Our monthly budget was stretched enough between our family of four, let alone during the holidays. I sat at the kitchen table one evening and made out the list of people I wanted to buy presents for Christmas. I realized we simply didn’t have enough money to buy presents for those we loved.
I’m a firm believer in living within one’s means and I didn’t want to go further into debt by buying gifts we couldn’t afford. After a moment of thought, I decided to make most of our gifts by hand.
I had never been crafty before, so I scoured the internet for ideas for simple but beautiful gifts. I learned how to make candles and bind books. I sewed and embroidered pillows. I learned how to crochet and make duct tape wallets. I baked loaves and loaves of chocolate-chip banana bread (because everything’s better with chocolate chips). After hours and hours of planning and creating, I made a each gift for each person on my list.
Learning all these skills felt empowering, like I was tapping into the wisdom of generations past who lived in the time before every possible want was available at our fingertips. They had the intelligence, ingenuity and real-world skills to make what they needed themselves. Rather than contributing to the immediate gratification of a consumerist mentality where more is always better, I felt like I was a part of a slower, but more intentional and meaningful way of living.
Although making the gifts took more effort, I began to look forward to sitting at my sewing machine or clear a space at the table to continue my projects. I loved making a customized gift for each person on my list. Most of my family lives across the country, but spending those hours creating something just for them made me feel somehow closer to my parents and siblings, even though I wouldn’t actually get to see them in person during the season.
Making everything by hand was a completely joy-filled experience for me. The gifts seemed so much more meaningful than the gifts of Christmases past that I had bought after perusing store shelves. It can be so easy to put our focus on our long to-do lists this time of year and gift-giving can become just one more stressor in our lives.
Borne from necessity, my homemade holiday adventure turned out to be just what I needed. I try not to forget the lessons and the joy that came to me when our resources were thin. Rather than a season of hustle and bustle, Christmas is now a time to nourish my spirit with leisure while still giving to others from the heart.