41: Michelle’s Christmas Memories

My friend Michelle sent me a note with her favorite Christmas memory filled with traditions:

“Absolutely, hands down….
Family dinner, followed by the opening of one gift, then Midnight service at church, ending with ‘Silent Night’ by candlelight and coming home and making ‘reindeer food’ with my nieces and nephews. ¬†They’re grown now and we all are in different places, but it warms my heart to think about it!”

What a great evening! There are several elements to this evening that make it special: food, gifts, worship, tradition, and fellowship. Any great memorable tradition combines many of these elements. When all five senses are engaged, the experience is etched in your memory very strongly.

Beautiful photo courtesy of Miriam.

46: Gifts for Grownups

If you are going to give gifts for grownups, give something consumable. Gifts to charities, gourmet foods, event tickets, are all great gifts for grownups.

As an extended family, we’ve decided to forego gifts for the grownups this year.

  • We have just about everything we want already, unless you count big ticket items.
  • We have a clutter problem.
  • Money is tight this year.
  • We want to focus on more than gifts.

Those are the main reasons. It’s not that we don’t enjoy giving other people gifts! Gift giving should be joyful, not stressful. If all we can think about is how we can’t afford it, whether or not the recipient will use/appreciate it, or out of time for shopping/baking/working/decorating/our family, the joy is gone.

Gift the gift of freedom to the people who struggle with gift giving! Merry Christmas!

Photo courtesy of Tammy Green (a fabulous food photographer!)

50: Day Fifty Checkup

Today, let’s take some time to check our progress. How are you doing with the first 50 days of preparation for Christmas? Do you know where you’re spending Christmas this year, or are you playing host/ess? Menu? Guests?

Have you scheduled a family portrait sitting and selected/ordered Christmas cards?

Are you handmaking gifts this year? Knitting projects? Soap? Exploding cards?

Have you tried at least one new cookie recipe? Please say that you have! Everyone loves cookies!

Make your lists and check them twice! Put them all in one place: a notebook/planner or PDA/smartphone. Stay on top of it this year and don’t be caught by surprise a month from now.

Photo courtesy of Adam Smith

56: Personalized Gifts for Kids

Every kid loves to see their name on various items: books, mugs, placemats, signs, or just about anything else! What could be better than a Christmas Story featuring your child? Our daughter received one of these as a gift a few years ago, and it is still one of her favorite books! Personalized gifts are fun!

Personalized items at Walter Drake

Personalized Christmas Story about your child for just 1 cent!

Oriental Trading Company, Inc.

Great photo courtesy of Megan Soh.

60: The “Buy Nothing” Christmas

This is a novel but necessary concept for many people in this economic climate. Forced by circumstance (lay-off, bankruptcy, foreclosure, health problems, other catastrophes,) many Americans will be having a “Buy Nothing” Christmas, or at least a “Buy a WHOLE LOT LESS” Christmas this year.

Even if you aren’t under tremendous economic pressure, there are many ways to save or spend very little this holiday season.

  1. Holiday meals – In your meal planning, go a little lighter on the calorie load. If you want to splurge on Christmas, but stay within your normal budget, plan extremely frugal meals around the holidays. Breakfasts and lunches can be your real money-savers. Learn to make real oatmeal! Flavor with milk and jam or honey. For lunch, pasta dishes are some of the most low-cost meals you can make. Burritos or wraps are great lunch alternatives, too. A great dinner is homemade soup and homemade bread!
  2. Cards – Make your own. It’s just silly to spend $3-5 on a card at Hallmark!
  3. Wrapping paper – Use brown craft paper or plain white paper to wrap gifts. Use twine or raffia to tie up the package. If you are a stamper, let your imagination run wild! Make a matching card! Kids love to decorate gifts with markers and stickers, too.
  4. Have a potluck dinner with friends. Spend what you would’ve on dinner anyway.
  5. Adopt a “no gifts” policy for the adults and focus on the kids.

You can still have a wonderful Christmas without blowing your budget! Start planning now!

Photo courtesy of Joshua Davis. Thanks!

93: The Perfect Teacher’s Gift

This tip comes straight from my life. I am, by education and training, a professional musician. Now, while I love music more than many other things, it is something I’m extremely good at and have spent untold time and money getting to that point. Knitting is another story. I love knitting. Am I a professional? Egads, no! Do I love to get knitting books, totes, giftcards for JoAnn’s and local yarn shops, needles, magazines, etc… You bet! I love all things knitting! Do I want a pair of socks with treble clefs and eighth notes on them? No, but if you found a pair with balls of yarn on them, I’d probably wear them with my Birkenstock clogs this winter.

Why is this? If you are a computer programmer, do you want socks with laptops on them, or would you rather show everyone in the office that you are secretly a rocker at heart with your Gibson guitar socks? Moms, would you rather walk around with baby bottles or microphones?

Kids, this is a GREAT tip for giving gifts to your teachers this year!!! Get a little more creative than a notepad with an apple or a chalkboard on it. What do they like? Do they have a dog or a cat? Do they like to play golf or sing karaoke? Do they knit or play basketball? Ask them about their hobbies! A hobby is something everyone enjoys talking about! Use this chance to find out about the person who is your teacher this year!

98: Where will you spend Christmas this year?

We live very close to our entire family, so our biggest complication is determining how we are going to exchange gifts. When I was a kid, we often had grandparents travel to our house for Christmas. All of the grandparents had worked out a schedule with their kids that seemed to work out. Sometimes we traveled to the grandparents’ houses, but that can be very complicated with a car full of kids, I imagine.

While being involved in professional music ministry, traveling for Christmas has never really been an option. For the first time in about 20 years, I didn’t have a gig this past Christmas Eve, so, I felt like we could host our families for Christmas dinner. Since that day (that I will talk about tomorrow,) we have seriously contemplated traveling over Christmas. It would be a lot of fun with the kids and it would give us a break from some of the commercialism. How fun would a “Camping Christmas Trip” be? I’ve had other friends go on a Christmas Cruise and I heard nothing but good things about that.

I think that having Christmas at home or grandparents’ houses is almost a necessity with little children. When the kids become teenagers, a traveling Christmas might hold more appeal.

Another attractive travel holiday option might be to rent a mountain cabin in a (hopefully) snowy locale. If you don’t have plans for Christmas, yet, you need to get cracking on your holiday plans!