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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Bechen

A Simpler Old-Fashioned DIY Christmas

Updated: Jan 26

Does the over-the-top commercial glitz and expense of the Christmas season ever wear on you?

Call me Grinch, but sometimes it does me!

Steve and I have celebrated many (wonderful) styles of Christmases over our 41 years married, most of them simple and sweet and yes, some of them a bit fancier, but my favorite way to celebrate is to focus on ...

Merry Christmas Kathryn Bechen

Christ's humble birth that resulted in a gently powerful life mission as God and Savior of the world, for everyone.

That's quite a gift!

Some of my favorite ways to celebrate a simpler old-fashioned Christmas:

  • Growing up, my favorite memories of our Midwestern Christmases were of our little white-with-a-cute-steeple rural and small-town churches where we sang Christmas songs, ate homemade cookies, drank homemade hot chocolate, (with a little candy cane in it of course!), put on a Christmas pageant, and took Christmas baked goodies we had made to neighbors and friends.

  • When I was a little girl, we made homemade cinnamon rolls at home, (round bread balls with cinnamon in them about the size of a baseball that we let rise), and then we placed them on a cookie sheet in the shape of a Christmas tree and baked them 'til golden. When cool, we frosted them with green icing and topped the icing with colorful sprinkles. We gave these to neighbors and friends, and they made a nice centerpiece for our own Christmas table too. If you want to try this, you don't have to make homemade bread -- it's fine to use frozen bread dough to keep things easier!

  • We decorated our childhood Christmas tree with simple objects that cost very little. Like paper chains we made and glued together, and garlands we made out of popcorn and cranberries strung on a thread with a needle. (And yes, there was a poked finger or two!)

  • Our childhood tree topper was an angel with a pink feather skirt and a porcelain face and it lasted many years until finally the feathers were worse-for-wear worn off. A good way to create a fun dollarwise Christmas tradition for your kids: choose tree toppers, one for each child, that they can eventually take with them when they leave home and start their own families.

  • Our childhood 4-H club went Christmas caroling to elderly farm homes and it was priceless to see the residents come to their front door. I remember their lit-up faces even now, 55 years or so later. Afterwards we had hot cider with cinnamon sticks and cookies at our 4-H leader's home.

  • As newlyweds living in western Nebraska, Steve and I enjoyed very traditional church services at a sweet little Episcopal church, and a festive night at a beautiful home located along a pretty river, where we were served traditional wassail and sang Christmas songs. It was magical!

  • As a newlywed teacher living in small-town Nebraska, a new teacher friend from the East Coast and I spent an evening making Christmas cookies together at each other's houses -- the goodies were all over the table and counters! We exchanged recipes from our own childhoods and then boxed the cookies up in pretty Christmas-themed-containers and gave them to families from school and church.

  • As young marrieds in our late 20s, Steve and I enjoyed a cozy chili suppers at home on Christmas Eve, candlelight Midnight Mass, and finding wonderful church musical pageants to attend each year in various neighborhood churches when we lived in Omaha, Nebraska.

  • Of course, sledding is free fun once you buy the sled, and growing up Midwesterners, we did our fair share of sledding. (I have never liked snow though, so this was NOT my favorite Christmas activity, I admit!) But if you like snow, sledding is a fun dollarwise Christmas activity to do with your kids on Christmas Day afternoon that they'll likely remember!

Kathryn Bechen Arizona home
I couldn't resist this flag near my Arizona palm and orange trees!
  • We have enjoyed all styles of at-home Christmas dinners with new friends we have met along the way as we have moved towns and cities around the U.S., both during childhood and as adults, and most of these dinners have been simple but festive, and many of them yummy potlucks. You don't have to spend a lot on an over-the-top meal; you just need to bring one yummy dish to the potluck and show up with a smile!

  • One Christmas after we bought our Omaha home, I hosted a Christmas tea for my work friends. I bought festive Christmas themed dishes and trays and mugs on sale at a store that was going out of business and used my newlywed-gift lace tablecloth and some big red bows. We had a small tree with presents already underneath set up, so that was the living room "centerpiece." It was simple, but pretty, and we all enjoyed ourselves as I asked them to each to share a favorite personal Christmas memory of their own to get to know each other better.

Steve and Kathryn Bechen Christmas table
Kathryn & Steve Bechen DIY Christmas table

  • You don't need a big space to celebrate a pretty Christmas either! The above photo was taken in our small Omaha apartment, (1200 SF) where we popped up the leaves on our Duncan Phyfe table that we bought at an antique store, and I covered it with a new white damask sheet and tied bows on the end. All the serving bowls and platters and pitchers and real silver were either collected over the years at thrift stores, antique malls, or were gifts. (The pretty mirror that looks so fancy was a $100 scratch and dent that I covered up the small ding with gold paint and the pix are discount store frames with glossy floral greeting cards inside, but that's another dollarwise decorating story.) That Christmas we invited people who were single, away from family, or couldn't travel back home due to work, and it was quite interesting conversation! Some had just moved into our apartment complex and we barely knew them, but they left as friends. All the food was from Costco so we didn't stress out about making everything homemade since we had about 10 people to feed so this was easier.

  • One Christmas I remember fondly in our 30s was singing carols on Christmas Eve with our church friends who had adopted two small foreign children and had invited us to their home. They were having hard financial times due to a job cutback, so they had just moved into a small rental house after having to sell their large home. Even so, their little Christmas tree was festively decorated, the host played his guitar as we sang, a Jewish friend-of-a friend joined in with us in the living room singing Christmas songs too, their foreign-adopted kids had several sweet gifts under the tree, and the kids' "Aunties & Uncles" from church, (us and others), were lovingly present for these adopted kids. Money was not flowing freely for this family that Christmas, but love was.

"And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

--Isaiah 9:6

Wishing you a simple, celebratory, loving, dollarwise Christmas season!

Kathryn :)


"Celebrating the art of simple, charming, dollarwise living"

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