The perfect gift

by Annie Valentine
Contributing writer
Courtesy photo

Many Americans don’t wait around for Black Friday deals to make the most of their Christmas gift-giving budget. Whether you shop locally or order from the Internet, this is the time of year to hunt down the perfect gift and ship off the best packages to family and friends in the states.

Still, not everyone spends their time and money in the department stores. There is always that other option, the one you read about in “Little House on the Prairie” or your resident family pioneer journal. We’re talking about having a homemade Christmas. No price tags, cardboard casings, packages from the post office. Gone with the nostalgic smell of Chinese manufactured plastic that permeates a house full of Christmas morning toys. This is cold turkey, get out the hot glue gun, handmade Christmas gifts for and from the whole family.

Cindy Woodruff, who is from Mesa, Ariz., and her husband have been in Germany for three months.

“There were 12 kids in my family,” Woodruff said. “We never had money, so Christmas was always about getting together and laughing and having fun. It was more creative to put some thought into the gift.”

Woodruff said they still had a present from Santa, but the children would draw names and make something for their person from scratch.

“When I was in high school, I made hats,” she said. “We did aprons and paintings and headbands and bows.”

Christmas in our culture has evolved from simple gifts under the tree to a time for credit cards and pushing the budget seams. For some families, Christmas is more financially stressful than harmoniously enriching.

Still, having a homemade Christmas doesn’t necessarily come from Christmas budget cuts; it can come from a desire to get back to basics. That’s what the Pethel family in Wiesbaden did last year.

“It wasn’t just getting back to the basics. I felt like the real Christmas spirit had been lost,” said Christy Pethel. “The company of family, the desire to give a gift and the excitement you feel when giving it, not just receiving it, was missing.”

Helping your family create a homemade Christmas is a total schedule readjustment. It requires some serious personal time and effort. Holidays are hectic with parties and traveling and Christmas markets to traverse. Some families find nearly every day of December is booked out.

“I realized that we are too over scheduled,” Pethel said. “There was no room for a homemade Christmas, so I had to make room for it. I stopped taking on so many responsibilities and feeling like I needed to be a part of every holiday party. I didn’t feel the need to make amazing, extravagant gifts for teachers. Handwritten cards and sugar cookies were more meaningful than over-the-top Pinterest projects.”

One of the pluses of hand-made Christmas gifts is the opportunity to spend quality time with children to help them plan and orchestrate their gift-giving efforts. Like anything else hand-crafted, gifts can be last minute and thrown together, but Pethel said the real joy comes from the process.

Pethel has twin, 14-year-old, teenage daughters.

“I would hear my husband and the kids laughing and working on their Christmas projects for me,” she said. “It was such a bonding experience for our family, and it was fun for me anticipating what they could be working on.”

Every family is different, and this kind of tradition can be tailored to complement your family’s time and talents. A homemade gift can be as simple as a special art project or personalized T-shirt. With a little help from the Internet, the creative opportunities are endless.

“We tried to create gifts that had some significance,” Pethel said. “For my 4 year old son, Spencer, we used his handprints for everybody. He made his dad a simple Santa card with a little white paint and some green card stock. It meant more to my husband than any store bought gift possibly could have. It’s still hanging in his office “

If you’re looking for a way to make your Christmas extraordinary, consider swapping out Dad’s holiday socks for a homemade calendar or trading that box of chocolate for Grandma with an apron decorated by her grandchild’s hand prints.

Whatever you choose, there is nothing like a little personal gift-giving touch to bring your family together.

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