Christmas is my favorite time of year.  I truly love getting things ready for the holidays. Decorating the house with natural findings from the fields and pastures, and making most of my gifts.

Living in the country (we are cattle ranchers) where you have just ‘one paycheck a year’ and bills must be paid first, Christmas has always been ‘homemade’.  We never had enough money left over to just ‘go to town’ and buy whatever took our fancy at a mall or store.  The budget has dictated what little we could spend even for the makings for the gifts.

For months ahead of time, we toss ideas around about what gifts would fit which people. I’ve collected baskets and boxes at garage sales and flea markets. These will be painted, papered or lined with scrap fabrics and then filled with all sorts of goodies I’ve been stashing away for some time now.

My dehydrator has been my friend for years as I’ve dried tomatoes, onions, peppers and herbs to go in a soup mix that is just bagged in sandwich sized plastic bags and given (with instructions) in a fabric lined basket.  I’ll also add some of that homemade jelly and jam that was made during the summer.  The jars are brought up from the basement shelves, given a final polish, a fabric or ribbon tie and a handmade label.

Some of the gifts I give come from the woodshop across the yard.  It has a wood stove in it and a cozy fire keeps me warm as I work on some hand-made wooden shelves or little wooden cutouts that I paint and add to the gift baskets and boxes (just don’t look too closely!).

We got the idea for these gift baskets/boxes years ago when I was given some of those fancy gift catalogs that came in my mother’s mail!   When you look at the prices – the handmade/homemade things are always the most expensive, but also the easiest for us to make.  A jar of jelly for $15 – a box of chocolates for $45! Yes, they are expensive, because they take TIME to make.  We choose to make our gifts because we’ve always had more time than money, especially given our way of life.
We also tried to instill in our children that gift giving is only a PART of the holiday season, but not all of it by any means.  It’s an act of sharing as you give gifts to those you care about. If you take the time to make something they will enjoy or SHOP WISELY if you have no time, instead of that last minute ‘panic dash’ to the nearest mall to grab ‘anything’…

We spent time with our children, cutting cedar and pine branches to decorate the railing around the porch, hanging lights on the old tree in the front yard.  Making and decorating cookies and candies to fill some of those 25-cent tins we found at yard sales to deliver to family and friends and spend some time with them. Please, please do not forget the elderly in our nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Many of them never or rarely see family due to distance and time. They are our history and helped to make this nation a wonderful place to live.

Setting up our home-made Nativity scene, Christmas music on the radio, attending Church services of choice, being with family and friends, to me at least is the true spirit of Christmas.

May the peace of Christmas be with you and your families this season.
–Paula