With close to seventy Christmases behind me, I have many memories of this special holiday that have been set aside to celebrate the birth of our Savior. My parents, from the Greatest Generation, started some traditions that carried over to my own family. And you can imagine my delight to watch my adult children carrying out some of the same traditions in their families today.
One such tradition stands out as I go down memory lane. In 1993, my husband lost his job. When Christmas rolled around, money was tight. What little we had was earmarked for food, clothing, and shelter. Only the necessities.
Instead of fretting about the lack of Christmas presents, I decided we needed to be positive and focus on what we could do, not what we couldn’t. Out of prayer, thanksgiving, family love, and creativity, I birthed giving gifts from our hearts that Christmas. Always the teacher, I used this time for teachable moments for our four daughters, ages five to fifteen.
We traded out store shopping for homemade presents. No Pinterest back then. We didn’t even have the internet. But we had our imaginations, no cost involved. I was amazed at the ideas our daughters came up with, even helping one another, and talking about their secret gifts behind closed doors.
We got creative when we planned our own family recital with singing and musical instruments. Our voices, violin, clarinet, and saxophone came together for the best Christmas songs I’ve ever heard, even with “off notes” and a mistake here and there. But it didn’t matter. Our recital endeavor came from our hearts. We even made a plan to go Christmas caroling and take our voices to others.
Our idea to make our own Christmas presents and focus on our hearts was not original. No, it wasn’t. My parents had learned to give gifts from the heart and make things from home during the Great Depression. Simple and homemade gifts repeated again during World War II with the government mandated rations and push for the war bonds.
Cloth dolls and teddy bears created from socks delighted little children. Grandpas whittled toys from wood. Lip smacking could be heard a mile away when popcorn balls, straight out of the kitchen, were made, even when sugar rations pinched holiday baking.
Yes, our Christmas of 1993 still stands out to me. Our family discussions surrounding the true meaning of Christmas ramped up. We were more focused on Christ’s birth and His plan of salvation more than the usual glitz, glitter, and glamour of the commercialized holiday. The tradition of homemade gifts continued in our family after that particular year as our daughters grew up.
Today, almost thirty years later, instead of store-bought gifts in our much bigger extended family, we make contributions to missionaries and other good works in honor of each other. Volunteering for Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse and making goodie bags for the homeless keep us busy around the holidays. We continue to visit nursing homes and sing Christmas carols as we reach out to others.
The heartache of a lost job in 1993 turned from ashes to beauty. Fortitude, family love, and a can-do spirit wrapped us up together in one big gift, and it still does to this day.
Open in your browser and scroll down to make a comment. I’d love to hear about your own family traditions. I reply to all comments. If you know someone else who might enjoy reading this, please feel free to forward to a friend.
I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and many blessings for the New Year!
Becky,, thank you for reminding us that the best Christmas gifts don’t come from stores or mega online shopping sites. They come from the heart. Homemade gifts are always extra-special.
Becky Van Vleet
I totally agree, Debbie. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important.
Beautiful story. This is why I love Thanksgiving – it seems to be more focused on what Christmas is all about than what the Christmas holiday has become in our society. Merry Christmas to all!
Becky Van Vleet
Thank you, Jean, for sharing. I totally agree with you about Thanksgiving.