'Tis the season to deck the halls! And while you may have been perusing holiday decor at your local home goods store since August, you may want to consider eschewing the mass-market stuff and making your own. Not only are a lot of holiday crafts easy to make but they can be a fun, bonding experience for your family.
Many of the favorite traditions associated with the holiday season originated in Victorian England: family gatherings, holiday foods, decorations. The first commercial Christmas card wasn't produced until 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. Coincidentally, that was the same year Charles Dickens published perhaps the best-known secular Christmas story of all time, "A Christmas Carol."
In the Victorian era, it was common for families to decorate their homes for the season. Almost all of the decorations were hand made. If the Victorians could do it without hot glue guns and Michael's craft superstores, then what's your excuse?
While the supplies you'll need depend on the crafts you'll be making, there are certain things you should have on hand. Different types of glue, good scissors, a needle and thread, and Goo Gone (for the inevitable glue spills) are all things that come in handy while crafting. Especially glue. You will need more and varied kinds of glue than you ever thought possible.
So what kind of holiday crafts should you partake in? Depends on what you enjoy doing.
Making homemade cards for everyone on your list may be overwhelming, but what about for your immediate family? It could be a new holiday tradition, everyone making a holiday card for someone else, and you can include your favorite memory of that person from the previous year. In several years' time, the collected memories and cards will be worth more than a store-bought cards ever could be. Plus, you can display them as decorations.
But don't stop at homemade Christmas cards. Use up odds and ends of wrapping paper and ribbons and make snowflakes or origami ornaments for the tree. Youtube has a plethora of instructional videos for both. The brighter and shinier the paper, the better. Paper snowflakes and stars can add holiday flavor to any wall or corner in your home.
Speaking of the tree, you can easily make a garland out of cranberries. Yes, real cranberries, and not the dried kind, either. Using waxed dental floss, knot one end of the floss and thread a needle through the other. Then just slide the cranberries on. Easy, fresh and festive. Add some shimmer and shine by lightly spraying it with gold or silver spray paint. Or give the garland texture by spraying them with flocking paint.
Garlands can also be used along fireplace mantels and stair railings. In fact, you can make several different kinds and loosely weave them together for a more festive effect.
Another popular craft of the Victorian era is dioramas. Yes, everyone's favorite project from elementary school can be a lovely holiday craft. Some construction paper, an empty shoe box and tape. Or if you're more sophisticated, actual miniatures and a shadow box. Either way, dioramas can add pops of holiday fun throughout your house.
If dioramas seem a bit intensive, consider a homemade advent calendar to help the kids countdown the days to Christmas. Each kid can do there own -- with your help, of course!
Are you a baker? Cookies and gingerbread houses await! The best part of decorating baked goods is getting young ones to help you. Pressed for time or not so proficient in the kitchen? You can buy pre-baked gingerbread houses that just need to be assembled. You can also buy pre-made sugar cookie dough. All of the fun of decorating, but without the annoyance of making the dough. Be sure to stock up on fun cookie cutters, icings and sugar decorations.
Still feeling crafty, but don't know what to do? There are plenty of places to get inspiration. Everyone's favorite lifestyle mavens, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey, always highlight crafts in their magazines and on their websites. Their websites also have previous years' crafts archived, so you have plenty of options.
Or just visit your local craft store. You will be there anyway stocking up on supplies. Often stores will highlight projects they think customers will enjoy. And some stores even have craft groups or craft lessons to provide support in case you're unsure of how to do something.
Whatever you choose to do, remember the holiday season is all about enjoying yourself and the company you keep.