It’s hard not to be crafty at Christmas.
Oh, I don’t mean being crafty in the sense of the definition of the word: sly, shrewd, cunning or deceptive, although I suppose you could call many people crafty at Christmas time.
There’s the shrewd way some people act at the mall when they slide into a parking spot first while you were patiently waiting for the previous car to vacate the space.
Some people are downright cunning as they push and shove their way through crowds to get the very last [insert newest, hottest selling toy here].
And often times, we are very deceptive as we hide the Christmas presents or even the Christmas cookies so they won’t all be eaten before Christmas arrives!
No, I don’t mean that kind of crafty. I’m thinking more about those who are like Martha Stewart. Whoa, wait a minute, she did go to jail once….perhaps she was cunning or deceptive, huh? Well, let’s concentrate on her ability to take an ordinary branch off her juniper tree and turn it into the most amazing shimmery addition to a boring centerpiece that you ever have seen. That’s what I mean by crafty.
Some people can just take scraps of this, leftovers of that, add some ribbon and glitzy stuff and voila! A lovely Christmas ornament for your pine tree. Or there are those people who actually make Christmas gifts for family and friends. I admire their creativity and tenacity! And then there are the items that were lovingly handmade at school or in Sunday School class by your children when they were little. Crafts and Christmas just seem to go together.
I was thinking about that the other day when I finally finished decorating our Christmas tree. (Yep, I succumbed. I just couldn’t leave a bare-naked tree in my living room!) There are a lot of crafty ornaments residing in my Christmas décor boxes.
There’s the round painted one oldest daughter made in second grade, if I remember correctly. It hung on the mayor’s Christmas tree at City Hall in the town we lived in then. Middle daughter made candy canes out of red and white pony beads and pipe cleaners one year with her fellow Girl Scouts. Son constructed a baby Jesus in half a walnut shell in Sunday School way back when.
Several handmade ornaments that I purchased at craft shows or holiday bazaars also congregate in my boxes, some of those I even managed to make myself. Others were gifts bestowed upon me like the clear glass ball with a sketch of Jesus inside from my friend Laura (of course, I still have it hanging on my tree! or the half egg shell with a Christmas scene displayed inside of it, a gift from my mother many years ago.
Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at crafting other decorations as well, including a nutcracker wreath, a garland of felt stars with homemade buttons fashioned out of clay and baked in the oven, and who knows what else lurking in those boxes. When I unpack these items, it brings back a lot of delightful memories – some of my mother, some of my children as they were growing up, and some of friends, now far away.
When I was a little girl, my mother belonged to a “Home Extension Group.” A group of ladies met monthly at each other’s homes for a demonstration of home arts and a lovely lunch. Most of these women were my mom’s age or older and I vividly remember being the only youngster at those meetings until I got older and trotted off to school. Even then, I would be excited to jump off the school bus and enter my home to see the ladies from home extension there and taste the yummy leftover dessert.
These women would gather to craft or learn something new in the fine art of homemaking. Sometimes a representative from the state home extension office would visit and give a demonstration, perhaps on home canning or sewing. I still remember the year they made large white candles shaped like snowballs for Christmas. Whatever they were making or eating, this group of friends always seemed to enjoy their time together.
Several years ago when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest, I told this story of Mom’s home extension group to some of my friends and we decided to resurrect the concept. A few weeks before Christmas, we met at a friend’s home, spent the morning crafting together and sipping hot coffee or tea, then shared a tasty and delicious lunch.
That’s where my nutcracker wreath was designed. We all convened at the craft store to choose scads of items we would hot glue to our wreaths of artificial greenery. Festive ribbons, little nutcrackers, Christmasy birds, glittering balls, shiny strings of beads, twigs of fake holly…it looked like the Ghost of Christmas Present had thrown up all over the table!
But oh, the fun we had! We chatted and laughed as we crafted, enjoying each other’s company so much, giving advice about the placement of tinsel tidbits, which was beneficial because the more savvy decorators among us could give direction to those of us who were craft-deficient. Having relished our day together, we decided to continue the idea each week as we launched another Christmas craft. For the first time, I truly understood why my mother belonged to her “home extension group” for all those many years.
It wasn’t about the finished product, although that was nice. The real joy came from time well-spent with dear friends, savoring one another’s company with laughter and merriment yet sharing burdens and sorrows as well. It was about gathering for a lovingly home-cooked meal together as neighbors who had more in common than just the neighborhood where they lived.
Yes, it was a simpler time when my mother and those sweet ladies, whose faces I can still recall even though every one of them has left this world, convened every month for camaraderie and cake. But those simple times can be recaptured – my friends and I did it that one special time at Christmas. We just have to want to live a simpler life, to take time to visit those we treasure, and make memorable moments happen.
It’s Christmas. It’s time to slow down. Spend time with your closest friends and family. And while you’re at it, though you may not be “crafty,” make something special together – even if it’s just lovely memories.