It's fun to read about Christmas in times past and learn about old-fashioned traditions. The thought of a tree lighted exclusively with real candles sounds dreamy, even if it's more than a little impractical and even downright dangerous. The nice thing is that today we can pick and choose which traditions fit into our lifestyle. We can make them a priority and gear our crafting accordingly.
One thing I'd like to bring back in our own family is the celebration of the many other days that were once associated with Christmas and are now rarely even mentioned. I'd like to add Advent (Dec. 1), St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6), St. Lucia's Day (Dec. 13), Twelfth Night (January 6), and Candlemas (February 2).
This seems so much better to me than trying to cram all of Christmas into one or two days. Christmas is not one day, but a season. Making the holidays a series of smaller celebrations and de-emphasizing the shopping and the self-indulgence helps children enjoy all the many moments of the season. It helps soothe parents' jangled nerves, because it takes much of the pressure off "the big day." Gift-giving can even be spread out, offering small handmade tokens rather than an orgy of shopping and spending.
Here's a project for Advent.
Project: Personal Advent Calendars
Age: 5 and up
Materials needed: Colored posterboard, gold foil, scissors, a sharp pencil, utility knife, drawing paper, ribbon, clip-type clothespins
Having a calendar for each child means there's no fighting over who gets to open the windows on these lovely calendars. Make an extra one for yourself.
Sandwich two pieces of colored posterboard with a piece of gold foilbetween.
Lay them on a flat surface and cut through all three to make an outershape. A Christmas tree works well.
On the top piece, have children draw a Christmas scene or decorate. Draw 24 small square windows on the top sheet with a sharp pencil, pressing hard enough to make an impression on the gold foil. Number the windows and keep them all the same size, except for number 24, which should be larger and in the center.
Draw pictures you want to show through the windows, ending with a picture of the Christ child in a crib. Cut them out and glue them to the foil-covered bottom sheet.
Place the top sheet on a cutting board and cut three sides to each window with a razor or utility knife (the adult does this), leaving the left side as a hinge.
Loop the ribbon through the top to stick out and glue cardboard together around the edges. Hold layers together with clothespins or clips until glue dries. Hang and open one door a day.
Here are a few other old crafting traditions that are back in style:
Cigar boxes are back, and not just the cardboard kind, either. There are neat wooden boxes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Check with your local tobacconist and see if he'll save the empty boxes for you. Cover them with fabric or decorative paper and decorate. Give as a jewelry or treasure box or an extra-special gift box.
Another great recycled gift is giving a yard-sale frame new life. Repaint or refinish it and have a glass company cut a mirror to size. Ask them to drill two holes through the mirror and use screws and a rubber washer to hold it or use clips to hold the mirror in the frame.
Of course, we could go on forever, but these projects should get you started. What's nice is that they don't have to just be for Christmas. Make these gifts year-round with your children and you'll always have something on hand to give away.