make Christmas decorationsThere’s no way of getting around it. The holidays are not going to be the extravagant celebration that we’re all used to. Believe it or not, we can all still enjoy them. Yes, even the children will be happy come Christmas morning.
It’s okay to let them know that you’re planning to scale back a bit this year. Even Santa is going to have to spread his goodwill a little thinner this year. In fact, my boys are planning on what they’re going to GIVE to Santa (but still, the wish lists are long). Will they be disappointed? With all the excitement, will they even notice anything different?

In fact, your children are your best weapon against holiday-stress, doldrums and plain old crabbiness. Who can resist the joy and pride in a child’s eyes as they decorate the tree with ornaments they made all by themselves. Need ideas? Well, you’re already on the internet, make good use of it! You can find more ideas than you have time to try, complete with directions, and many of them using household items you already have.

The children are also your expert holiday decorators. Just provide some inexpensive craft supplies, and don’t forget the glitter glue. Sure, you’ll probably have a mess to clean up, but your house will be full to overflowing with holiday cheer, and maybe a few too many Santas.

One of my decorating traditions has been in displaying the Christmas cards we get every year. As they arrive, one by one, I tape them up (usually on a closet door) in the shape of a Christmas tree. But, as old friends scale back their lists, and others give up mailing cards altogether, our little tree is getting smaller. No worry, I promise to print out all the email greetings I get this year (on recycled paper), in lieu of the usual cards. So save your postage, and your cash, and email those greetings instead!

Let’s not forget the gift wrapping. Take whatever paper you have, whether it’s some leftover birthday gift wrap, brown bags, or just recycled paper from your printer. As long as one side is blank, you can wrap first, decorate second. All it takes is a few little holiday themed stamps and colored ink pads, and let the little hands do the work. And you can forget the ribbons and bows. The theme this year is going to be simplicity all the way!

But what about the gifts? Thoughtful, homemade gifts will go a long way this year. Again, get the children involved. You don’t have to sew or be crafty to make gifts. Sometimes just putting together some everyday items in a decorative fashion makes it special. Pick up a variety of containers at a discount store, and then see what fits: the ingredients for a spaghetti dinner, some blank notebooks for a writer, some packages of hot cocoa and a mug. Download some free music from the internet and burn a cd for a music lover. Print out some of your favorite family recipes and bind into a booklet. Check out the photo sites for some really unique and personal photo gifts. The possibilities are endless!

Of course, if everybody made all their gifts this year, the economy is not going to get any better. And there’s always someone in nearly every family that won’t appreciate your hard work and thoughtfulness, anyway. For them, I suggest you buy books. They come in every price range, they cover every single subject you can think of, and buying books keeps an entire industry working. Sure, you could try to save the auto industry by buying a new SUV, but you can wrap a book, and it needs no insurance. And don’t forget, one size fits all.

Don’t let a dragging economy overshadow your holiday. It’s the season of giving, and even if you think you have nothing to give, you can always give your heart.

Patti Hermes

Patti Hermes, Parent to Parent, is living the dream with her high school sweetheart, raising their boys in the Midwest because it's a good starting point for epic road trips. While writing, reading and homeschooling take up most of her time, she still blogs at HermesParent to ParentChristmas Gift Ideas,ParentingThere's no way of getting around it. The holidays are not going to be the extravagant celebration that we're all used to. Believe it or not, we can all still enjoy them. Yes, even the children will be happy come Christmas morning. It's okay to let them know that you're...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids