Frugal Canadian Christmas
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  1. #1
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    Question Frugal Canadian Christmas

    OK I need some advice folks. We are in a situation. We have some South Korean students we are planning to have for Christmas. Plus some other people. So far I'm planning a Tree Decorating party, a Christmas Eve party, a Christmas Day get together (complete with gifts), and a Medieval Feast between Christmas and New Year's...maybe New Year's Eve. That's a lot of entertaining for me. The question is, how do I do this frugally?

    I'd like to give a small gift to the kids, but not something they don't need. I'd like something that is useful for them. Something small. Two of them live in homestay situations. There is one couple on their own in their own small studio apartment.

    For the actual entertaining I've decided to go potluck the whole way. We will have our traditional Christmas Eve meal. But it will be supplemented.

    Then we have the problem of getting everyone to church Christmas Eve. We have ten people who need to go and one car. I am trying to convince someone with van to come.

    I'm also a bit concerned about people getting here for Christmas Day. There is no bus service locally on Christmas. I am trying to figure out how many bodies I can have sleeping here at once. I have extra beds for 5 people.

    And, aside from that, what do you think would be the quintessential Canadian Christmas experience? Heeellppp!

  2. #2
    Registered User Libby's Avatar
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    peanut - don't overstretch yourself!!

    I think you have all the bases covered, tree & decorations, gifts, traditional bird meal & church service. The only thing I think may be lacking are teaching them how to bake festive treats, a recipe they can take with them perhaps printed on card stock & laminated and um...yeah..snow

    You could always teach them about snow, how to shovel, play in it, snowball fights, build snowmen and snow angels. Skating & tobogganing too? Then how to warm up with hot chocolate and the treats they helped bake earlier, singing festive carols or watching 'A Christmas Carol'. (or A Christmas Story)

    AND/OR you can teach them the spirit of giving selflessly - ie have them volunteer with you in a soup kitchen for a few hours. That is a 'feel good' double duty type activity.

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    Yeah, I'm a bit concerned about overstretching myself. I'm trying to open negotiations with another homestay parent to see if they will do one of the events at their place. That might take the load off me. We'll see. I must admit I am having fun thinking about it.

    The biggest problem for me is entertaining people once they're here. Thanks for the movie idea! Excellent choice. Most of them won't understand it though...even with subtitles. But it's worth a try. Or even "Miracle on 34th St." (?)

    Time Christmas Day outside in the snow...that we can do here!

    Baking for Christmas...excellent idea! Making homemade chocolates. Yes...I think I could get them involved with that too...maybe about the time of the tree decorating party. And stringing popcorn and cranberries on thread to put on the tree maybe? Maybe gingerbread houses? At least gingerbread cookies. Hmmm...

    And I will have to count to make sure I have stockings for all of them. I'll need some practical things to put in their stockings that are dirt cheap...maybe I won't do stockings. In my experience they cost about $25 - 30 each to fill. Course, they are university students...maybe stationary supplies will do the job. They can be had cheaply.

    Board games too...we can play games like Bananagrams. We have Monopoly which could get interesting quick. Also RISK. Or for a real Canadian twist we could play Poleconomy, based on the Canadian economy...hmmm... And of course we'll have a puzzle out for people to work on.

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    Registered User Libby's Avatar
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    Try making memories through experiences rather then memories by giving them 'things' I think thats what an intl student would remember most...learning about OUR traditions etc and how they felt partaking in it. If they can feel you not being happy and enjoying the season.....they may learn to not like it too so try to stick to things you truly enjoy doing. Lead by example

    Hehehe go door to door caroling! I'd die laughing so hard if a bunch of intl students came to my door singing with their accents - not in a mean way but for some odd reason...that would purely amuse me! You kwim

    Maybe ask them to share some of their holiday traditions with you and show you and everyone else from Canada how they observe the holidays. Education goes both ways.

    Just remember to plan things loosely and not kill yourself with the details.....YOU deserve a holiday too - not after but during the same time frame.

    BTW peanut, YOU ROCK for doing this for those students. I'm sure they will never forget this Christmas. Especially if it snows TONS and you make them learn how to shovel

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    You're right Libby. Our Christmas seems to center on food and gifts...too much so.

    The reason I'm starting this so early is because there's a fair bit of baking involved in our Christmas. I like to have mini-quiches in the freezer for Christmas morning. And DD#2 will be home for Christmas, so I must get her favourite goodies in the freezer too.

    Hmmm...caroling...we might have to do that indoors in nursing homes, etc. SK winters can get pretty cold. I will have to talk with the other people hosting the students and see what they might have in mind. Maybe we can share some of these ideas around and different people be responsible for different things...

    A taffy pull at the tree decorating party might be fun...but then we need someone to eat the taffy! Not me!

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    Registered User mslolsalot's Avatar
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    For gifts, I would hit the dollar store. You could find some inexpensive but useful items (candy canes, mini mitts, hats, stationery) and maybe some tins or boxes to put some of the baking in to take with them. Set a firm limit of $5 per person- or whatever. Perhaps use a small gift bag as opposed to stockings- unless you can find inexpensive stockings.

    It sounds like this is going to be a memorable Christmas for all of you. Have fun!

  8. #7
    Registered User Libby's Avatar
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    Oooh I like the idea of caroling at the nursing home - maybe you could help serve and clear tables in their dining room too, maybe make an afternoon of it and do the dinner thing and games later on back at your place.

    Last year, I found mini stockings at the dollar store - 5 for $1 they were tiny though - only a few hershey kisses fit into it with a mini candy cane. I think they were meant more for decoration but I put the those suckers to good use! I also bought the 3 for $1 small but bigger then the minis - these were large enough to hold a gift card plus the candy. I gave $5 Tim Hortons w/candy to a few friends

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    Thanks gals. I think I'll pick up some of the hand held heating packs for them. They are always cold here! I'll talk to some people this month and see what I can come up with.

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    Thought I'd update everyone on how it all panned out.

    We had the Tree Decorating Party in early December. We splurged on food and my boarder and I cooked a traditional Korean meal for everyone. The Koreans were very eager to take the leftovers home! We decorated the tree, ate and talked. I tried to get them interested in games (no go), and singing carols (they weren't interested...didn't know any English ones). It was a real sad event for me. Not one of my best efforts. I think I have to invite more than just the Koreans. They are too quiet for a party on their own. Lesson learned.

    Christmas went better. We decided to double up the Medieval Feast with Christmas Day. Bad move for me. I was mega-tired. But the one couple we really wanted to come only had that day off. So it was then or not at all.

    Christmas Eve was fun. We had a couple of the Koreans with us and some friends from church and family. My daughter got food poisoning from some bad cream cheese from Great Canadian Bagel and didn't make church. But the guy with the van did come and we had enough cars to get everyone else to church services. We came home and watched the movie "The Librarian" before everyone left/crashed for the night. We had plenty of room in the end, with only 3 extra bodies in the house overnight. DH and I had help from one of the guys in filling the stockings.

    In fact, that one young man was real cynical about Christmas going into it. He hasn't celebrated it in a long time. He didn't understand why we were doing stockings for adults. We might not another year. But this year was to give the experience to the Koreans.

    I noticed this young man's demeanor change as Christmas approached. By the time the stockings were filled I needed help popping enough popcorn to fill a Rubbermaid storage bin as a gag gift. He was getting right into the whole thing, even giving me advice on the perfect spot to hide the gift certificate in all that popcorn! We got to bed around 2 AM.

    Christmas Day people started showing up around 9 AM. I started cooking breakfast. We decided to go easy with all the cooking. A friend suggested I buy unbaked pie shells for all the quiche/pies/tarts I wanted to make. That helped a lot. I potlucked Christmas Eve and the Medieval Feast. We only had two meals Christmas Day.

    After breakfast we opened gifts...the first time. After more people showed up in the afternoon we opened more gifts. We had an extra body we hadn't planned on for the Medieval Feast. One of the boys has a new girlfriend.

    The feast was fun. It was mostly a chance for people to visit. The Koreans had been out until 5 AM! Christmas morning, so they were exhausted. They excused themselves early and went home to bed. The rest of us stayed and visited and played games and watched a movie.

    I crashed at midnight, leaving four or five 'kids' to close up the house when they decided to go home/to sleep.

    So it was a good time. But my, I was so exhausted on Boxing Day! It's taken me a couple days to get over it.

    DD#2 did the Christmas baking. I paid a friend of mine to make samosas for quick meals. That was a good idea.

    I made chocolates for stocking stuffers. I bought bulk packs of pens, highlighters and mechanical pencils, split them up and put them in various stockings. I added a few toy Slinky's for gag gifts. And an orange in every stocking. Also some hot sauce for a special guy. And Terry's white chocolate oranges for a few guys. And trail mix I found on sale.

    I made all my gifts but one. And it wasn't made because DH wanted to buy something instead for that individual. It was too expensive for just one person to give...or even two. I talked to DD#2 and her fiance and they decided to go in on it with us. It was well received.

    I figure the total gift costs for Christmas for DH and I was under $1000CAD for 13 people and 9 stockings. The food was another matter. Even with all the potlucking our grocery expenses rang in at ~$750CAD!!! But then we had 3 meals of 10-12 people, a week of 5 people in the house, and 3 days with another 4 people in and out eating meals. And we had special meals with special food.

    It could have been cheaper, but DH would have to buy into doing his Christmas shopping earlier or make gifts like me. He's not big on that idea.

    The highlight of our Christmas? Seeing one young man, who has been estranged from his parents, get up and give them a big hug upon seeing the gift they had given him. He moved from cynical to excited child in 24 hours. Gotta love the spirit of Christmas!

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