By Kimberley Ripley
If I could change the lyrics of any Christmas carol, it would be "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays". I would aptly change it to "There's Nothing Like Homemade for the Holidays". And in my home, this tradition runs true. From the gifts we give to those we gratefully receive, the most meaningful of all are the ones crafted with patience and love.
The most welcoming scent of all is that which permeates from a Christmas kitchen. Gingerbread cookies, pumpkin pies, and a variety of canned and baked goodies fill our home with spices and seasonings we don't often detect throughout the remainder of the year. With glad hearts we cook for days on end -- meeting our goal to share these homemade delights with those we love.
My great-grandmother made magic with her hands. Even in her elder years, twisted and swollen with arthritis, she maneuvered those beautiful hands to create handmade quilts, crocheted afghans, and knitted mittens, hats, and scarves. These became gifts that so many loved to receive, including those less fortunate within our community. Her gifts warmed their hands and hearts for many winters to come.
We have instilled in our children a deep appreciation for homemade gifts. Explaining to them the love and time spent in creating the gift has helped them to understand how important they must be to be given such a unique gift. I have also taught them how to make homemade gifts of their own.
For many years now we have made literally thousands of homemade peanut butter cups to give as gifts. Last year even my youngest son was able to participate. The older children know the recipe by heart, and can complete several batches in an evening. We often set our candy making up assembly-line style, with different members of our family doing different jobs. By Thanksgiving we traditionally have many boxes of these chocolate treats frozen for Christmas celebrating and gift giving. Making them is not a chore. It is a celebration. We celebrate the gifts of one another, and our blessings throughout the year. With Christmas carols playing, and the hustle and bustle of a house full of eight people, this tradition makes our house come alive with Christmas anticipation.
Our family has had lots of fun preparing holiday gift baskets for many years, too. Beginning many months prior to Christmas, I collect inexpensive items from craft shows, dollar stores, and discount department stores. By November, whichever room I've designated as "Christmas Central" has been filled with candles, ornaments, Christmas mugs, and hot chocolate mixes. Tins of gourmet coffee line the table tops, and porcelain Santas and angels are delicately wrapped, awaiting their destination. Baskets and containers of all shapes, sizes, and varieties are stacked in one corner of Christmas central. As Christmas approaches, these inexpensive items become personalized gift baskets for many on our Christmas list. Often created assembly line-style, like the peanut butter cups, the baskets are filled with tissue, then assembled with a festive array of Christmas merriment. The final touch on each is a Christmas bow and bag of-what else? Peanut butter cups.
Traditionally these baskets are delivered between the last school day prior to Christmas break, and Christmas Eve afternoon. This job has become much simpler over the years, as two of our children now drive. (They thought they might get off the hook. Ha!)
Although these traditions are simple ones, they are traditions we have long enjoyed and have come to love. The time spent together in preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is yet another way we've managed to strengthen our bonds as a family. Many have entered our circle of family fellowship. We are always happy to welcome more.
Although not a lot of money goes into these baskets and chocolate making, we make up for it with the love. And isn't that the reason for the season?