When I think about Christmases past, I wonder how many feet — or miles — of green and red paper chains my siblings and I made during our childhood years? We expanded our creativity when our mom bought us a book on Christmas crafts for kids, which we enthusiastically devoured: “Can we make one of those?” “Do we have the stuff to make this?”
We made a miniature tabletop Christmas tree using old, thick phone books or the previous year’s catalogs. When was the last time you saw a catalog several inches thick? But we always had a few on hand several decades ago.
As I recall, the tree was created page by page. You would grasp the top right corner of a page and pull it about three-quarters of the page down, to meet the inner binding, then crease it. You’d then take the bottom right corner and bring it up to meet the bottom of the part just creased, also having it meet the inner binding, and crease that. After doing several pages like that (definitely not a one-day project!), you had a bit of an evergreen tree shape. I believe we fluffed out the folded pages a bit to make sure it was tree-shaped all around. We then stapled the front and back covers together to hold the shape. Last came a can of green spray paint and voilà! There’s your miniature tabletop Christmas tree, ready to be decorated with whatever you wished to glue on it, once the paint dried.
One of the Christmas craft projects I learned in elementary school was really simple, but looked quite elegant when completed. We made fake candles out of lowly toilet tissue cardboard tubes, or a paper towel cardboard tube if you wanted your candle to be taller. A square of tissue paper was carefully glued over one end of the tube. On top of that an orange and yellow “flame” crafted from construction paper was glued. Pieces of macaroni in all shapes and sizes were then glued on every square inch of the cardboard tube. Yes, this took some time! When the glue dried, out came the spray paint. Green, red, gold or silver seemed to be the favorite colors. I preferred mine to be gold. Those cardboard tubes were transformed into something that turned out quite fancy looking and gave a nice touch and feel or Christmas to a holiday table.
Here’s probably my all-time favorite holiday project, which we made for years: Cinnamon-applesauce ornaments. Who doesn’t love an apple-cinnamon scent wafting through the house on a cold day? It’s a very simple recipe: Equal parts, give or take, or unsweetened applesauce and cinnamon. We always bought the large, inexpensive generic brand of cinnamon. These two ingredients were mixed together very well. If the mixture was too sticky, we added more cinnamon. If it was too dry, we added more applesauce. A tablespoon or so of craft glue was sometimes added as well, and that seemed to make the ornaments a bit sturdier.
The mixture was rolled out on wax paper, which has been dusted with a bit of cinnamon, and then out came the Christmas cookie cutters. Once we had our shapes cut out, a little hole was made in the top of each ornament with a small-sized drinking straw or a nail. Baking time varied, depending on the thickness of the ornament, but was usually around 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours at 200 F. I preferred baking them for 2 to 2 1/4 hours, and then letting the ornaments finish by air drying, to prevent them from curling up in the oven. While they baked, the aroma was delectable.
The ornaments were then cooled to room temperature, and then a small ribbon was inserted in each hole for hanging on the tree. We sanded any ragged or rough edges, and we would sometimes add a bit of acrylic paint or glitter. Gingerbread men were especially cute when decorated with a little white paint to make faces, buttons, and such.
Looking back, I sometimes think the simpler the craft, the more enjoyment it brought. As kids, we surely made some fun homemade memories. Our projects may be long gone, but the fun memories and time spent together making them still linger.
Belle Plaine, Minnesota
Looking for more ideas? Check out Homemade Gifts for the Holidays.