By Taralyn Nicholson
It is almost that time of year again - the catalogues start arriving in the mailbox and I start to get excited about the gifts that I can give to my friends and family for the holidays. OK, maybe a thing or two for myself as well.
Holiday items appeared in stores before October, and if you don't have that awesome must-have gift by Black Friday, you aren't going to get it. But stop! Things are really hard these days. We still have friends and family without jobs, and let's face it, even if you have a job, times are difficult. It's been hard for some to make ends meet, but you still want do the same things you use to do. Remember Christmases of long ago? Well, this is Christmas present. People have cut back, especially when it comes to gift giving.
How can we make the season brighter for our loved ones and those we care about on such a low budget or any budget all? Here are some tips that may help.
Someone asked me recently, how do we find the spirit of Christmas? This can be answered by one thing, it's you, it's the spirit within you. It's what you make of it. Find something that makes you feel it's Christmas time. If card sending was your thing, think about a postcard. Of course, there is emailing or social media, but if you want that personal touch, one unique idea is to make a list of your top five to 10 closest friends. Gather the family, head out one late afternoon and do an old-fashioned caroling of one nice song and end with "We wish you a Merry Christmas! People will love the personal touch.
Christmas is about being together. There's a lot of commercialization, but hey, that will never change. We can learn to manage it better. If we are creative and plan, we can make our funds stretch and connect better with those we love.
If dinner has gotten expensive, invite 10 friends or family members over and have snacks or dessert. Everyone has felt the pinch, so they wouldn't mind bringing something. Suggest including the recipe for sharing. Spending time together can mean so much now that our world has become so busy. Play some Christmas carols in the background.
Take time to do something as a family. Perhaps seeing a movie or a play. One inexpensive way to spend an evening together would be to have each person pick his or her favorite Christmas movie on DVD and play only 45 minutes of the best part. if there is time, watch the entire movie. For dinner, get all the fixings for pizza. Don't buy it frozen or order it out. The whole idea is that you make it together, even Dad. Don't forget dessert. You could make cookies or brownies. Pop some popcorn and enjoy the evening. Make sure you look at everyone having fun. Look at the joy in their faces, remember their images for your memories because you are certainly making theirs.
Now, finding that certain thing to get yourself in the spirit. I love old movies. No one in my family really likes to watch them, so I watch "It's a Wonderful Life" all by myself. I have had the opportunity to watch it with my mom the last few Christmases, just us. But nothing brings the spirit to me than to turn off all the lights in the house except for the tree and look at it endlessly. Every ornament is hung just so; one or two hung by my 6-year-old are just a little crooked, but that's OK because it's a memory for me - especially the ones he made at daycare and the one with clothespins made to like a reindeer with his picture in it that says, "My First Christmas."
You know how it is. You get sentimental and start reminiscing about life and those you aren't able to spend the holidays with anymore. I used to imagine the lights were stars in the sky that represent special people I don't see anymore at Christmas. I miss them. I hold dear in my heart the Christmases that we spent together.
Remember Christmases of years past while making memories of Christmas present. I hope you find time somewhere in the hustle and the bustle and the penny-pinching to find your spirit. Find it within you and connect with those you love. That's what it's all about.
Taralyn Nicholson is a Strasburg native and still lives in Strasburg with her husband Steve. She has three children and three grandchildren, and she is a site manager for a Front Royal apartment complex. Email her at email@example.com