With the foot of new, fluffy snow, Christmas seems a lot closer now. And I remember Christmases in the past when I was pretty darned poor, with hardly any cash to buy Christmas presents for the kids and others. I got by, using a little creativity and a lot of thought. I managed one Christmas by sewing up stuffed, large horses out of some old, furry blankets I got at a thrift store for fifty cents. The legs were enclosed by a stick of wood each, to make the horses stand up and the manes and tails were made of yarn I’d unraveled from an old sweater. (It was beautifully crinkled!) Letting the kids each pick a favorite dinner item was also a “gift.” I’ve done gingerbread villages and brightly wrapped smaller (cheap) gifts.

Christmas is upon us. This is our beautiful tree from last year at this time.

When I was a kid, also far from coming from a wealthy family (Dad was a Detroit bus driver), they would give me a card with a special trip to Silverstein’s Army Surplus store, where I could buy whatever I wanted for, say, $5. I remember being SO excited as that wonderful store had so many “camping” items I truly loved. We sometimes went up north to the “cabin” at Christmas time. The cabin was a small travel trailer that Dad had built, with an addition on the side and a loft above for us kids to sleep in. We flew down hills with old wooden skis, a well-used “flying saucer” sled and a sturdy piece of plastic (my favorite). Even though it was zero degrees outside, and we had to walk half a mile through unbroken snow, pulling supplies on a sled, we loved it. And it was cheap!

We try to give memories rather than expensive gifts we can’t afford; they’re remembered long after the boughten gifts are forgotten.

Gifts don’t have to be “stuff.” Some of my favorite gifts have been those of time; a day to help clean house, build a chicken coop, go for a special trip to see Christmas lights, a day of baking with a friend or relative, adding a railing to a stairway or porch, spending a day sledding, having a winter picnic, or taking care of the dog while someone goes away. You can even make it a gift certificate book, where you write down small gifts of time or help for the person to tear out and present to you when they wish.

Christmas isn’t about presents anyway, even though modern times seem to have changed it to be so. — Jackie

45 COMMENTS

  1. You brought past Christmas memories up for me. One year my oldest son wanted wooden soldiers. Couldn’t find them anywhere so I got a bag of old fashioned clothespins and stayed up all night painting them to make soldiers. My mom used to crochet matching mittens, scarves & hats for my 2 boys and afagans for all the ladies in the family. She also made all different kinds of jam and would give each family a box of them with the warning “if I don’t get my jars back, you won’t get any next year.”

  2. These stories touch my heart! Praise God for His Son, and for ya’ll. You’re all so down to earth!

  3. I was born in 1950 and we were pretty poor. Of course I didn’t know it or care because we always had food and shelter. One of my favorite memories was one Christmas when my Mom, Dad, older sister and I came home from my cousins farm late on Christmas Eve. Daddy carried me into the house in my “feetie” pajamas and I was so disappointed that Santa hadn’t come yet.Next morning my sister and I unwrapped watching handmade dresses and doll clothes. I didn’t know Santa could sew.😂 I lost my Mom and Sister within the last few years and I sure miss them! Dad is 95 and going strong though! Merry Christmas to your family Jackie and to all my fellow readers. May God bless you all!

    • I know how you sure miss family members who have passed during Christmas. You’re so lucky to still have your dad with you!! Merry Christmas and all God’s blessings on you!

  4. One Christmas, I knit socks for my boys. I was so pleased how nice they turned out. But when they opened their gifts and saw homemade socks, one of them stated, “My friends got iPods, and I only got socks!” To which I said, “Then those are the only handmade socks you will ever get!” Sometime later that Winter, I remember him coming to me and humbly stating that those socks are the best socks ever, and if I wanted to make him more that would be okay with him. He learned that year that handmade gifts were extra special. And Jackie, I can say that a handmade horse not only would have thrilled me as a girl, but would have remained in my heart forever. Wishing you all a heartfelt and wonderful Christmas.

  5. There are a lot of beautiful Christmas lights around here, what with drive through Christmas displays, houses lit like the Griswold family Christmas house, shopping centers enticing customers with brightly lit displays. Along with the lights which I love, I find myself humming Christmas music remembered from years past Christmas Eve services. But nothing this year has touched me as much as the picture of your brightly decorated tree in front of your wonderful view, combined with your reminiscences of your past Christmases celebrated with an open heart and hand – truly the meaning of the season.
    Thank you Jackie. And I wish you, Will and your family the very happiest Christmas and New Year
    Maggie

  6. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas Jackie! I won’t be with family for the first time ever. Luckily I have dear friends who I will spend Christmas Day with so it will still be a festive time. So many wonderful memories like you of Christmases past when money was stretched and we had to be creative and make things with materials we had on hand. Our kids thought it was just as magical! I think a return to simpler traditions would be good for our souls and for the earth!
    I wish all of the readers of your blog the Blessings of this season too!

  7. Merry Christmas Jackie! I have read your columns through the years & always enjoyed them. This is the best one yet. God Bless you and your lovely family.

  8. My favorite gift to receive each year is my Mom’s homemade granola. She makes it in the oven in a cast iron pan and there is NOTHING better. It is mostly the love that she pours into it each year making it so special. Everyone knows that there will be a big jar of it under the tree for each of us. Growing up, when everyone else had the name brand cabbage patch kids dolls, she stayed up for many late nights sewing us our own dolls which were under the tree on Christmas morning. This year, she asked what I wanted for Christmas and I just want her to come to our new farm and spend time with us. Show me how to paint things and grow things and make bows like only she can. The woman has never met a craft project that she can’t master. Spend time with us is all I want. I don’t need things. I need more of her. Thank you for this post. It was very timely. Now, I have to go find some kleenex to wipe away the (Good) tears on my cheeks. Merry Christmas.

    • Awww, so sweet! I totally agree; time spent with a loved one is so much more valuable than wrapped up STUFF. Merry Christmas and tons of blessings!

  9. Loved your thoughts on memories and especially the real meaning of Christmas. I want everyone to remember, if you are now older like me, that this is now “our” time to make those wonderful memories for the young ones behind us. My parents and grandparents were so wonderful, I hope I can at least partially fill their shoes.
    Have a very Merry Christmas and remember Jesus was born so we could live.

    • One of my childhood favorites was when Dad went out in the backyard, built up a rim of packing show that froze the next day. Then he ran the garden hose out there periodically, all Saturday. Then, on Sunday, we had our very own skating rink! I’d like to create memories like that instead of heaps of “stuff”.
      Merry Christmas to you too!!

  10. I loved your comments about the toy horses you made for gifts. I agree that Christmas is
    about the celebration of Jesus’ birth not about presents. My husband passed away in October
    I pray that we (my son and I will have a good Christmas, Traditions change when someone that is part of the tradition passes away. I wish everyone a very merry Christmas. Enjoy your
    time with your family.

    • I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, Ruth Ann. As you know, I’ve been there too and the grief leaves a very big hole in one that’s slow to fill up. I truly enjoy every single minute with our family and hope your Christmas will be full of peace and love.

    • I hope to offer you some solace with my own story. We lost my mother about 18 years ago. A month or so after her death, I asked if she could give me a sign that I would recognize when she is near and watching over us. An image of a lighthouse came to mind – in fact I saw lots of lighthouses that day! (figures, pictures, etc.) I offered comfort to my dad by telling him about it shortly before Christmas. I didn’t mention it to anyone else and I’m sure my dad didn’t say anything more about it either. Christmas day we gathered at my sister’s house. My dad opened the first present and lo and behold it was a calendar of lighthouses! Of course we all burst out crying, but we were happy inside our grief to know she was there with us. Like my mom, I’m sure your husband will be there with you in spirit. My biggest hug to you and your son. (and a lovely holiday to you and your family Jackie – you’ve given me great pleasure to read your adventures over the years all the way back to the southwest.)

  11. Thankyou for your in depth vision of past Christmas’s! You give us all hope! Have a great Christmas with the family. You are so blessed to have the lifestyle that you have

    • I truly am blessed. It’s been a path of ups and downs, great joy and also sorrow. But boy has it ever been worth it all! Merry Christmas!

  12. We all need to be reminded of what Christmas is all about , this year more than ever . Thank you for reminding us .May God bless you .

    • Has any else noticed: we have lots of cartoon Santa, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer etc. cartoons and plenty of modern musicals but I remember, when I was younger and also raising some of my children, that they would have at least one Nativity story. No more. It makes me sad.

      • It does seem like it’s all a commercial venture now and you can’t play an old fashion Christmas carol on the radio esp if it’s religious…and it seems to be shoved down our throats. But there are still millions of us who hold Christmas sacred and treasure all the family memories made during this time. “They” can’t take that away from us. Keep on making the memories! Merry Christmas

  13. Wonderful words “Christmas isn’t about stuff”. I love the spirit of Christmas and celebrating our Savior ‘s birth. Merry Christmas, Jackie. You and your family have a blessed day.

  14. I remember one year about 77 that Christmas money was what I made on the trap line that I ran between chores on the dairy farm I was working on. Muskrats were $5 but that went a little farther back then. I think they are still about $5. I did my share of sliding on a sheet of plastic but I remember having a Boy Scout winter camp at the Scout camp and one of the younger guys chose to slide down a trail through the woods. He veered to the side and bit a two inch tree. He broke his femur almost straight across and spent eight weeks in traction because that was the only way the could set it, so keep the plastic sheets on open slopes.

    • Oh my gosh! We slid down a well packed trail through the woods, but there was deep snow on all sides so we didn’t take a side trip. When David was 2, Bob took him sledding on a snowmobile track when we lived way up the mountain, snowed in all winter. I was home baking. When they came back, Bob’s usually-tan face was white. He said David’s sled got away from him and sled and David veered off the trail, heading straight for an open mine pit, several hundred feet away! He yelled for David to jump off, but he didn’t hear Dad. Luckily (or with angel interference), the sled stopped in a small clump of brush. That spring we paid a guy with a backhoe to come up and fill in that mine pit!!!

  15. Oh how I wish I had one of those horses that you made! I bet they were just wonderful! Merry Christmas!

    • They were a bit crude; one was a black and white Appaloosa and the other was a bay (leopard and brown fur material). But they were cute too. Merry Christmas to you too!

  16. I agree with everything you said. If only we could go back to those times. My family gets very upset if they receive something I have made, especially something I have preserved/canned. Thanks for the post. Merry Christmas.

    • I still get away with giving some home-canned goodies but can’t mail them out anymore due to postal costs. Even UPS has gotten SO expensive!! I still have gifts my kids have made me; a match holder Tricia made in shop class, a country-painted crate/tray Randie gave me long ago, a cutting board David made in seventh grade shop and my wonderful log bed Bill handmade many years ago. Boughten gifts sometimes fade away but those treasures I’ll always remember with a warm heart. Merry Christmas.

  17. My mother-in-law faithfully and lovingly for many many years repurposed dolls she found at garage sales. Using her trundle sewing machine and hand sewing she made clothes for each doll. She would lovingly wash/clean each doll, fix their hair, and dress them and include several outfits for each doll. She then took them to a charity organization who distributed them to little girls. She was a wonderful loving thoughtful woman who loved children and helped all she could. She is now in Heaven watching over us all.

    • And I’m sure she is wearing a crown for all her love and generosity!! Giving not only brings joy to the person receiving the gift but also to the giver. And we can’t forget the wonderful inspiration such a person is to those around her! Merry Christmas!

  18. I made lots of doll clothes using fabric scraps, old clothes and broken jewelry.
    Remember taking a board game and drawing another game on the backside of it.
    One year, we were on food stamps in a city, so made all kinds of candy for family.
    Seems most Christmases, God provided extra money somehow. One year they replaced a RR bridge behind our house. We cut up the wood and sold it. No, there was no creosote involved. Probably why it was being rebuilt.

    • It is amazing at how God does provide not only extra money from strange sources sometimes, but also wonderful inspirations and ideas so we can gift people we love and not spend the bank.
      I, too, have made boxes of cookies, bars, candy and other goodies as Christmas gifts because after being hungry once and SO worried about the kids, I swore to ALWAYS keep a well stocked pantry, even on food stamps (yes! me too; got off as soon as I could).

  19. Thanks for waxing philosophical, Jackie. It’s adds another level of in-depth relationship that means so much.

    • Thanks for the trip down memory lane Jacky. We all need a reminder at Xmas time that it’s the thought that goes into gifts, not the cost that is so important. I can remember being grateful to get even one gift as a child, which was usually from Santa. Then as a single mom struggling to get gifts for my kids. I can remember refurbishing toys found at thriftstores and making homemade gifts to give to family and friends. We tend to forget these things in the scramble of the holidays.

  20. I so like your Christmas philosophy and believe that lifestyle to be so true and full of good meaning, more than boughten gifts and the struggle that always comes with it. That’s my opinion, and I’d like to get my family to change their thoughts. I want so to leave here, get closer to them, and make a totally different life; but my hubby has to be onboard. I continually make it a matter of prayer.

    • You’re welcome Vala. I love standing outside on Christmas Eve and looking up at a clear sky and wondering if it was like that on the very first Christmas; all that is lacking is that one very special Star.

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