December 7, 2015Christmas, craftsComments Off on DIY Gifts: Christmas Tree Bookmark Craft
Thanks to Colleen of Sugar Aunts for this wonderful tutorial for a bookmark your kids can make. These are fun to do and make great DIY gifts!
Kids love to create handmade gifts for friends and relatives! This Christmas tree bookmark craft is a fun and easy craft idea that kids can make. And the best news is, that they can create a bunch of these at once. Everyone will love to receive these DIY gifts this Christmas!
This craft is super easy to make. You’ll need a sheet of burlap and green paint. Cut the burlap into strips. Next, cut the burlap into bookmark sized strips. Older kids can do this part, or an adult can do the cutting.
To make the Christmas tree shape, fold the burlap strip in half and snip a triangle near the top of the bookmark. Snip a second and third triangle so you have a string of triangles. When you flatten out the bookmark, you’ll have a tree shape. You can snip a small trunk, too.
Have the kids paint the burlap, evenly covering the burlap. When the paint dries, turn the burlap over and paint the other side. Allow the paint to dry again. You can make a bunch of these bookmarks by painting a sheet of burlap and then cutting them into strips. Cut the tree shape out after the burlap has been painted if you are making several bookmarks.
Pair this bookmark with a favorite book for a gift that anyone will love to receive!
When is Christmas celebrated where you live? Do you know why many countries celebrate on December 25 (and why others do not)? Thanks to Carrie of Crafty Moms Share for teaching us more about this fascinating aspect of Christmas around the world.
Christmas Around the World: When to Celebrate
The Bible does not tell us when Jesus was born. No one actually knows the date of his birth. The first recorded Christmas on December 25th was in 336AD. It was during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor. A few years later Pope Julius I declared Christmas Day to be December 25. There are many theories as to why this date was chosen. One theory is it is nine months after the date of Annunciation, when it is believed Mary became with child (March 25). Another is that it is around the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice as well as other Roman pagan festivals. The Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, begins on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev (a month that often occurs at the same time as December) and since Jesus was Jewish, perhaps it was to honor his past.
In the early church Christmas was also celebrated on January 6th, also known as Epiphany (the revelation that Jesus is God’s son and the Baptism of Jesus). Then there is the switch of the calendars from the Julian to the Gregorian, though some churches still use the Julian calendar. All of this affects the date of Christmas and various countries celebrate Christmas at different times. There is also the question of what is the Christmas celebration? Is it when Santa Claus or other gift bearer brings gifts to children? Is it when families gather for the celebration or when people go to church? Each of these things also occur at different times in different cultures.
In Venezuela some people begin their celebrations with St. Barbara’s Day on December 4th. On December 16th families bring out their pesebre, elaborate nativity scenes, and the height of the celebrating begins on December 21st and lasts through the 25th. Epiphany or Three Kings Day is also celebrated in Venezuela. The main presents arrive Christmas Eve.
In the Netherlands December 5th is a big date. December 6th is St. Nicholas Day; however, in the Netherlands there are major celebrations on the 5th. The kids leave out their shoes for Sinterklaas to fill with gifts during the night. Then there is a large parade on St. Nicholas Day. Christmas is a much quieter event with church and a family meal.
Many countries celebrate St. Nicholas Day, December 6th. This is often when the kids in those countries receive their gifts. Some of the countries that celebrate it are Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
In Mexico the celebrations begin on December 16th. Each night the children perform Posadas (which means inn). The kids parade in the night carrying candles and with someone acting as Mary and Joseph. They go to houses each night where Joseph asks for a room. Eventually at the chosen house they are told there is room and they are allowed in, followed with a party. In some parts of Mexico kids expect Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and in other parts they wait until January 6th for the Three Wisemen.
In the Philippines the celebration begins on December 16th as well. There it starts the nine days of pre-dawn church services which end on Christmas Day. The celebrating lasts until the first Sunday in January (Epiphany).
In Romania the celebrations start on December 20th with St. Ignatius Day. Traditionally this is the day the family kills the pig that will be for the Christmas meal. The real celebrating however begins Christmas Eve with the tradition of decorating the tree.
In Kazakhstan Christmas is not a national holiday, so it is often celebrated the Sunday before Christmas since people are off work that day.
Many countries celebrate December 24, 25th or January 6th or a combination of these days. The next interesting date to note is in Scotland. December 31st or Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is a bigger celebration than Christmas. The word Hogmanay comes from a type of oat cake which is given to the children on this day.
In Greece gifts are brought to the children on January 1st by Saint Basil. They however have celebrations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
In Spain there are some gifts on Christmas day however the children write letters to the Kings on Boxing Day (December 26) asking for what they want. The Kings come on January 6th, the Epiphany.
The real difference in dates occur with the different calendars. Places that have Orthodox churches tend to celebrate Christmas on January 7th. This is in countries like Georgia, Ukraine, Serbia & Montenegro, Russia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Macedonia. In Georgia however people get their gifts on December 31st (New Year’s Eve). The gifts are brought to the kids by Tolvis Papa or Grandfather Snow. In Macedonia the celebrations actually start January 5th called Kolede. The kids sing carols throughout the neighborhood and are given nuts, coins and fruit. When the singing is done everyone gathers around large bonfires.
With all the different dates and traditions, it makes the holiday season even more interesting. When do you celebrate Christmas? What is the most important part of the holiday for you?
Carrie is a former high school math teacher with diversity training and helped advise many diversity clubs at the schools she taught. Now she is a stay-at-home mother of an almost five-year-old and very active with her church. She writes about her life with her daughter and the fun things they do at Crafty Moms Share. You can also find her on Pinterest and Google +.
Growing up in a small rural town in North Carolina, I remember vividly the closeness of the community and how people really did treat everyone like family. One way they always showed their concern for the sick and the elderly was to bring them a special treat at Christmas: caroling!
You have to remember that this is a place where your nearest neighbor might live half a mile away – if you lived in a busy part of town! While such spacious living did have its advantages, one downside was that it could be very isolating for “shut-ins,” those that because of illness or age were unable to venture out.
Luckily this was a place where people were not forgotten, especially at Christmastime. So one chilly Saturday in December, many of the families gather to spread some holiday cheer with some good old-fashioned caroling. While this is done in many places, here is a peek at how this community organizes it.
Acts of Kindness: Caroling for the Sick and Elderly
Each year they visit a number of homes where the residents are sick or elderly and so could use some good cheer from their neighbors. Because of the cold (and the condition of those they are visiting), they keep each visit short, singing 3-4 songs as the recipient watches from their front porch. As there are always children among the carolers, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is a perennial favorite, as are “Silent Night” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”
When the songs are over, they call out their well wishes and move on, without expectation of receiving anything in return.
Instead, they organize among themselves a progressive dinner, which they enjoy in between caroling stops. At the beginning of the night, they gather at the home of our former neighbors – and dear friends – for appetizers. After a few caroling visits, they continue to another home for the main course, before ending up at a third house at the end of the evening for dessert and a longer visit. My mother jokes that it is amazing that for people who see each other everyday, they always have lots to talk about!
The children, of course, rush upstairs to the toy room, while the adults enjoy each other’s company until late in the evening. Though my parents moved away years ago, they still make the trip back for caroling as often as they can, and I remember fondly the year I was able to join them! It was such a warm, festive atmosphere, despite the cold, and it was especially heart-warming to see what joy it brought to those we sang to.
Tips on Caroling with Kids
Now we live with our little ones on the other side of the country, but I am trying to recreate this joyful experience with my children by caroling at a local retirement center. I asked a good friend of mine for tips about successful caroling with kids, which I am sharing them with you below. She is a smart lady, so these are definitely worth noting!
Practice ahead of time: Ideally you will have time to practice together as a group, but if not, at least make sure everyone has the lyrics to practice at home
Keep it short: Though it is tempting as adults to want to pull out all the stops and sing all of our old favorites, that is an easy way to lose children’s attention – especially if they are songs they are not familiar with (see #3 below). Keep it short and snappy, so that you end while everyone is still paying attention and enjoying themselves. For young kids, 3 or perhaps 4 songs are plenty.
Sing songs they know: Make things simple by choosing songs they are already familiar with. Not only will it be easier to teach them the lyrics, they will have lots of fun singing their holiday favorites. For us, this would be “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph,” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
Bring props: Keep things fun by giving the kids some instruments to play – jingle bells are perfect! Not all kids will want to sing in front of strangers, but most will enjoy shaking jingle bells.
Limit the number of houses: Again, keep it short and simple. If you are caroling in a neighborhood, 3-4 houses is a good number for preschoolers. You may be able to fit in a few more for older children, but try not to stretch them too much, especially considering the cold weather!
End with some hot chocolate and treats! Finish things off on a high note by giving them some yummy treats. This can also be a good motivator when their spirits start to flag, plus it ensures a positive finish no matter what happens during the caroling!
Have you taken your kids caroling? Share your tips in the comments!
With the holiday season upon us, I wanted to share some of our favorite books! These are ones that are not only fun for kids to read but that also teach them about the true holiday spirit – giving rather than getting, and love rather than just presents. Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
I received complimentary copy of The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase on Amazon, I receive a small commission. Thank you!
Children’s Books About the True Holiday Spirit
We just love Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson. It is an engaging, indirect way to teach kids about the Nativity. Kids learn about sharing and sacrificing for others, as Mortimer Mouse has to decide whether to give up his warm bed in a family’s Nativity scene to make room for the tiny Baby Jesus doll. This is a fun book to pair with making a gingerbread house, as this plays a major role in the story’s resolution.
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell is a beautifully illustrated book that tells the Nativity story from the point of view of the animals in the barn. Through this gently told story, children will learn the importance of always making room for others.
Okay, I had to include another Karma Wilson book, since she is one of our favorites! Bear Stays Up for Christmas follows Bear and his friends as they get ready for Christmas. In the end, Bear learns that giving is the best present. As with all of the Bear books, a main theme is also the importance of friendship. Kids will love the appearance at the end of a very special red-suited visitor.
Another engaging story of the holiday spirit is The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jan and Mike Berenstein. Like children everywhere, Brother and Sister Bear are excited about getting presents on Christmas, yet during the Christmas pageant they learn the importance of giving.
The Driedel That Wouldn’t Spin by Martha Seif Simpson is a lovely book set during Hanukkah, though its message is not specific to the holiday A shopkeeper during the busy Hanukkah season dreams of profit from selling an elaborate dreidel given to him by a peddler. Though the peddler warns that “the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought” the shopkeeper immediately puts it in his shop window with a hefty price tag. Child after child demands it from his parent, yet it is always returned because it won’t spin. It is not until a humble, shy boy enters the shop with his father that the shopkeeper discovers the magic of a toy waiting for a deserving owner. This charming tale, illustrated with Old World style paintings, is a beautiful way to teach children about the triumph of humility over greed and the importance of appreciating the real spirit of the season. Includes information at the back of the book about the miracle of Hanukkah and how to play the dreidel game.
The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel is another favorite of ours. It is a silly story about an old woman whose hearing and sight are so poor that she mistakes a wandering bear for the rabbi and so invites him in to enjoy latkes. Children will laugh as she tries to remove the bear’s fur “coat” and exclaims over his remarkable appetite. She even sends him off with a special gift – a warm scarf. When she later discovers the truth about her Chanukah guest, she laughs at her foolishness and proclaims that even a bear deserves a happy Chanukah.
The charming heroine of The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser shows the true heart of Hanukkah when she is determined to invite her elderly neighbor to a special family dinner. Though Mrs. Greenberg is invited every year, she always refuses to come, saying she doesn’t want to be a bother. Yet this year young Rachel will not be deterred, as she comes up with an ingenious offer that the woman cannot refuse. A fun story that also teaches the importance of hospitality and thinking of others.
Don’t be put off by the funny title of The Trees of the Dancing Goatsby Patricia Polacco. This book is truly a gem. It is a wonderful story for older children about people coming together despite their differences. Young Trisha is caught up in the excitement of preparing for Hanukkah in the traditional Russian way, yet the holiday fun is dampened when her best friend’s family is struck by scarlet fever. Trisha’s family then work together to make sure their neighbors get a real Christmas. Based on her own family’s experiences as Eastern European immigrants living on a farm in Michigan, this book can be an especially good stepping stone for discussions about interfaith celebrations and the true spirit of both Christmas and Hanukkah.
I am so excited to be participating in another wonderful monthly event from All Things Kids. This month our theme is Christmas Activities and Crafts for Kids! Enjoy the wonderful posts below, and don’t miss out on our big giveaway!
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. Thank you for your support!
The holiday season is a great time to splurge on those that you love and to show them that you know what is important to them. So if you have a “crunchy mama” in your life – that is, someone who appreciates sustainable gift giving and wants to indulge the planet at the same time as she indulges herself – then this is the gift guide for you!
These days there are thankfully many options for environmentally friendly gifts – here are some of my favorites!
Green Gifts for Crunchy Mamas
You don’t have to sacrifice quality to be environmentally friendly! Here are some of my favorite gifts for the special “green” mama in your life:
Organic clothing and goods
I love Tender Sapling for so many reasons – especially their focus on encouraging kids about virtues, world citizenship, and environmental sustainability. They have wonderful organic products for all members of the family. Treat your mama friends with a beautiful T-shirt (including maternity!), or a sampling of their cards, made from recycled paper.
In the kitchen I’m especially conscious of the products I use, as I know they will can a direct impact on the health of my family. That’s why I love to find all natural products like these beautiful Bambu Kids In The Kitchen Utensil. And what better way to start your little one off on his eating journey than with this Bambu Baby Feeding Starter Set?
And if don’t want to feed your family junk – but want to make food they will actually eat – then you must check out the Weelicious cookbooks! I adore all of her recipes, which are both practical but also stretch your ideas about what your kids will try. She has two cookbooks – one with a range of family recipes, and her new one that focuses on kid lunches! Both highly recommended.
I’ve partnered with 30+ fabulous bloggers to bring you a special holiday series packed with crafts, activities, and festive family traditions. We’ve put together a phenomenal giveaway to help knock out your holiday shopping. From 11/3–11/17, you will have the opportunity to win 1 of 4 prize bundles for men, women, kids, and babies! The 4 prize bundles, valued at over $1,800, include gift certificates, toys, jewelry, and more!
For more details on these amazing two week holiday series, be sure to visit the main page on Bare Feet on the Dashboard, the creator and host.
Monkey and I have so much fun with our gingerbread house that this year I thought we’d try a new variation: a Pizza Bread house! It was a nice change from all the sweets that usually characterize the holidays, plus what kid doesn’t like pizza?
You will need:
Your favorite pizza dough recipe (or pre-made)
Cream cheese (approx. 4 oz)
Toppings (we used pretzels and chopped zucchini, green and red peppers)
Grated Parmesan cheese for snow (from a can is best!)
Wrong place, wrong time, Caterpillar!
Shape the pizza dough into 6 pieces (2 long walls, 2 short walls, 2 roof pieces) then cook according to package directions.
While the pizza is cooking, mix the cream cheese with a few spoonfuls of the pizza sauce. Be careful not to add too much or the mixture will be too runny. You just want to add a little pizza flavor; the color will only change slightly. Scoop mixture into a clean plastic bag and snip off one corner
After the pizza bread has cooled, use a serrated knife to trim to the correct sizes and make smooth edges. It’s important that the sides line up properly so the house doesn’t fall over.
On a clean plate or platter, build your pizza bread house. Use the cream cheese mixture as the “glue” to hold the walls and roof together and to hold on the decorations (toppings). Let your child’s imagination guide you!
Those of you that saw the fate of our gingerbread house will not be surprised to discover that the same ill winds eventually engulfed our pizza bread house – but only after much fun was had – and lots of munching followed!
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. Thank you for your support!
Although Santa doesn’t come to our house, I love creating some holiday traditions with Monkey, so he can enjoy the season as much as other kids. Since I have always loved gingerbread houses, last year I decided to make this a new holiday tradition for us, minus all the sugar!
It was easy enough to do – Since he was not quite three at the time, he didn’t know that gingerbread houses are usually decorated with candy. Instead, I substituted other foods that are real treats for him: raisins, dried cranberries (which he called “pink raisins”), sliced almonds, and pretzels.
The glue for the house was a sweetened cream cheese mixture, and the house itself was made of graham crackers. Yum! It was so good to eat afterwards, too!
To make the cream cheese mixture, use one 8 oz block of cream cheese, and whip it with honey to taste. You will have plenty left over, but who cares! It tastes great on toast or on any leftover graham crackers 🙂
I must say I got a bit misty eyed when I pulled up these photos. The reason I never posted about it last year is that I went into labor two days later, so these photos were simply saved onto my computer until the season rolled around again. So here we are, and so much has happened since these pictures were taken!
Yet I still remember clearly how much fun we had doing this. I think with gingerbread houses Monkey and I found something that married my love of crafts and baking with his love of play and building. Heaven for both of us!
I am glad I took a lot of pictures, though, since the house didn’t last until my husband got home from work. Let’s just say it faced a series of disasters, from an avalanche of toppings…
…to having its roof eaten by a giant…
…to a preschooler-induced earthquake. Well, we all saw that coming, didn’t we?
We also enjoyed reading Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by our favorite author Karma Wilson. It tells the story of the true meaning of Christmas without feeling like a Book You Should Read. I had found several beautiful children’s books about the Nativity, but I couldn’t get Monkey to sit through them. Yet this clever story about Mortimer Mouse captures a child’s attention to explain about the real Christmas spirit. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out the significance of a gingerbread house to the story 😉
If you are looking for other healthy holiday treats, here are some wonderful ones to try:
The text, which follows that of the traditional carol, tells of the different ways Africans celebrate Christmas and more broadly about some of the elements of everyday life there, such as the traditional markets and houses. So on the third day of Christmas, for example, “my true love gave to me three woven baskets.”
The illustrations are stunning and well-researched. Each new page gives us a rich panorama of a different region of Africa, from Morocco to South Africa. At the same time as these illustrations showcase what is “exotic” about Africa to Western readers – thatched huts and native dress, for example – the artist makes the people in these paintings seem very familiar despite the distance. My favorite page, for instance, is of the seventh day of Christmas, since the “seven children playing” look much like children anywhere, though their toys may be different. I particularly like the little girl playfully putting a baby animal on another girl’s head 🙂 Some tricks are universal!
The story can be read on several levels. Young children will enjoy the new version of a familiar song and delight in the beautiful artwork. Yet each page also includes a more detailed explanation of the verse for that day, such as a discussion of the importance of drumming in Africa and how traditional drums are made.
I must admit that at first I was very put off by the constant mention of “African” markets, “African” houses, etc., since Africa is a huge, incredibly diverse continent that should not be generalized so broadly. (I highly recommend Kid World Citizen’s review of the book “Africa Is Not A Country” for more on this topic). I found this generalizing trend especially surprising considering how intimately familiar both the author and illustrator were Africa’s diversity, given that both have lived in various African countries for many years.
I can only guess that this was a strategic move to make the book more accessible to Western audiences, who tend to know very little about different countries in Africa. The illustrations show a wide range of African cultures, and for those that wish to know more, there is a list in the back of the book about the specific countries on which each page in the book is based.
I highly recommend this book as a fun way for kids to learn more about Christmas in other cultures, as they enjoy a twist on a favorite holiday song.
I love Advent calendars – the anticipation of the upcoming holiday, marking each day with a special treat – and it has been a dream of mine to make a beautiful, handmade Advent calendar for the boys for the Bahá’í holiday of Ayyám-i-Há in February.
However, by now you may know that beautiful, handmade crafts are not my specialty, so instead I thought I would play to my strength – activities that are easy yet a bit clever as well.
Although our holiday isn’t for a few months, I wanted to post this now because it would work so well for Christmas.
We all remember the paper chains we made in elementary school to count down to a special day. I have simply added the twist of incorporating a special activity for each day, represented by a link in the chain.
To do this craft you will need:
Construction paper or card stock
Cut your paper into links (I turned my paper longways before cutting, so my strips were 9 inches long)
On one side of each link, write the numbers (1 – 25, for Christmas)
On the other side, write a special activity for that day (see suggestions below)
Tape the first link shut, making sure not to cover the writing on the inside.
Loop the next link through the first and tape shut. Repeat for each link until you have all 25.
Hang on the wall or across a doorway. Undo one link for each day, and enjoy as a family doing the activity on the inside of the link.
Some suggested activities for a Christmas Advent calendar:
Draw names for a Christmas gift exchange
Listen to (and sing along with) holiday music! Each person gets to choose a favorite song
Bake cookies to share with your neighbors
Go Christmas caroling
Have a hot chocolate party
Decorate the tree
Hang other decorations around the house
Pick a charity to make a family donation
Decide on a family service project
Pop popcorn and watch a favorite holiday movie
Make presents to take to teachers at school, the letter carrier, etc.