Today, I’m elbows deep in my good intentions–I have taken an old-fashioned approach to Christmas by taking on a number of home-y projects:
1. Our very own family Advent Calendar, a group effort that will carry on all month as my husband and I continue to add personalized messages for each day and find the perfect tiny treats to tuck in with them.
2. Car- and flower-shaped crayons for my son Joseph’s social circle, recycled and remolded from his bevy of broken crayons. Adorable! MESSY to make!
3. Hand-made Christmas cards, another group effort with my 3-year-old, who bores very quickly of signing his name and coloring holiday themes (although he absolutely loves all things Christmas.)
4. Organizing a pared down, economically-pleasing gift-giving exchange plan with my relatives, who each have a valued (and sometimes contrary) perspective.
Phew! I always liked the “busy-ness” of the holidays, but now that I’m approaching it with a “made-by-hand” method, paired with the ultra-careful selection of gifts, weighing the monetary value of one highly-coveted toy over another more educational plaything, I’m tempted to throw my hands in the air and go buy a slew of lottery tickets.
The fact is, in our hearts, making things by hand connects us with the past. One blessing of this economy is that it has presented us with the question: how did they used to do it? (You know, before we could just go to the mall and buy.) We still have it easy. Think of the work that must have gone into baking cookies a hundred years ago, let alone the months of work that went into fashioning a Christmas toy or set of clothes that would be used and loved the whole year through. But I digress.
My son Joseph is an enormous fan of Christmas and Winter, and several of the books he owns and has borrowed from the library include night-time scenes involving examining the stars in an inky black sky, dancing under Northern lights, moons over frozen lakes with skaters, or the flight of St. Nick. The real magic comes from the child seeing the darkness of night, when he or she would otherwise be tucked in bed with visions of sugar plums. This leads to me to consider whether I can create a low-stress, cost-free and altogether magical and mysterious holiday for my preschooler (and baby) simply by allowing them pauses from routine, to break a few rules. Very soon, we will stay up late to drive around and look at holiday display lights, but why not drive out of the city and walk out into open space and consider the grandness of the night sky? Ooh, or maybe we could contemplate the universe from a blanket in the sand on the beach at night! Bedtime can wait. Thanks to some fourth-graders eager to spread holiday cheer, Joseph has also discovered the immeasurable joy which candy canes can deliver; perhaps I should not be such a Scrooge about the extra sugar. I guess what it comes down to is the best gift I can give my family this holiday is time. And a little sugar.