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Each year it seems Christmas comes sooner. Everyone is in a rush to decorate their homes and find that perfect gift. It's easy to get caught up spending more than we can afford and this stresses many of us with little or no money.

Ask your parents or grandparents and they will tell you how they celebrated the holidays. It was spent sharing the company of family and friends, having a good meal and being grateful for what you have. They were right! You can get into the spirit of the season by personalizing it and creating your own traditions and rituals.

The most meaningful traditions don't involve spending a lot of money. You can create you own by making handmade gifts, ornaments or cards, preparing a dish that has been in the family for generations, or creating a family newsletter together.

No one says you can't give homemade gifts. Making and giving your own gifts can be both enjoying and satisfying.

Instead of wrapped presents, you can use jars and have slips of paper promising an afternoon of reading your child's favorite stories, cooking lessons or a family day together. Come up with several ideas for everyone's jars, and let them pick out slips one at a time on Christmas morning.

You can write a letter telling a loved one how much you appreciate them. Read your letter on Christmas day and let everyone hear how much you care about them. Have grandparents make a cassette tape with memories of what life was like when they were young or holiday memories they cherish.

You can make a set of handmade ornaments and give them to a family friend or relative. To make ornaments, it doesn't have to be costly. If you can sew, try making stuffed fabric ornaments in the shapes of stars, angels or trees. Use scrap material to make them or material from your child's first outfit or christening gown. If sewing is not your skill, try making paper bag ornaments. Use a grocery paper bag or butcher paper and trace shapes from cookie cutters. Have the kids get into the scene by coloring them, stuffing each one with cotton and gluing them shut to let dry.

Some of the best gifts are made by children. Have them draw or paint a picture and write a message inside. If you want to spend a little money go to a printing shop and have your child's pictures printed into holiday cards. If you have a budding artist in the family (and everyone does) have your child's picture framed and give as a gift to grandparents.

They say to win someone's heart is with food, so why not give a gift of love with baked goods. Bake some cookies, breads or dessert and place them in a decorative gift box with a large bow. Sign a card saying "From our family, to Yours!" Believe me it will be much appreciated.

One of the newest trends with the advent of technology is producing a family newsletter. Using your computer to create one is one way you can tell everyone how you and your family are doing this season by including photos and sharing your children's milestones. Get the kids into the project by asking them to contribute something like a poem, story about themselves or assign them as family reporters writing an article about a family member. You can either post your newsletter online or print it out and mail it to relatives and friends. They'll love reading them.

Remember it's not how much you spend that counts but how much love you put into the thought of others this season.

Personalizing the Holiday is something my family has done since I was a little girl. My parents instilled in me the spirit of giving from the heart and I am passing that tradition to my son in hopes that he will carry it on when he grows up.

Here's wishing you a Happy Holiday!

About the author
Sandra Kuykendall-Lombard lives in Texas with her husband and son. She is a writer, homeschooler, artist as well as a parent to a special needs child. As a free-lance writer, her content focuses on gardening, crafts, relationships and family life. She maintains a position as a Moderator and Community Leader at Baby University, an online parenting community.
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