Simplifying Christmas
by Mary Emma Allen

"I'm turned off by Christmas," I heard someone comment. "It's so commercial nowadays."

It is only if let it be. This year, when many people find extra money in short supply, might be an ideal time for a simpler Christmas.

Cookie Making Sessions

The fun of cookie making was a month long process during my childhood on the farm. Mother, Sister, and I made cookies of various kinds off and on throughout December and stored them in tins for Christmas...hopefully where Father and the boys wouldn't find them.

Nowadays we can store these goodies in the freezer when we make them ahead for Christmas eating and gift giving. What fun for the children to have these cookie making sessions. They're enjoyable times together and create fond memories for later years.

Creating Decorations

Making Christmas tree decorations become projects children can do throughout the month, too. Depending on the youngsters' ability, these ornaments can be simple or elaborate.

Extra money was scarce when I was a child, so "store bought"  decorations usually were out of the question. What a special treat when Mother and Father did bring home a few from their annual Christmas shopping outing in the city some distance from our farm.

The rest of the our tree decorations consisted of colorful paper chains, cookie hangings, popcorn and cranberry strings. We might cut up last year's Christmas cards and make ornaments from them, too.

Handmade Gifts

Christmas gifts have more meaning when they're handmade and created just for that special person. How sad when youngsters and adults think they must have something from a store to give or receive. What fun to show them the joys of taking time to make gifts especially for others.

Of the gifts I received for Christmas as a child, I particularly remember those Grandma made. They might include dolls' clothes, a sock doll, homemade candy, cookies, wash cloths with a flower appliquéd to the corner, and similar gifts from materials she had around the house.

Bounty From the Garden

If you do canning or pickling in the summer, give these as gifts. My aunt always gave from her canning, jelly, and pickling shelves. Special jams and jellies, pickles or relishes, canned fruit and homemade bread that someone else may not have time to prepare are greatly appreciated.

EASY CHOCOLATE FUDGE is a recipe we made at Christmas time. Mix in a heavy 3-quart saucepan: 2 1/4 cups sugar, 1/4 cup butter or margarine, 16 marshmallows or 1 cup marshmallow cream, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup evaporated milk. Stir over medium heat until mixture boils and is bubbly over the top. Boil, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 package (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate or milk chocolate pieces until melted. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped nuts, if desired.

Spread in buttered 8 or 9-inch square pan. Cool and cut into pieces.

(c)2001 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen has been writing cooking columns for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. She's currently putting together a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles:

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