Do you remember the gifts you got for Christmas last year? With the exception of perishable food gifts, do you still have any of those gifts? And do you remember every gift you gave last year, and to whom? Do you remember what you got for Christmas five years ago?

These questions float to the top of my mind every time I hear someone ask, ”I wonder if people remember what Christmas/Hanukah is supposed to be all about?

Don’t we all long for a simpler season, full of fun with family and friends, minus the fast pace of today’s world?

The holiday season seems to have evolved over time into people running up massive credit card debt or other debts they really have no way of paying for in today’s economy. All this, just for gifts people really don’t need, can’t use and have no place to store!

So why not just STOP this insanity?  As my friend used to say, ”Put a WHOA on the HO-HO-HO!”

It is not necessary to decorate the whole house like a shopping center or mall.  The idea of having to put up a Christmas tree in every room in the house, complete with lights and decorations, is beyond me.  I have enough trouble just getting one tree upright and decorated!

Use what you have on hand and decorate with simplicity in mind; you will appreciate this after the season when everything has to go back into storage.

I have an ancient wire wreath form that I’ve used for the last 25 years or so, and it looks it – but when I get it covered with fresh cut cedar and pine boughs and wire on the pinecones and bittersweet, it looks wonderful, although I have yet to figure out a way to keep the kittens from attacking the bow every year and mysteriously causing the thing to disappear.  (I figure one of these years, I will find a tree in the ravine behind the house bedecked in old Christmas ribbons!)
For gift ideas, look in some of those fancy catalogs and then come up with your own ‘spin’ on the things you would like to give. If you made pickles or spiced fruit this summer, or made juice from the fruit in your area, you have the starting of a gift basket.  Make another batch of jelly from your summer juice and put it into small jars that you label. I can make a jar of wild fruit jelly for about a dollar. (Compare that to the $10-plus dollar jar in those fancy catalogs!) I can make six or seven jars of jelly or jam for under $10 instead of the $60 to $70 for the same thing in those fancy books. And, you have to pay the shipping to boot!  Save those $$$ for something really needed.
I watch for sales during the fall season on baking items such as chips, nuts, sugars, corn syrup, etc. that I will need for the food gift baskets that I make. It’s a lot easier on my budget to buy a bag of chips in October for Christmas time fudge – and a pound of pecans in November when they go on sale. My freezer is my best friend. Yes, I’ve said that before, and I probably will say it again!
Homemade cookies or breads are always a welcomed treat, especially by teachers, nurses and other care givers, and really don’t take that long to make.  I package mine in tins and baskets I find at yard sales or thrift stores. I line them with some scraps of fabric I hot-glue into place. (They look pretty good, actually!)
I watch for the sales on the disposable tins for quick breads, brownies, etc. and use them at times simply because I don’t have to try to find boxes to decorate for things like a loaf of honey/banana bread or cinnamon swirl bread.
If you are handy with crafts or decorative items used by friends and family, use those items as your gift. I have an elderly friend who crochets dishcloths for me and another who embroiders dishtowels for me.  Every time I use these gifts, I have a good memory of the giver! 

Don’t have any ideas? Check in your local library for craft books and magazines of the season that offer many unique ideas for a modest cost.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or some other holiday this time of year, remember to slow down and enjoy the season. Take the time to visit with friends and family – perhaps gather together for a pot-luck supper and an evening of fun and fellowship. Share a portion of those saved dollars with someone who has less; a gift for a homeless child, a blanket for someone who ‘lives on the streets’ by choice.
Above all: Take the time to enjoy the children. They are little for such a short time, and the window of opportunity to share and enjoy their world is limited.  They grow up very fast!
May your Christmas be joyful and shared with those you love.

Paula Vogelgesang, the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory. Email her at [email protected]Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond.