebrations had been had and it was just the two of them waking up with not a lot to do. We started having them come over (they live in another state) a day or so before Christmas to visit for a spell and it’s a win win! Now my kids get to have grandparents here Christmas morning to watch them open presents, we all decorate cookies together Christmas Eve, and just have a fun and relaxed house full of family to celebrate the season.
There are several towns near us who host wonderful Christmas parades, some of them are even held at night with all of the floats lit up with lights! There are so many free events to help put you in the Christmas spirit that I’ve mentioned and this is another one to add to your “not to miss” list!
One of our greatest joys is putting lights up in our yard! It is always so magical to come home to find everything all lit up, especially after an evening of driving around to see other Christmas lights and then to turn in and see one of our favorite displays :). We buy our lights after the season on sale and stick with LED’s to save on electrical costs. We don’t do as many now as we used to due to difficulty of putting them up where we live (our older, smaller house was so easy!) but back in the old days (before LED) we had so many lights that our bill was $100 more a month!
I’ve found some fantastic Christmas coloring pages online. Your kids will be so proud when you hang up their artwork I’ve posted some beautiful vintage coloring pages to my Great Big Christmas Board on Pinterest and they are free to print. Click here to visit that board and be sure you follow me if you do!
Mama used to tape the cards we received around a door frame in our home for a beautiful decoration. A lot of folks aren’t sending Christmas cards anymore (see below) but I have a doorframe complete with a Poinsettia and Pine swag up at the top just waiting for Christmas Cards to arrive!
I know this is one that has fallen to the wayside due to the expense but there is something so special about getting Christmas cards in the mail. They don’t have to be expensive. You can buy a box at a discount or even dollar store. Each year cutting this expense is tempting but so far I have managed to keep it up, but I am going with cheaper cards this year. I purchased some beautiful Dayspring ones with a glitter embellished snow scene on the front for just $5 for 18. Of course, adding the stamp adds nearly 50 cents so I hand deliver all of them that I can and mail the rest.
Many churches have special Christmas programs that are amazing! Check the ones in your area now and put the events on your calendar! Our church has the most beautiful Christmas Eve service.
If you are a Christian and celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, act like it. Go to church. Have a nativity in your home. Celebrate Advent. If these are new holidays to you as a Christian, there is no shame in that! This is our first year celebrating Advent and I am grateful for all of the inspiration and research available online as I incorporate this new (to us) tradition.
I saw a wonderful idea in doing my research for this post from a blogger who keeps Christmas simple by giving her children three gifts, to represent the three gifts the wise men brought baby Jesus.
A Christmas party doesn’t have to be expensive. Invite friends, have everyone bring a dish, and don’t even worry about the house. Clean it up a bit and then just fill it with people. No one will be able to see the mess for the crowds.
I have so many favorites and the holidays just aren’t the same without watching them again! My favorites are : Meet Me In St Louis and It’s A Wonderful Life along with White Christmas. As a family, we always have to watch The Toy That Saved Christmas (Oooh! A Buzzsaw Louie!) and all of the old claymation Christmas movies from my childhood.
- Take this up a notch by making a big bowl of popcorn and making popcorn garlands together as you watch.
You have no idea what a difference this will make in their lives. I’ve seen gifts as simple as a smile, a hug, and a Christmas card bring tears to someones eyes and help everyone understand the true meaning of Christmas.
No matter what your musical tastes find some Christmas music and set it going in your home in the evenings and your car when you’re out and about. Christmas music energizes the elf in all of us :). Hint: You haven’t lived until you’ve heard “Sleigh Ride” sung by the Andrews Sisters!
I know this has become a big fashion no no but I’ve found that the majority of people who sit around coming up with fashion no no’s should probably spend more time being thankful and decorating for Christmas ;). I love Christmas and I love wearing Christmas sweaters!!!! Bring on the sequins, embroidery, and beautiful colors. dontjust stick your toe in the water, dive in!
Click here to read the story of how my great grandmother made Christmas special for her kids without any money or wrapped gifts. There is a little free surprise at the end of the post.