“Laura sat thinking. She was making a little picture frame of cross-stitch in wools on thin, silver-colored cardboard. Up the sides and across the top she had made a pattern of blue flowers and green leaves. Now she was outlining the picture-opening in blue. While she put the tiny needle through the perforations in the cardboard and drew the fine, colored wool carefully after it, she was thinking how wistfully Carrie had looked at the beautiful thing. She decided to give it to Carrie for Christmas. Someday, perhaps, she could make another for herself.”
Long ago, before I was born, Christmas was a simple season. Black Friday had not yet been conceived of, nor had shopping malls and toy catalogs and parking lots without enough spaces.
On Christmas morning, real gifts were opened because there was no such thing as a “gift card” back then, and no one would think of sticking money in a card and calling it a present because that was rude, plain and simple.
The gifts, if any, were crafted in the secret corners on dark winter nights, fashioned with no little creative thinking out of the leftover bits and pieces of everyday life: a length of ribbon, a piece of leftover wood, some fabric that was too little to be made into anything else.
The homemade presents were simple but delightful. How could it not be delightful to give something you had created especially for someone you loved? And how could it not feel like a very special honor to receive it?
“Pa and Uncle Peter had each a pair of new, warm mittens, knit in little squares of red and white. Ma and Aunt Eliza had made them.
Aunt Eliza had brought Ma a large red apple stuck full of cloves. How good it smelled! And it would not spoil, for so many cloves would keep it sound and sweet.
Ma gave Aunt Eliza a little needle-book she had made, with bits of silk for covers and soft white flannel leaves into which to stick the needles.”
How far we have come from those days! Now, children concoct wish lists that sound like ransom notes and parents rush about, stressed within an inch of their lives, trying to give their children exactly what they want so the kids won’t be disappointed. Somehow, disappointing the children on Christmas is the worst thing ever, even if the children are behaving like greedy little monsters.
We feel guilty if we don’t “spend enough” on someone, or if we buy the “wrong thing” for someone we have allowed ourselves to feel obligated to purchase for in the first place. When did we begin to feel compelled to give gifts to anyone? Gift-giving should be an act of love, not a duty.
Even so, most of us would never dream of giving a handmade gift to someone on our Christmas list, even if we resent the fact that we have to give them a gift in the first place. Somehow, we’d rather purchase another scented candle to give to someone who doesn’t need it instead of making something simple but thoughtful. Why?
We are busy, to be sure, and many of us do not think we have the time to make anything for anyone. But I think something else is going on in our culture. I think we have come so far from the days of the past that we, as a society, now associate simple handmade gifts with poverty or stinginess, not creativity and thoughtful affection.
What a shame!
In each stocking, there was a pair of bright red mittens, and there was a long, flat stick of red-and-white striped peppermint candy, all beautifully notched along each side.
They were all so happy they could hardly speak at first. They just looked with shining eyes at those lovely Christmas presents. But Laura was happiest of all. Laura had a rag doll.
I wonder what would happen if, instead of rushing to join the crowds and feed the consumerism that has choked out Christmas, we attempted to make a more meaningful holiday by creating and giving thoughtful gifts to those we love?
They don’t have to be complicated.
They don’t have to be expensive.
They don’t even have to be time-consuming.
Homemade Christmas gifts can be thoughtful, meaningful, and simple. Starting tomorrow, November 15, I will be showing you some ways to make a simply homemade Christmas. These are projects that require no special skills. Many of them can be done quickly or while watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the millionth time.
My hope is that these projects will jump start your creativity and get you thinking about ways you can bless your loved ones with one-of-a-kind gifts you created just for them. Maybe you can even skip Black Friday altogether. Wouldn’t that make Christmas even more delightful?
For tomorrow’s project, you will need brightly-colored seed beads, elastic thread, and a bit of ribbon. Now that’s simple.
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