Its that time of year again but with our country in the grips of the recession, dealing with the effects of a terrifying budget, never mind snow and ice, we might feel like canceling Christmas altogether. However now more then ever is the time for a little bit of cheer, something to look forward to, dare I even say it hope. Now I know its hard to feel hopeful about anything when the debts are mounting up or you don’t have a job or bills are pouring in the door and you don’t even want to think about buying presents but this is the time you need hope most. So,here are my ideas on how to have a fun and key word here, affordable Christmas:

Forget expensive dvds, computer games or fancy phones, think about making your gifts this year instead. If you are creatively inclined, you could whip up some truffles or bake some cookies, paint, frame a favorite memory of time you had together with a good friend and give it to them, knit a scarf, crotchet a baby blanket, make your own candles…

Make your own decorations:
Gather cones on woodland walks and paint the edges silver and use some wire to make a ring of painted cones as a table decoration.

You can also gather a few sticks of willow and carefully bend into a circle using twine to tie it into place, then using holly and some pine [again from the woods or a country lane] tie them onto the willow using red ribbon and you will have a lovely Christmas bough for your front door for nothing except the time it took to make it.

Dont forget to make a mistletoe ring, again all you need is some willow, twine, mistletoe [dont let your pets or children near this, the berries are posionious] and some ribbon and after that all you need is someone to kiss under it!

Using only cellotape and brightly coloured paper, you can make paper chains and lanterns [if you have children they will love this] to hang across the fireplace. Cut out Felt into hearts, stars, Christmas trees and snowmen and sew ribbons onto them and beads for pretty decorations for your tree. Use pretty paper to wrap up sweets and tie onto your tree or if you’re really stuck, tin foil and cardboard can make for wonderful decorations!

Make your own Christmas cards, this is much easier then you think and truly you are limited only by your imagination, you can make them as simple as you please with cut out robins and snowmen glued onto red card or fancy with tassels and pull out figures and 3d effects, its totally up to you! Its great fun, very relaxing and your family and friends will appreciate a card that was made by you so much more then something you picked up at the last minute in the supermarket on the way home.

Its still not too late to make your own Christmas cake and pudding, recipes are easily found in magazines or on the internet and you will find that the end result will taste so much better then mass produced shop bought. It will also work out much cheaper to make a few Christmas cakes [which will last for up to a year and are wonderful if you have unexpected guests] then to buy them and you will know what exactly went into them, which is great if like myself, you have allergies or food intolerances. Consider also making things like a sherry trifle, fudge or nougat or the most easiest thing of all, marzipan sweets.

Consider making a ice sculpture for your table centrepiece, its very easy, take a plastic bowl,put some rocks into it and then put into a larger bowl, arrange some small pieces of pine, fresh holly and anything else that comes to hand around the smaller bowl and then fill up the larger bowl with water. Pop into your freezer and when you want to bring it out for display, simply run some hot water over the bottom of the bowl and the your ice sculpture bowl will come out no problem. A large candle looks gorgeous placed in the centre. Place your ice sculpture on a deep plate as it will slowly melt over the evening.

Christmas lights and tinsel can be cheaply bought in your nearest pound shop and if you can find some large tall branches of a pine tree with cones still attached, tie the branches together with decorative ribbon, arrange the lights in a pleasing manner on your improvised tree and maybe hang a few simple decorations and you will have a lovely piece to cheer up a room. Long branches of willow that have been curled at the top can be often found in garden centres or sometimes places like Pennys and make for lively silver and gold trees.

As for your Christmas tree, buy it as local as possible so you don’t have to waste petrol carrying it many miles and don’t forget to recycle it when Christmas is over. Its best not to dump Christmas trees in your garden to rot as they take many years to break down. Place your tree in a large pot with some turf or wood to keep it steady with a saucer underneath so you can water it once a day and keep it fresh over the holiday season.

If you are buying some of your gifts rather then making them, consider fair trade and don’t forget to shop local, not just for your gifts, but for things like your turkey and ham or cheese. Think about your carbon footprint! You can also buy gifts like adoption packs for animal shelters or gifts for Africa from Oxfam, these make for different and thoughtful gifts.

If you live alone, don’t just sit at home, go out and call on your neighbours, visit the elderly, catch up with friends and consider volunteering with your local meals on wheels or in a soup kitchen. You will feel happier and connected to the outside world and by giving of your time [just because most of us are broke doesn’t mean we cant give of that most precious of things…our time] you will feel the joy of giving.

Enjoy watching christmas favourites on TV, sing carols with neighbours, make mulled wine and roast chestnuts in a open fire, watch the enchanting ballet of The Nutcracker Suite or go for a walk in the snow and rediscover the magic of christmas.

Christmas is not about expensive gifts, all you can eat dinners or an excuse for out of control binge drinking parties but about family and dear friends and celebrating life. Yes life is hard but it is also rich and wonderful and full of such mystery and magic, that we need to remind ourselves of this. To be thankful for what we have, for who is in our life, to remember those gone that we loved and to think about the new year coming and what we hope for.

Well, I hope I’ve given you a few ideas for how to a have a fun and affordable Christmas, all that is left for me to say is to Wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

P.S. I include a favourite poem of mine by Robert Frost which reminds me to open my eyes to the beauty around us and to take a moment out to just stop and stare and breathe. Important things to remember in the rush and chaos of Christmas time!

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost


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