Little Things Matter

Our holiday season is in full swing now. On Friday evening we went to town to see Living Windows. Each of the shops in the downtown area has a Christmas scene depicted in its window using people. You’re actually watching these people perform various Christmas task. Of course, there are the obvious depictions, such as decorating the tree and baking cookies. One store had something a bit unusual in that there were three children ice fishing. They were fishing from one of those large indoor fountain displays, which was decorated to look icy. Each child had his/her fishing pole with fish duly attached to the end of the line. Many of the scenes were of old fashioned Christmas seasons. A scene showing people stringing popcorn to decorate the tree brought back some pleasant childhood memories for me. It was complete with paper chains of the sort I remember making in school to decorate our tree.

The scenes in the window weren’t the only attraction. There were Christmas carolers in several locations. Rebecca and I just had to stop and listen for a bit. Some street vendors were selling items like hot chocolate and apple cider. There were many treats to eat as well. One of the shop owners was creating a long pine bough, complete with ribbons, to string across the street. There were two horse drawn wagons you could get on to take a ride. On at least one corner was a burn barrel you could use to warm yourself. Overall, it was an interesting feel of Christmas past, but also different and quite entertaining. Except for gas, we spent precisely nothing for two hours of fun.

Saturday morning found me in the kitchen with Rebecca. I had donned my cookie apron and we spent the day making sugar cookies. Of course, they all had to be decorated and no one stocks the wide array of sanding sugars, candies, jimmies, and other odd assorted decorations that Rebecca does. I made a number of reindeer, Christmas trees, wreaths, angels, bells, and gingerbread people (amongst other items). Some of the more unusual cookies included frogs and motorcycles (yes, we actually found a motorcycle-shaped cookie cutter). By Saturday afternoon the cookies were baked and packed away as gifts for various friends. I’m not sure who will receive the cookies, but I do plan to be a little bad and nibble a few. I imagine we made Christmas cookies for around twenty people for less than $20.00, but really didn’t bother to keep track—we were having far too much fun to do that.

Saturday evening was the children’s program at out church. It’s something we look forward to seeing every year. The children did especially well this year. The church was packed to standing room only status and they finally set up closed circuit television in the dining room below the main church. We’ve been told that there were well over 800 people in attendance. Even with the tightly packed crowd, everything was orderly. We could clearly hear the cherub tones coming from the front of the church, even if we couldn’t always see the cherubs themselves.

These traditions may seem like little things, but they really do matter. They help us keep focused on the meaning of Christmas. More importantly, they help keep us sane in an increasingly hostile world. We read the news, just like everyone else, but these little traditions that cost little, but mean so much, really do help keep things in perspective. I hope that you have your traditions too. Let me know about some of the things you do to keep your sanity during the holiday season at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Fun is Where You Find It (Part 6)

Part of being self-sufficient is finding ways to enjoy the holidays without spending a lot of money doing it. All of the Fun is Where You Find It posts have one thing in common—they all discuss methods of having a lot of fun during the holidays (even personal holidays) without incurring a lot of debt. The Christmas holidays are often associated with spending boatloads of cash in an effort to get enough glitter to make the day special. Christmas is special all by itself and truly doesn’t require any help from the bank.

Of course, there is the act of decorating both tree and house. Some people have turned what should be a joyful occasion into a chore of extreme drudgery. In fact, I sometimes hear people ask why they should even bother, which misses the point of decorating entirely. Turning the event into a family affair where everyone has a bit of fun with the decorating is the way to have fun without spending much at all. Afterward, you can bask in the glow of a home made cheery and special for the holiday. OK, you do need to buy the tree, unless you like the artificial variety that you can stow away each year, but that should be the extent of your spending for the most part. We do buy a new ornament each year.

One of the ways to have fun is to tell the story behind ornaments as you put them on the tree. We do that each year. Some of our ornaments come from when we were first married and we’ll talk about them in light of our youth and dreams. We have ornaments we bought with pet names on them and putting the ornament on the tree brings the pet to mind. We’ll talk about the pet’s odd behavior or the time he/she turned the tree over. The point is that putting the ornaments on becomes a time of remembrance—a time of telling stories about Christmas past.

Decorating comes with special music (as most of our special events do). For us, listening to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas is an absolute must. Peter, Paul, and Mary’s Holiday Celebration is another favorite. In fact, we have a nice stack of special Christmas music, including a few oddities, such a Jingle Cats, that some would consider more annoying than joyful. The point is that listening to music as you decorate and tell stories is low cost atmosphere that helps keep things jolly.

A celebration isn’t complete without special food and we have ours. After I get the tree set up, put on the lights, and add a few ornaments, it’s off to the kitchen to make oyster stew. I only make this particular kind of oyster stew for our one day of decorating of each year, which means we really look forward to it. The fact that the food is unique to that particular day makes it quite special. I have to admit that I do spend a little more than usual to make my oyster stew, but I checked this year and the items were well under $15.00—far less than we’d spend at the restaurant.

Our all day event costs well under $70.00 and we feel the effects of it during the entire Christmas season. Yes, this is the most expensive Fun is Where You Find It post to date, but even so, given that we keep the tree up until January 6th (Epiphany, the traditional end of the Christmas holiday), the cost per day is quite low (about $1.90 per day this year) and we have a lot of fun doing it. Christmas is a time of sharing, of love, and of renewal. Put the joy back in your Christmas by taking the money back out.

What are ways that you can think of to turn the Christmas holiday chores into fun events? Do you have special keepsake traditions that you share with your family? Let me know your thoughts at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.