Creating a Homespun Holiday
Dear kindred spirit,
I'm delighted you could join me on this crisp December day, whether in the morning with a cup of something hot, or in the afternoon with the early twilight falling over peaks of glittering snow. We're in the thick of Christmas now; the tree is up and decorated, the garlands strung, the cookies made, and the delightful comforts of home have never looked more welcoming.
It's just now, when our hearts should be growing calm and glad with tidings of great comfort and joy, that the world tries to counteract our heart-call, and fills our minds with its vacant noise and material demands—the rush, rush, rush, to buy, buy, buy. And when our cares are many and we cannot meet the call to rush and buy, the world tells us we must be disappointed in ourselves—as though Christmas were nothing more than a cartful of faux decorations from Target and a hasty slapdash of last minute gift-wrap.
Christmas in the 21st Century feels very overbearing to me—as though somebody's thrown an overwhelmingly colorful, mad, glaring blanket over something that was once quiet and calm, still and beautiful, lovely and sacred. I don't know about you, but I don't feel very calm this time of year! I think the pursuit of a simpler life is a noble one—but we can only truly pursue it if our hearts sincerely desire change. To that aim, I'm looking to the past eras that inspire me—back when Christmas was made beautiful because of the womanly hands that worked hard and skillfully to make it so. When we employ ourselves to create loveliness out of very little, our minds grow calmer, our hearts become satisfied with the fulfillment of our labors, and we find that the time spent making such treasures will be better remembered than the forgettable, noisome hours that we used to think of as tradition.
It's very simple really, to create a homespun Christmas...
My Approach to Creating a Homespun Christmas
The first step is perhaps the simplest: a homespun holiday tells us to save our money instead of spend it. Avoid the aisles of red-and-green at the craft store and the eye-catching store-window displays. It's about the making of the season—with our own two hands no less! An old-fashioned approach to the holidays is one that emphasizes frugality, simplicity, and all the comforts of home.
Making a Popcorn Garland
For myself, the starting point that I have come to look forward to every Christmas is the making of the popcorn garland. There is something so calming about sitting down with a bowl of popcorn and a needle and thread and stringing it all together, especially when the activity is joined by a kindred spirit. I love to intersperse the garlands with dried oranges, cranberries and candy canes, though the possibilities are vast!
...I also love to decorate the tree with ribbons! I favor having only a small collection of ornaments, and only ones that have special meaning or some kind of significance...such as these pictured: Clara with her Nutcracker, a hand-sewn felt heart...and even a Tardis! 😆
Don't stop at hanging the garland on the Christmas tree! It also makes a wonderful window decoration, which I just discovered this year... :)
❝𝘏𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘺, 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘺 𝘊𝘩𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘮𝘢𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘸𝘪𝘯 𝘶𝘴 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘩 𝘥𝘢𝘺𝘴; 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘩; 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘳, 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘺, 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘦-𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘦𝘵 𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘦!❞
-𝙲𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚕𝚎𝚜 𝙳𝚒𝚌𝚔𝚎𝚗𝚜, 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑷𝒊𝒄𝒌𝒘𝒊𝒄𝒌 𝑷𝒂𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒔
Traditional Christmas Baking
Another of my favorite traditions (and one that I'm pleased hasn't gone "out of fashion" completely, is making gingerbread. I've never yet gotten over the childish thrill of rolling out the dough and pressing the shapes of the gingerbread family. Don't stop at cookies—they can also be used as ornaments by poking a hole with a straw through the top, and tying with a string after baking.
Dried fruit is another old fashioned, baked holiday tradition that I love—and one of multiple purposes. I favor dried oranges above anything else, though I've seen other dried festive fruits, from apples to limes, lemons and pears! I dry my oranges by cutting slices between 1/8" and 1/4", arranging on a baking tray with parchment paper, and baking for three hours at 210 ℉, flipping halfway through baking. I use them for many things—from tying with ribbon to make ornaments, to hanging on a garland, decorating gifts, as a mealtime garnish, or arranging for festive displays.
Holiday baking is a wide umbrella, and under it are any number of timeless recipes that have proved worthy of being traditional festive staples. From mince pies to peppermint bark, puddings and trifles, butter cookies, fudge, and jelly thumbprints... So many of these old recipes are notably simple in the ingredients they require, proving that the 21st Century version of holiday grocery shopping needn't be the stressful month-long worry that we're told it needs to be...
I find it very sad that the modern outlook discourages us from honoring the work of our hands. Time-honored crafts that once were tradition have given way to store-bought discount decor and the consumption of virtual media. A homespun lifestyle—not limited to the Christmas season—is one that emphasizes that blessed work of one's hands. Handsewing ornaments with felt or scraps of red fabric and a bit of thread is not only a creative festivity, but one that I find I remember with more lasting fondness than much of the holiday season. It gives an earnest sense of special-ness in contrast to the often-gaudy, glittering baubles we've become so accustomed to...
This Christmas I've also returned to the childhood craft of cutting out paper snowflakes. I find it odd that we teach this craft to young children, and never encourage adults to enjoy it—because let me tell you frankly, it is an art form, and not a simple one at that, haha! Rediscovering the craft has been a real delight (as well as a challenge!) this homespun holiday season. :)
Last month I happened upon my now-vintage American Girl historical craft books—namely, a copy of Samantha's Craft Book from the 90s (I think my love for the Victorian era must have stemmed from a love for Samantha Parkington as a very young girl), and it was one of those rare rediscoveries of a childhood gem that doesn't disappoint when we return to it as adults. Those books (which are featured in the first photo of this post, as well as the one below!) were so full of encouragement for girls to embrace historical traditions and handmade crafts in ways that were doable, even for the young girl growing up in the 2000s (as I did), wishing she lived in Samantha's day of 1904. I wholeheartedly believe we can still embrace those past eras so dear to our hearts for their sweet simplicity, and equip ourselves better now than we did even in our rose-tinted girlhood...
I find all in all that when we seek the slow path and the gentle, handcrafted approach to a seasonal lifestyle, we find our hearts growing calmer, our time fruitfully spent, and our minds free from the cloud of overwhelming and overstuffed worldly noise.
An old-fashioned Christmas will look different to all who utilize it, and it's important not to settle on the "aesthetic" of the approach, but on the heart change that comes with it. There are limitless ways to create a homespun Christmas, and consider this only a starting point, with your creative imagination left to guide you into your own one-of-a-kind projects. May you find joy and fulfillment in bringing those ideas to life this holiday season!
❝𝘖𝘶𝘳 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘴 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘥, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘺𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘪𝘯 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵, 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘢 𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥 𝘢𝘨𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘵 𝘊𝘩𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘮𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦.❞
-𝙻𝚊𝚞𝚛𝚊 𝙸𝚗𝚐𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚜 𝚆𝚒𝚕𝚍𝚎𝚛
I would be delighted to hear of your own homespun holiday traditions if you fancy sharing, dear kindred spirit! You can leave a comment below to get the conversation started! :) I wish you a Christmas season full of beauty, loveliness, and comfort and joy! I'll be back on the blog before New Years to round up my top 10 reads of the year—and until then, you can follow along on Instagram (@austensandalcotts) where I am presently co-hosting #LiteraryChristmas all month long!
Have a very merry Christmas, dear ones!
Until next time,
Want to follow along on Instagram? You can find me @austensandalcotts for mini blog-posts, a glimpse into my reading life, and giveaways for products from my shop. You can also subscribe to the Austens & Alcotts mailing list to receive my twice-monthly newsletter direct to your inbox, where I share personal encouragement for kindred spirits longing for a simpler, lovelier life, as well as news on shop releases, subscriber-only sales, and more!