Part 1: Food and Decorations
Usually, by Halloween we are accosted in the grocery check-out lane by magazines that present all kinds of ideas for Christmas cooking and decorating. Some publications present that company’s perfect holiday dinner—complete with table settings, menu, and recipes.
But we have to balance these “plans” with family tradition, the tastes of individual family members—and our budget, which often is not sufficient to carry out the elaborate plans of a gourmet magazine.
At the same time, we want some variety—a new recipe, or a different color scheme. We want to be creative within the limits that are right for us and our families. I list just a few ideas here, but I hope some of you will post your own ideas too.
- A house with children is a house for homemade décor. The result may not be polished, but the children are little for such a short time—so find some decorations you can make together out of inexpensive materials, such as popcorn and construction paper. Also, many department stores have aisles full of crafty things that won’t cost much but will supply more raw material.
- Decorate according to personality. Use a theme to hold it all together. For some families that might be sports; for another, greenery, train sets, or other motifs (angels, animals, books, Christmas carols or movies).
- Use decorating as an excuse for a party. One couple I know has a tree-trimming party every year, supplying a few good eats, a bare tree, and boxes of ornaments. We visit, enjoy food and drink, and when the evening’s over, their tree is complete!
- Decorate by degrees or by room. There’s no way I can decorate our whole house in a weekend, especially if I take the time to enjoy it or involve other people. So maybe I’ll do just one or two rooms at a time. Maybe I’ll concentrate on lights or garland one day, the tree yet another, then furnishings or knick-knacks.
- I’m always tempted to try to cook too much during the holiday season. I’ll sort through magazines and recipe books and choose way too many new recipes to try. If I carry out the plan, I end up stressed and exhausted; if I don’t carry it out, I feel like a guilty failure. So my new first rule is: put a reasonable cap on my goals. Better to do a few dishes and really enjoy the process.
- Honor your health and everyone else’s by balancing rich and not-so-rich foods. In many parts of the country, winter is a great time for soups and stews. Go simple most days of the week, and reserve the fancy cooking for select days and events. Dare to invite friends over for an easy soup and bread dinner rather than try to go all-out with multiple courses.
- Take advantage of potluck power. Guests will enjoy you more if you are relaxed and able to actually visit with them. Too often I have insisted on doing all the cooking, and I’m so busy running around that I don’t visit much or settle down at all. Plan a get-together that would have four or five dishes, and make just one of them—or supply the drinks and dessert and have others bring the main dishes. One dish per family is reasonable, and others will enjoy helping more—and having more time with you.
- If you’re a foodie, choose one emphasis. Maybe this year you will focus on candy recipes, or breads, or appetizers, etc.
- Build in a system for donating resources to those who need more food. Every time you grocery shop, buy two or three items to go to the food pantry. Or eat lightly one night each week and donate the money you saved by doing so.
As you can see, Vinita is more practical than creative. So please, send your ideas for creative ways to eat and decorate!
And consider these questions:
- Are there special objects you can place in prominent places to represent good memories, certain loved ones, or some aspect of your Christian faith? Do you have an Advent wreath or an Advent daily calendar to display?
- Is there a prayer you can use every day, to help you stay focused on God’s love and the generous gift of the Incarnation? Is there some simple devotion you can practice with your children each day?