It appears America’s creative juices are once again on the rise. We are getting excited about “making stuff by hand” or crafting or knitting or just fooling around with the glue stick and glitter. Sure, it may be the economic depression forcing us out of expensive, brain-dead consumer habits, but why not look on the bright side? Can’t the collapse of capitalism be a little fun? (Argh. I know. Layoffs. No healthcare. The poor pay while the rich play. I know.)
Here are a few ideas I’m playing with for Christmas this year. Personally, I think Jesus likes it when the moms and dads and three wierd uncles and stinky strangers and pets and field mice and whoever the cat just dragged in gather around at Christmas, drink something sweet and hot, and just play. I think it makes the baby Jesus smile. I’m just sayin’… So, here are a few ideas. What are yours?
1. Draw Names for Gifts. Have you got a regular pool of folks who all exchange gifts together (most common unit might be a family) or a group who is all going to be together for gift-giving on Christmas day? Instead of everybody buying a little something for everyone, instead draw names! We are doing this in my family this year. Make sure you have an even number of people in the name basket (and if you don’t, why not add in a gift to a local charity as the evener-upper). One person can “draw” the names and let everyone else know who they are to give to. This tactic: 1) lowers stress, 2) reduces shopping, 3) helps the planet, 4) saves money, etc.
2. Only homemade/handmade gifts and/or only gifts that cost $10 or less. Bake cookies. Make your own instant hot chocolate mix. Make candles. Give coupons for a backrub, a picnic in the spring, a story read aloud. Give a donation to a special cause in your giftee’s name. Write a poem. Make a fun YouTube video.
3. Make your own wrapping paper. Try the old “potato stamp” method for decorating newspaper wrapping. Carve potatoes into shapes and dip them in cheap paint and stamp them all over the newspaper and let it dry. Or collect beautiful autumn leaves and iron them between wax paper. Use this as wrapping paper with some brightly colored ribbon. Or iron brighly colored plastic shopping bags/bread bags/newspaper bags together for a very strong, wrappable, multi-colored plasti-fabric.
4. Make your own Christmas cards. Choose your favorite line of scripture or poetry or fiction about Christmas. Buy some blank postcards and a gold-ink pen at the paper/office supply store. Decorate the fronts of the postcards with your quote. Try making all the words a different size. Or try scrambling the words into a funky Christmas word cloud. Write your personal note on the other side.
5. Play games. Do a “Mad Libs” version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” or familiar Christmas carols. Invent a Christmas charades game. Play a card game of “Feed the Reindeer” instead of “Go Fish.” Read aloud the opening chapter of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo.), or read The Holly Tree by Charles Dickens, At Christmas Time by Chekov, “Christmas in the Heart” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Shepherd Song at Christmas” by Langston Hughes, “Brer Rabbit’s Christmas Gift,” “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem,” by Maya Angelou, Junot Diaz’s The Three Kings Lose Their Way, Michael Nava’s Charity, Gary Soto’s Oranges and the Christmas Dog, or Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos.
At a recent baby shower, one woman told me that her extended clan that gets together for Thanksgiving and Christmas decided to read a book together before they all congregated. It gives the inlaws who only see each other once a year something to talk about. Cool idea!.