Depression-era wisdom on the value of giving homemade christmas crafts for gifts
My grandmother first taught us kids the value of giving Christmas crafts for gifts. My grandmother recognized that the holiday season was one of the best times to teach children that it is better to give than to receive. This important early lesson is something that has stayed with me through the years.
My grandmother grew up during the great depression with her five brothers and sisters. During the depression years, my grandmother watched her parents grow their own food in the garden, cook meals, can foods, and sew all the clothing, among other things. As a result, my grandmother always had a strong sense of self reliance. She knew the value of a dollar, she had an amazing sense of creativity and ingenuity, and she assumed that most things worth giving should be made by hand.
Every year my family would receive handmade Christmas crafts for gifts from my grandmother. Some of these items included knitted gloves, beautiful wool sweaters, handmade stained glass ornaments, needlepoint pillows, and framed artwork. These Christmas crafts, handmade by my grandmother, have become some of our most treasured family heirlooms.
When my grandmother came to visit for the holidays, she kept us children busy with the task of making Christmas crafts for gifts. Christmas cookies were always the first order of business. My grandmother patiently taught us kids to make sugar cookies, ginger bread, rum balls, marzipan bars, and peanut butter blossoms. We would then arrange a plate of cookies as a holiday gift for each neighborhood family. This holiday cookie exchange became a neighborhood tradition that has continued through the years.
Once the Christmas cookies were baked, my grandmother encouraged us children to go out in the forest to collect evergreens, plants and other decorations for advent wreaths and tabletop centerpieces. My grandmother taught us how to use wire to wrap the branches of hemlock, white pine, princess pine, holly and spruce into decorative advent wreathes and tabletop arrangements.
Christmas Garlands and ornaments were other favorite crafts. Using a needle and thread, my grandmother taught us to string cranberries and popcorn into garlands that we used to decorate the Christmas tree. Paper chain garlands were made by looping alternating strips of red and green construction paper together and fasting them with a piece of scotch tape. Pine cone Christmas ornaments were another simple craft that entailed painting pinecones lightly with Elmer?s glue, then sprinkling them with gold glitter. Often, we used these decorative Christmas crafts for gifts for our neighbors, school teachers, and friends.
Last but certainly not least, tin can lanterns were a wonderful holiday craft that my grandmother taught us to make. For weeks prior to her arrival, we would save empty tin cans, soaking them in warm soapy water to remove the labels. Using a hammer and small nails, we would punch decorative designs into the tin cans. My grandmother would place tea lights or small candles inside of these homemade lanterns, which we would display on our windowsills and fireplace mantles. On a cold winter night, the flickering illumination from the tin can lanterns was magical.
Every holiday season, I treasure my grandmother?s hand me down wisdom that came from a depression-era when people truly celebrated the delight of receiving Christmas crafts for gifts. Although my grandmother is no longer with us, her spirit and creativity live on in new generations, and my family continues to share her crafts, recipes and meaningful holiday ideas.