The Goose is Getting Fat...
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Christmas is coming... just 8 weeks away.

Consider this my gift to you: The first post of the Less is More Christmas Club!

I'm posting this now, before you all get carried away with Half-Off sales, White sales, Pre-Thanksgiving sales, Post-Thanksgiving sales, and Pearl Harbor Day sales.

If any of you know how to make a button for the LIMCC, let me know. Because I don't have a clue. Stop back for more posts on celebrating Advent, putting Christ back in Christmas, and things to do with kids who are home all day.

This is for all of you who were downsized this year, who have more than 2.5 children and less than 2 incomes, who long for simpler times, and who are already tired of hearing little voices chant "I want that!".

12 Days to a No-Cost Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas traditionally started on Christmas and ended in January, with the Epiphany (celebration of the Three Kings finally making it to the manger). This was because the four weeks preceding Christmas was Advent season, a time of penance and preparing hearts for the coming of the Christ Child. The tree would not have been decorated until Christmas Eve; all parties were post-Christmas.

Times have changed, though, so do these whenever it fits your schedule, mixing and matching to fit your life. I would recommend doing them on consecutive days, and not telling the kids ahead of time; these tips fit best when started on the 12 days preceding Christmas.

A Christmas without gifts under the tree does not have to be a Christmas of deprivation. Don't tell the kids "We're broke this year, no presents". Instead, put it in a more positive light: "This year we are going to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas". Then, grab the kids and do the following:

1. Keep the Memory Alive: Use old Christmas cards and make a scrapbook. You could do a theme, such as the alphabet: A is for Angels, B is for Bells, etc. (or POEM, here) Challenge your kids to a contest to make up a 2 or 4 line poem. You don't need fancy, expensive scrapping supplies. All you need are basic art supplies: scissors, glue, markers/crayons. Have the kids bring their school supplies home for the winter break. Bonus: You can keep it forever and it will be a treasured Christmas heirloom.

2. You Light Up My Life: Most large cities put out maps of the best displays, and they also often have a parade in December as well. If the cost of gas is keeping you out of your car, take a walk. Too cold? Watch parades on TV, or take the bus to the mall. Don't take any money, but maybe take a notebook. Rate the store displays as you walk through them - think Joan Rivers on the Red Carpet. Which store is the tackiest? Most inspirational? Most unusual?

3. Give Unto Others: Give the year-round Meals on Wheels volunteers a day off, and go with the kids to deliver the meals. Greet the recipients with a Christmas carol, wear a Santa hat, make it fun! Help out at a soup kitchen, or, if you don’t feel comfortable taking the kids to a homeless shelter, you could also help your local church package Shoebox Christmas for Billy Graham’s ministry, and someone has to put the food baskets together for the needy!

4. The Reason for the Season: Using your nativity set, have the children create a play of the Christmas story. Don’t have a nativity set? Act it out in real life, make paper cutouts glued to popsicle sticks, or print one out. Perform for family members or neighborhood friends. For an added twist, try telling a part of the story from a different angle, from the point of view of the innkeeper or a cow in the stable. Be creative.

5. And All Through The House: Make a chain of silver bells for the window: Cut out pieces of egg carton, cover with aluminum foil, and add a small ball of foil on a twist tie wire inside for the clapper. There is an abundance of recipes for homemade play clay on the internet; choose one and add cinnamon to create your own ornaments. Small children love stringing macaroni to make garlands, and at 16 oz. for less than 50 cents, it’s economical too. Pretty pictures cut from wrapping paper, greeting cards, or even newspaper advertisements make classic ornaments when mounted on cardstock or a doilie. You can also cut out Christmas themed pictures from the wishbooks that get mailed to every house and decoupage an old picture frame to make decorative, seasonal desk accessories. Do a juice can or flowerpot for a nice pen holder. Make snowflakes from coffee filters (fold into eighths, and cut small shapes out. ) Unfold and hang. More ideas here.

6. Be a Couch Potato: Most family stations air Christmas classics, like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, or “A Christmas Story”. Find out when your family's favorite one is one, and make it a special night. Invite some friends over, and have a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” party. Serve hot chocolate or apple cider (make your own from apple juice and spices) and popcorn. Plan it as an event, instead of just flipping channels, and your kids will remember it as a special time.

7. Play Together and Stay Together: Have the kids each create their own winter or Christmas themed game. One could make a crossword, one could do a wordfind, an older kid could make some cards for a “Scattergories” type game. Then, play them together as a family. For crosswords, wordfinds, or other pencil games, put the master copy in a page protector. Use washable crayons or a dry erase marker – it will wipe right off for the next person to solve. Use the cardboard from a cereal box and the Sunday ads to make a jigsaw puzzle. Play charades – chances are, your children never have before!

8. Christmas in other Cultures: Investigate what people in other countries do to celebrate Christmas, and talk about it at home. You could make it a theme night, and serve traditional food from that country. Kids can draw pictures of traditions, the country’s flag, etc. for placemats. Give each family member a name from that country, and use it for the rest of the night. For example, make tacos and call Dad “Pablo” all night. Make spaghetti and call your daughter “Francesca”. Tell your son, “Hans”, the story of Black Pete and St. Nicholas.

9. Christmas is for the Birds: Spend one evening helping out wildlife. Make pinecone bird feeders with peanut butter and unsalted sunflower seeds; string popcorn garlands and decorate the outside trees, or collect old towels from the neighbors and deliver it to an animal shelter.

10. Sing for Your Supper: Caroling is traditional, but let’s face it, it’s generally not easy to take the kids around the neighborhood at night singing on people’s porches like they used to in the old days. You can still put on a show at the local nursing home, though. Or, stay in and have a Carol Challenge. How many tunes can you sing? How many verses do you know? How fast can you learn a new song? You can find songs and lyrics online, at the library, or from a church hymnal.

11. Culture Shock: Often museums have free days during the winter break, and churches will put on plays open to the public. The local high school will usually have a winter concert featuring choir and orchestra. Many cities sponsor ‘tree art’, and encourage businesses and artists to decorate pine trees, often elaborately and according to a theme. Admission is free or cheap. Department stores will usually have a time when Santa is going to come for a visit (avoid the Mall Santa and the $10 pictures.) Other business will often do special things for kids, whether it is sponsoring coloring contests, baking contests, or just having a story time with Santa's elves.

12. Make a Gingerbread House. You can make actual gingerbread, or just use graham crackers. Mix together a thick paste of powdered sugar and milk or water for glue. Fruit flavored Tootsie rolls can be cut into all sorts of shapes and decorations when rolled flat, or use fruit rollups. If you are a baker, make your own fondant and create wreaths, trees, and more. Enter it in a contest, or just admire it as a family. All of the ingredients and supplies can be found at the dollar store, or even cheaper during holiday loss leader sales at the supermarket.

Make Christmas Eve special. Spend the day together. Make your family's traditional foods and treats, or try your hand at something new and different. Never made bread? This is a great day to try! Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect, and if the bread comes out too chewy or falls before it is done baking, that’s ok. Use it for stuffing and have a good laugh. Cookies get burned? Make another batch. If they are cookie cutter ones, spray paint them and use them for ornaments. Keep the TV off today, and make it a day of peace. Decorate your tree. Tell your kids the stories behind the ornaments you've been collecting. (Yes, "I bought this for my neighbor in 1995 but forgot to wrap it, and that's why we have a German Beer Stein Reindeer ornament" counts as a story!)

Top it off with midnight Mass – it is a beautiful, serene experience if you’ve never been. Bonus: the kids *might* sleep in a little the next day!

The real bonus comes when you can pay the January rent and open the credit card bill as soon as they arrive, instead of hiding them from your spouse.

Tags: Less is More Christmas Club, Works for Me Wednesday, Crafts and Cookery,
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/01/2006 08:45:00 AM | Permalink | |