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Monday, December 12, 2011


What do I love about Christmas?  That it is a time to put away petty arguments and silly fears.  It is a time that belongs to Mamas and Papas and all their little bears.  It is a time to sit in laps and listen to stories  about "when I was little".  It is a magical time to sit quietly and listen for sleigh bells and reindeer's hooves. It is the time to celebrate love. Many times in our marriage, my husband and I  would look at our  bank balance at the end of the year, and realizing that the amount would not keep the wolves from the door anyway, decided to spend the meager amount on a Christmas celebration.  One Christmas in particular, it was as though fate was not with us.  Following the happy occasion of our son's birth, I developed a massive blood clot and had to spend ten days in the hospital.  So we had some major medical bills. I had no sooner been released from the hospital, when  my husband awoke to discover that he couldn't walk.  After many doctor visits (and many doctor bills) he was finally diagnosed with what we had thought all along - a rare form of arthritis.  Fortunately, we found an excellent doctor, who prescribed a treatment that sent his arthritis into remission.  On top of all that stress, our area had not the one hundred year, but the one thousand year flood.  Our property became a lake overnight, ditto for the basement. Oh!  Did I mention that all this happened during a time of high inflation and wage freezes? 

 So you see, I know about hard times too.  But we were determined to give our sons a merry Christmas even if the bank book said zero ( probably negative).  My husband and I would conspire late into the night after the boys had been tucked into bed.  He made blocks and little push toys from wood scraps.  I knitted mittens, sewed stuffed animals and made candy for Christmas stockings. We poured so much love into these meager offerings. Outside our "lake" had frozen, so my dear husband swept off the ice and made a skating rink.  He turned some buckets upside down and placed boards on them for benches, then made ice candles to set around the perimeter.  On Christmas Eve, instead of our usual smorgasbord after church, we went outside and skated and roasted hot dogs (79 cent turkey franks) over a fire under the starry Christmas sky.  And do you know it was one of the most memorable Christmases we had ever celebrated?  Can't say the most, because  one of our sons was born on Christmas and we became engaged on that day too, but it was certainly one of the dearest.

Lessons Learned

Children really don't know the value of things, so you don't have to feel guilty about how little you spend.

After a few gifts, small children become disinterested, so it's really a waste of money to have presents stacked to the ceiling.  If you can't bare it, then buy the things they need like socks and underwear and wrap them.

Babies really do not care if the receive a present at all. And they will not have any memory of their first Christmas.  So don't be silly, buying lots of toys.  Whatever the grandparents or godparents give will suffice.

Older children can be very understanding.  Have a frank talk with them about your money situation.You might find it brings you closer together.

Spouses should be on the same page.  A moratorium on gift-giving  to each other should be obvious.

Don't be shy about telling your relatives that you can't afford to send them presents this year.  You might be surprised  to learn that they are in the same boat.

If you feel you must buy for relatives, consider a family present instead of lots of individual gifts.  A board game, puzzle, a tin of cookies, or a box of chocolates, are all inexpensive gifts.

Pay attention to the gift wrapping.  It can make a simple gift look like a million bucks. Use gift boxes and tissue wrapping to make a pretty presentation.  Look for pretty ribbons in the thrift shops. Buy fancy gift wrap at the after-Christmas sale.

Lastly, but most important, besides the main reason for the season, Christmas is about family.  All the time saved by not going out shopping,  wrapping  gifts, attending parties and concerts, gives you more time to spend with them. Tell stories, play games, just cuddle and watch a movie on TV. 

Praying that your Christmas is filled with love, joy and peace. All free for the taking!


  1. I love your post today and your wonderful Christmas memory. I'll bet it was the best fun!

  2. Jane, that was such a good read! I will have to read it again. Ice candles and hot dogs....that is fun. I agree with you..the most memorable Christmases are the ones that took sacrifice. We give our kids so much these days, that they don't have any joy. We've never spent alot for Christmas gifts...I've always said we really can't afford Christmas in December! When I did spend a little more, I noted that it did not bring any more joy. I always thought food would be a good gift among friends, because then it isn't wasting anything. And I am happy to get a Christmas card. love,andrea

  3. What a lovely post, Jane! It reminds us that the reason for the season isn't about the gifts; it is about family! Parents set the tone and children will follow! Great reminder to Keep It Simple and Joyous!

  4. I love that you and your husband worked together to make things special for that Christmas, it sounds like it was wonderful. I was raised by a single mom, and our finances were always very tight. I have to give my mother huge credit for making Christmas so magical. Our present were simple but very well thought out and always so special to me and my sister. She baked wonderful cookies, played Christmas Carol records, and we always had fun putting up our tree, we would string cranberries and popcorn, and make ornaments, to go along with the carefully saved ornaments that had been passed down to her. Such nice memories. The hot dog roast and ice candles sound like so much fun, I am hoping we get cold enough here for ice candles, they sound like so much fun to make. I really enjoyed reading this!!

  5. It was the best fun Courtney. And of all the Christmases it is the one the boys remember the best.

    I know Andrea! I always tell everyone just get me a Christmas card, there's nothing that I want and I'd rather they spent the money on themselves or somebody else. Of course, no one ever believes me, but it's true!

    Thanks Matty! I wish I could convey to the younger people how fleeting your children's childhood is. If they did they would stop and savor the moments.

    Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman, April. I'm hoping it's cold enough for us to make ice candles too! It warmed up, and doesn't seem very winter wonderland-y lately!

  6. dear jane,
    what a wonderful post. it sounds that your christmas was wonderful. our first christmas was very nice,our christmas decoration was selfmade also the toy for our daughter.that was the best christmas for parents have not so many money but christmas was wonderful,my mother has knitted and crochet for my doll and my father has make a dollhouse for me and my sister.
    i feel me good at the time but i have many to do for my birthday.the whole family will come to visit.
    have a nice day my friend,
    love and hugs regina

  7. That is exactly what we have done for many years now. I let go of the guilt and the pretentiousness and just gave and continue to give from my heart!

    Thank you so much for sharing Jane!


  8. A perfect reminder of what this season is about, Jane. You've expressed your thoughts beautifully.

    A very Joyous Christmas to you, my friend!

  9. What an inspiring post. I was touched by your story of what is really important especially at Christmas. Thanks for sharing it.

    And thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a're so encouraging. I just wanted to let you know that the photos are not mine (I wish they were!). I got the flowers pictures from google images. :o)

    Have a wonderful day!

  10. Hi Jane, what a wonderful post today. I think this applies to all times of the year as well. You really understand what is important and how children feel about presents. I had a friend once, who bought her child piles of toys. Whatever was the latest and greatest. She had every doll, every accessory, a brand new bike every year. My friend and her husband had difficult childhoods and wanted to give their child to have everything they never did. There was nothing left over that anyone else could give the child. And soon the child began to turn her little nose up at the presents from her grandparents, and aunts and uncles who did not have the same financial resources. The child grew up jaded. She is in her teens now and she expects to have anything she wants. Presents aren't special to her anymore. In their minds the gift is not in the "thought" but in the "thing". It really breaks my heart and I hope as she matures she will be able to learn what is truly important. It sounds like you and your husband gave your children some precious times. I hope you have a beautiful day ahead! Delisa :)

  11. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories Regina! Happy birthday on Sunday! May you have many, many more!

    Simple and low-key is the best, Maria! Although it's been a very, very long time since I was a child, I still get overwhelmed when there's too much!

    Dear Sandy, a joyous Christmas to you too, my dear, dear friend!

    Hello Sandra! Thank you for the kind words! It was your idea of the mixture of the evergreens and roses that inspired me!

    Hi Delisa! I think we know the same little girl! LOL! Always thought the best presents for little ones were crayons, paints, blocks, etc. Things that spur little imaginations. Oh! I just saw that Interweave Knits has a new magazine out - Jane Austen Knits. I thought of you and your beautiful lacy things when I saw it!

  12. Hi Jane, thanks for the heads up, that sounds like a wonderful magazine! Can it get any better than knitting and Jane Austen? Well...perhaps maybe knitting, Jane Austen and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy! :) I love all the magazines and patterns that Interweave publishes. They have such wonderful writing and stories too, especially the bi-annual editions of Knitting Traditions and Crochet Traditions! Thanks again! Delisa :)

  13. This is a perfect post for right now Jane. I loved it. Your simple ice skating hot dog roast brought tears to my eyes... and that's the way it should be. It's about the love and attention and the making of memories. Not the stack to the ceiling! I pray a memorable Christmas for you this year. You obviously hold the key.

    Blessings, Debbie

  14. Hi Jane! I went to a doctor's appointment in town today and stopped off at the book store afterwards to see if I could find the magazine. They had one copy left! Thank you so much for recommending it to me. I love it, I want to make every pattern! Everything was so feminine and delicate. Delisa :)

  15. Hi Jane,
    Wonderful! The hot dog roast was a lasting memory for your children I bet. Something for them to pass on to their children also.
    Have a great day

  16. Wonderful memories you've shared with us, and you've brought to mind of many of my own. :-)
    That's what it's all about, Him and family.
    Blessings to you,

  17. Thanks Debbie! Wishing you the most wonderful and blessed Christmas too!

    Hi Delisa! I left you a message on your blog.

    Hi Vickie! Enjoying our wet weather? Guess it's good for the trees to get a good soaking. There's always a silver lining! Wonder if we'll have a white Christmas?

    Thank you Anne! And thank you for the blessings too!

  18. It may be that I follow the blogs of those who have similar values. I can only hope that what I'm seeing as a trend of sensible frugality is something which will grow.
    I enjoyed your memories of the skating evening--that time will be cherished when any recollection of gift-wrapped presents is long forgotten. I was also reminded of a very frugal Christmas when turkey hot dogs were on the menu for Christmas dinner!

  19. Hi Morning! I follow similar blogs too, but I must confess I have a certain fascination with a particular blogger, whose quite the opposite. Like seeing how the other half of the world lives. I really need to get back to my original mission for the blog and start posting more thrifty articles. It's easy to get sidetracked.

  20. Wonderful (true) story and much wisdom and humor! I'm with you on how you have graciously learned how to handle life's bumps in the road.