Christmas is the time of year that brings out everyone’s creative genius. Something about the season begs for the unique and the different. Maybe it is our desire to give something special when we do not have the budget for expensive presents. Certainly this is a theme in such stories as The Littlest Angel or O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.”
Shoppers often look for noncommercial presents at the many arts and crafts fairs that abound during this season. After a while, however, the wares at these venues take on a sameness; also, many of them exceed the average person’s budget. So what can you do? How about making your own crafts? With some basic, readily available items, you can easily make stocking stuffers, decorations, and gift tags that will delight your friends and relatives. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
One perennial favorite under the Christmas tree is an electric train. Who hasn’t spent hours watching a locomotive pull its cars around and around the base of the tree? A fun present, one that can either be placed in a youngster’s stocking or packaged as a present, is a candy locomotive. With a little imagination, you can even add additional cars and the caboose to make a full-fledged train. This is a simple project and a fun activity for adults and children alike. To make the locomotive, you will need a roll of Lifesavers, some round peppermint candies, a traditional five-stick package of gum, some Hershey kisses, some Kraft caramels, and a glue gun.
Start by gluing the Lifesavers to the pack of gum. This is the body of your train. Then, glue a peppermint to each corner of the pack of gum. They are the wheels. Glue a caramel to the top rear of the Lifesavers for the cabin and a kiss (with its paper strip “unfurled”) to the front for the smoke stack. You have now created a locomotive that will delight anyone. Of course, you can let your creative juices run at this point by adding embellishments to your locomotive. A cinnamon imperial works well as the headlight.For additional cars, let your imagination run freely. For the coal car, pieces of licorice add a realistic touch. Individual serving boxes of candies like Dots, Milk Duds, or Good ’n Plenties work well as the basis for other cars. Many other candies come in the appropriate shapes suggested here, so have some fun by adding color and variety.
Would you like to enhance the individuality of your Christmas tree this year? Get away from traditional ornaments and make your own. Some Plaster of Paris, colorful yarn, cookie cutters, and paint will get you started. Mix the Plaster of Paris; then, pour it into seasonal cookie cutters (snowmen, Santa, snowflakes, bells, etc.), inserting a small drinking straw near the top of each (this is where you will loop your yarn or ribbon for hanging).
Once the plaster has set, you are ready to decorate your ornaments. Paint them suitably; then, get out your glue gun and get creative. Glitter, bits of candy, artificial snow, seeds — use whatever strikes your imagination to finish off these unique decorations. As you adorn your tree, think of substitutions for the garland. Many people string popcorn and wind it around the tree, but add some dazzle with your own clever touches. Color some of the popcorn with food coloring for a special touch. Other embellishments you can use are jelled candies such as Gummi Bears, or bits of dried leaves and flowers.
Finally, once you have wrapped your presents, finish the packages with personalized tags. Don’t you always feel a little sad (or guilty), when Christmas has passed, to throw out the seasonal greeting cards you have received? It’s such a waste. Instead of consigning them to the landfill, create your own unique gift tags. At the very least, you will need cards from years past, your glue gun (such a useful tool), construction paper, a hole punch, ribbon or yarn, and scissors. If you want to get fancier immediately, get some edging scissors. With a wide variety of cutting edges available, you can create interesting borders on your tags with little effort.
First, cut out the part of the greeting card you want to use. Nothing says you have to use the whole thing. For example, if all you want is a nativity star or a snowman, just cut that part out. If it is large enough, and if there is no writing on the back, you are done. Punch a hole in it, loop through some yarn or ribbon, and your tag will be ready. Otherwise, glue the artwork onto some construction paper. If you are the type who likes to write longer messages on your tags, then use a folded square of construction paper. Now channel your creative, inner child and add the extra, imaginative touches to dress your tags up Pieces of wrapping paper, old bows, glitter, and ric rac are a lot of fun. Who knows? Your gift recipient may like the tag more than the present itself.
The key to all Christmas craft ideas is “imagination.” Let it run freely. The beauty of seeing children at work is that they are not limited by arbitrary rules about the “best way” or “right and wrong.” If they like it, they do it. The more you experiment, the more ideas will come your way. These candy trains, tree decorations, and gift tags are a sure way to get the family involved in Christmas and make a start at a fun, joyous holiday season.
This article on Christmas craft ideas was supplied by Mel MacKaron.