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Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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Have Yourself a Homespun Little Christmas

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By Paula Moore Hurtt

“Use what you have.”

     That was the phrase to live by during the great depression. Nothing was wasted. Things were re-used. Worn out clothing was torn into strips and woven into rugs or sewn into quilts. Everything from nature was utilized…nuts, seeds and berries. And what couldn’t be consumed was used for other purposes…from dyeing cloth to creating homemade decorations for Christmas.

     During the thirties, much of our country was still agricultural. The average family didn’t go to the store and buy a Christmas tree or presents. Rather, a cedar or pine was cut from the hillside behind the barn, brought in and set in a bucket or a wooden stand nailed onto the trunk. An old quilt served as a tree skirt. Ornaments were either gathered from nature or were homemade. Tree decorations included pine cones tied with red ribbon, painted walnut hulls and red berries gathered from the woods and strung together with needle and thread. Homemade decorations were cut out of tin and paper or even catalogs. Paper chains were made by the children and popcorn strung around the tree. 

     Christmas was also a time to utilize some of the home-grown treats which were preserved during the summer and fall. Homemade jams were stirred into cakes. Colorful dried fruits studded homemade fruit cakes. Nuts gathered in the autumn were sprinkled into pie crusts.  

     Gifts were homespun too. Jars of grape, cherry and peach jelly were wrapped like colorful jewels to be given to friends and family. Toy farm animals were carved from soft wood,doll clothes were hand-sewn from left-over fabric and sachets were fashioned from dried flowers and bits of lace. The holiday was characterized by creativity and families working together. Celebrations were focused on the birth of Christ and gathering family and friends close.

     Times were hard, but hard times didn’t stop Christmas. 

     Contrast that with all the chaos of what we now call Black Friday. The most recent Black Friday was marred by people fighting over the latest tech gadget and others being literally trampled in the crowds trying to be first in the door of a big box store. Makes you wonder, “what was so important that it couldn’t wait until Saturday?”

     Naturally we want to support our retailers. Christmas is vital to our economy’s health. But, you have to wonder if all that frantic super shopping is good for our mental health.

     Perhaps we need a little perspective and balance in the holidays...perspective in how much we need to do and spend and balance between the store-bought and the home-spun.  For many, times are hard again. Perhaps it’s time to try a little homespun Christmas.

     Particularly if you have grandchildren, adding some homespun elements to the holidays can bring you closer together. It can help turn down the noise and bring calm to the busy days. Gathering décor from nature will give you a chance to teach them about the beauty and the abundance all around us. Making homemade gifts will give you a chance to teach them that it’s the gifts from the hand and the heart that are most precious and will give them a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

      If the idea of having a homespun little Christmas seems like one more thing to add to your busy to-do list, start small. Just do one or two things a little more simply this year. Make home-made Christmas cards with you grand-kids using family photos and construction paper. Turn off the TV and spend an afternoon making Christmas cookies and singing carols. Or decorate a wreath from whatever you and the grand-kids can find in your backyard and around the house.

     There are many great ideas on the net and at your local library for homespun Christmas project ideas. Even better, talk to the older members of your family and find out how their holidays were celebrated in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. They’ll enjoy sharing those memories and passing on family traditions. You’ll be reminded of what is necessary and what is not. And you’ll be well on your way to having yourself a homespun little Christmas.