12.15.2014

The Conundrum of Christmas and Making Time to Craft


 
Dear friends,

Is it just me or does it seem like each year the messaging around Christmas gets a little more... out-of-hand? This year I noticed Christmas displays the moment after Halloween decorations came down. Didn't we used to have an unwritten rule in the states that Thanksgiving came before Christmas?

I'm not sure if it's a result of my recent Make Thrift Mend fast, delving deeper into the many complicated issues around factory made goods, or if it's because I'm a new mom with a three-year-old and I'm hyper aware of the messages I send to him around any holiday. But this year feels particularly aggressive on the marketing front. Some stores are even emailing me every day with a new offer. Good grief! Time to get off their mailing lists.


Forgive me for being presumptuous but I think most of us feel a little too much pressure around the gift-giving side of Christmas and a little too much scarcity around the merriment. Am I right? Where's the time for decorating, baking, crafting, and (gasp) taking a walk in the snow or rain maybe even singing some Christmas carols a little off key when we are keeping up with all that shopping?

I'm calling it the conundrum of Christmas. I think it's at odds with a slow and intentional DIY life but I also think there are SO many opportunities to do it differently. (Don't give up, we can do it!) I've been making a list with my three-year-old about what Christmas means. Yes, it means gifts. But what else?

I keep nudging him to identify the other changes in our home, neighborhood, and weekly routines: The tree, decorations, baking, special foods, songs, handmade stockings, and holiday stories. Also the meals we've planned with friends. The gifts we're making for relatives. And the plate of cookies that showed up yesterday from my dear neighbor in her Sunday sweatpants. Our short list grows until I have convinced him, and myself, that Christmas is more than receiving gifts.


Growing up my family was crazy for Christmas. My father loved the spectacle of it all. But, of course, some of the things I remember most from my own childhood holidays aren't just the presents but specific shifts from the everyday routines like my father made breakfast Christmas morning instead of my mom, we cut the tree down ourselves and dragged it across the front yard, and it was the one time each year my mother would play records and we could listen to her beautiful singing voice while she baked all those delicious cookies.


I've come to the realization that Christmas doesn't have to be an assault on my personal values. It doesn't have to be completely at odds with the way I spend my money or my time the other eleven months of the year. Instead, it's an opportunity to dig deeper. It's an opportunity to challenge myself to stay aligned with my values and make the time to select gifts or make gifts that feel aligned with my ideals.

This year I am making 50% of the gifts. No, I didn't suddenly come into unlimited hours of daycare or a complete lack of freelance deadlines. Not at all. I just made the commitment to making 50% of the gifts because that feels important this year. Then I streamlined the process as much as humanly possible to make the creating and packaging more manageable. I'm making soaps for the first time and so far, so good. Lavender, oatmeal, and black tea are my secret ingredients this year. We're also making some specialty foods and a few other crafty creations that I can't give away quite yet.


I'm reminding myself I can choose handmade. I can choose to buy less. I can choose to buy from our local, independent shops instead of the mega chains. I can close my computer and walk away from the advertisements and make special foods or hot chocolate instead. Put on some holiday music and make something crafty with my hands. Even if it's one Christmas ornament or one handmade gift--it's a shift on the horizon that makes a huge difference over time. And it allows us another recreational activity aside from shopping even though my email inbox might tell me differently.

So I wish you the most beautiful and slow and intentional and lovely winter holidays that are imaginable. I wish you hot toddies, peanut butter balls, handmade ornaments, a houseful of holiday tunes sung proudly off key, and ample gatherings with family and friends. A walk in the woods or a jaunt in the rain. I'll be taking a break from this blog to indulge in some crafting, baking, and merriment making with my own little family over the next two weeks. I'll see you back here on Monday, January 5 with some fun news.

Happy New Year, you radiant souls! May your holidays be merry and bright.

xoxo,
k

PS--Do you have favorite holiday traditions you'd be willing to share? Any crafty creations or favorite recipes you can't go without each December? I'd love to know your secrets to a handmade holiday. Please leave any thoughts or ideas in the comment section. Thank you for sharing!

11 comments:

  1. Katrina,

    Thank you for this post, I loved it. I've pretty much stopped reading blogs the last month or so because I'm a little saddened with all the over-done Christmas things. I knew I could count on yours to be real! :-) Thanks for that and happy Holidays to you and your little family. - Dori -

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    1. Dori, it's a little bit crazy, right? The Christmas Crazy. I'm happy to know you are finding ways to unplug and enjoy yourself. Happy Holidays to you and your family! xo

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  2. What a beautiful reminder (and delicious photos, even if it is soap!). I usually make most of my gifts, but this year I'm taking time for myself to enjoy the season & gifting small, thoughtful things from my favorite makers instead, along with trinkets picked up on our recent travels. I love making gifts, but I can stress myself out knitting/weaving/cooking away the holidays, so it goes both ways, ha! I want to be more present with my family and friends instead of slaving away in my studio, so this year I'm sticking to some salted caramels, this recipe: http://food52.com/recipes/7115-salted-pumpkin-caramels

    Hope your holiday is merry & bright, Katrina. xo

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    1. Salted caramels sound delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Yes, we can also fall into the perfectionist trap of the perfect handmade gift. Good point. But buying thoughtful gifts from independent makers is also a great solution and hardly the mainstream consumer approach that seems to be eating away at my email inbox. Thanks so much for sharing that wonderful recipe. Happy Holdiays!

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  3. I have placed a rule on myself that the kids get one handmade gift each year from me. THey have had dolls, toys and some hats made for them in the past and this years I'm decorating t-shirts with some of their favorite characters on them. And I always make trays of cookies to bring to work and family gatherings. (a tie-in to my childhood when my parents did the same...I'm even using one of their recipes)

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    1. Hooray! I love this. One handmade gift per child is a great ritual. And cookies are most always welcome as gifts. Happy Holidays to you and you and your family, Melanie!

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  4. I've been focusing more on handmade too! It's just so much better. Can I ask you to share your soap recipes? It's been on my "try" list for a while now?

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    1. Hi Kiera. I didn't really follow any exact recipes but after a few blog searches I ordered "melt & pour" soaps from Organic Creations and then made three batches: Organic oil glycerin with dried lavender and lavender oil; Shea butter with ground oatmeal and almond oil; Goat milk with loose leaf black tea and vanilla. I like the shea butter with oatmeal best. I used various cookie, tart, and soap molds and if they were tricky to get out I put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes and was able to knock them out of the molds by flipping the molds over and hitting them with a spoon. This part made my three-year-old cheer! I'm a beginner. Next time, I'd do more research about soap curing as some came out better than others. Enjoy!

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  5. I loved reading your post. I can relate to your feelings around the Christmas push. I love thinking back to my youth and the Christmas eve parties we went to with my parents every year after a candlelight service. While I do think it is important to make a big deal out of Christmas, I would like to approach it in a mindful and DIY way like you have. I like your list idea and will try it out with my kids, too. It fits into the form of parental "marketing" I can relate to. Thanks again for sharing!!

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    1. Love your thoughts. Yes, we can make the spectacle of Christmas align with our DIY spirits. And I love this idea of marketing to my little one. A fun twist to the ideas around marketing. Thank you for sharing. Happy Holidays.

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  6. I'm so late to this, but your feelings here totally struck a chord with me.... As the keeper of the magic in our household, I totally feel outside pressure to make every Christmas the best EVER. I have to intentionally avoid places that make me feel stressed out (as in, don't go to the mall in December). The best tradition I've started since my son was born is to wrap up a stack of books, and have my little guy open a few to read every day leading up to Christmas. We have a collection of Christmas/snow/winter books that I add to every year, but many come from the library, too. Also, new winter jammies on December 1st. That way you can get lots of use out of them all month long :) I hope your Christmas season (already ramping up, thanks Target) is peaceful and joyful this year!

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Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.