When you look back at all your childhood Christmas memories, which ones stand out the most? I was thinking of this the other day, and honestly, some of my strongest and most special memories all involve creativity and things handmade. Maybe not necessarily the things themselves, but the time it took to make them, and the time spent with a loved one to make them. I’m missing my mother something fierce this Christmas season, and I would say it’s because so many of my memories are wrapped up in her. She made Christmas special for me, through the little things she did, the creativity she expressed, and the time she spent in doing so. Some things were very simple, but memorable in their simplicity. I remember one year she drew a large Santa face on a piece of construction paper. As sisters, we took turns gluing cotton balls to the picture to make his beard, as a way of counting down the days until Christmas. We made paper chains to do the same thing. Times making homemade ornaments for the tree, and times making cookies … although I know we tried her patience doing it – it was obvious by the end, as it took us forever to decorate each tray of cookies, and how she just started throwing colored sugars all over them … that is a funny memory. (Talk about creativity … how many of you can say you decorated a Christmas tree with Fisher Price people? Or dogs … he’s the tree topper.)
I enjoy crafting decorations at Christmastime. It’s not that I don’t enjoy store-bought things, but there is a certain satisfaction in looking around the house, and saying to myself that I made this, I made that. And if I had to be honest, the perfect Christmas tree for me would be one cut from a wooded area nearby, decorated with handmade garlands, handmade ornaments, strings of popcorn, and a string of those large colored Christmas bulbs they used to make … someday, when I’m living in the little log cabin of my dreams.
This year, I decided to make some garlands just for the sheer enjoyment of it. For some reason, I really enjoy making garlands. I was on a garland kick a few years ago and made quite a few of them. The fun thing about garlands is you can use most anything, even common things on hand, such as buttons, fabric, candy, etc. You are only limited by your imagination. Since my imagination is quite extensive, I could go crazy making garlands.
Sparkly things are nice at Christmas. For my first garland project this year, I was envisioning shimmery tinsel and beads. I took a trip to a crafts store and picked up some silvery pipe cleaners and frosty-colored beads. This project could work with any kind of combination. If you wanted a more country look, you could use cream-colored pipe cleaners, or just traditional green or red. You could use buttons or beads … just make sure the hole of the bead is large enough to be strung through the pipe cleaner. Oh, and be sure to open the bead box over a container, or your beads will end up bouncing all over the floor …
String on your beads and then twist the pipe cleaners together, connecting them in a paper chain-like fashion until you are satisfied with the length. I used 100 pipe cleaners and ended up with two garlands, each about ten feet long. I took them outside to pose them for pictures. I strung one around a cedar tree in honor of Mom … her family always had cedar trees as their Christmas tree when she was a child.
I also made some traditional paper chains, but with a twist. On my trip to the crafts store, I perused their scrapbooking papers. I didn’t quite find what I wanted – I was looking for some vintage Christmas papers, or even a book that had a collection of Christmas-themed papers. I did find red, green and cream dotted papers which I thought would work well – they are more like cardstock. To make the papers a bit more special, I used my paper cutter with the wavy attachment. You could also use those specialty scissors which have various edges on them to produce different cuts. Use our old friend Elmer’s to join them, and you have a beautiful paper chain for hanging on your tree, or anywhere you need a bit of color.
Garlands don’t have to be hung in traditional ways. I gathered the sparkly one and hung it from a calendar hook in the kitchen, just to see what it would look like. You could take down a framed picture somewhere in your house and hang a garland from the nail. Add a bow to cover the nail so it looks more festive.
Last year, I made pomanders to fill a wooden dough bowl I have. Here they are, from last year, looking fresh and brand new.
Just for fun, I kept two and put them in the cabinet with my china dishes. Amazingly, they still smell just as strongly of cloves, and the oranges are hard now, like they’ve been completely preserved. The strange things I do … here’s a picture of what they look like, a year later.
Make some time this Christmas to be crafty. Creativity is good for the soul, and I truly do believe the best decorations are handmade. I think this year’s efforts would have received Mom’s stamp of approval.