Szymanski: Christmas Craft Day has become a family holiday tradition

Grandchildren Lexi, Matthew and Norah work on projects during a past Christmas Craft Day at columnist Lois Szymanski's home. Szymanski's answer to commercialism and boredom, her fourth annual craft day with her grandkids is coming up.
Grandchildren Lexi, Matthew and Norah work on projects during a past Christmas Craft Day at columnist Lois Szymanski's home. Szymanski's answer to commercialism and boredom, her fourth annual craft day with her grandkids is coming up. (Lois Szymanski)

The temperatures have drastically dropped, we’ve already had our first snow of the season, Christmas music is playing in every store. Yes, it ‘tis the season. Christmas-palooza drapes every store in red and green. As much as I want to say, “Bah Humbug” to the commercialization of Christmas, I must admit that it is definitely getting me in the mood.

For me, Christmas giving isn’t just about shopping for the perfect gift. I cannot spend a ton of money, and truthfully, gifts from the heart are the best, anyway. It’s not just a mantra. It’s the truth, and that’s why I do crafts with my grandkids every year. The things they make become gifts from the heart for their mom and dad, and for the family tree. Besides, Christmas giving isn’t just about gifts. Sometimes it is about the time we spend together.


Four years ago, my daughter asked if I could keep the kids when school closed for the holidays. These were the last few days before Christmas and I knew they would be cranked up. School was out, Christmas was coming, and the weather had kept them cooped up inside. How would I keep them entertained?

Many of our friends help serve a holiday meal at a local shelter. I can’t think of a better way to show thanks than to do something for those in need. Throughout the last few weeks, I’ve been researching about other ways to give thanks on this special holiday, and I found several neat new ideas.

That is when I had the idea to hold a Christmas Craft Day. I carefully planned ahead, purchasing supplies and finding instructions for the crafts we would do. It turned out to be so much fun that it has become a tradition. Now I am looking forward to our fourth annual Christmas Craft Day.


We always start the day with hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and Christmas cookies. If the kids are allowed to spend the night, those cookies could be the ones that we baked the night before. It seems that decorating your own makes a cookie taste even better.

Over our many Christmas craft days, the kids have made tree ornaments, including popsicle stick Christmas trees and candy canes with red and white beads threaded onto pipe cleaners. We’ve painted snowmen made from stacked spools and made reindeer refrigerator magnets from clothespins with magnetic strips on the back. Cardboard rolled into a cone became the base for a Christmas tree that was covered with paper strips and decorated with beads and buttons. Grinch-like green elves were fashioned from toilet paper rolls with paper heads and hats. Styrofoam balls became ornaments when beads and decorations were pinned onto the balls. Wooden birdhouses and picture frames were painted with a Christmas colors. Who knows what we will do this year …

Usually, I layer up a pan of lasagna the day before, so I can pop it into the oven while we are crafting, pulling it out at noon for a delicious, warm meal when we take our lunch break.

The best part about our Christmas craft day is that each craft is wrapped in memories of the time we spent together. I love watching them concentrate, ask questions of each other, and come up with new ideas. Each child is clearly different from the other, individuals with minds of their own.

Norah, the youngest is very artsy, but she doesn’t have patience for things that take too long. Lexi, the middle child, has the patience of Job. She always works in a careful and methodical fashion. I expect her to use traditional colors, while our wild child — Norah — is sure to spice it up with odd colors and textures.

Last year, Matthew only participated in one craft. He is 13 now, and I wonder if he will join in any crafts at all this year. But even if he doesn’t, I know I can count on him to tease his sisters, crack jokes, make us laugh and give advice to both girls.

After all those long, sunny days earlier sunsets are here. Those long shadows and that chill on the air fill me with a sense of urgency. There is so much to do before winter comes. I’m trying to get a new pasture cleared and fenced for the ponies, but there always seems to be some stumbling block.

While we work, we are sure to run through the gamut of Christmas songs. The girls always sing the loudest, while Matthew puts his own twist on each song. I think his favorite is “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” but I don’t take it personally!

We have some of our most thoughtful discussions while crafting. The girls tell me about their favorite teachers, friends at school and what they like or don’t like about daycare. Matthew talks about motorbikes and trains, scooters and snowboarding. The difference in the genders is clear. But sometime along the way, talk always turns to the true meaning of Christmas.

We discuss the importance of random acts of kindness, and how they are not only for the Christmas season, but year round. Their parents have already set an example for them on this. Every time they cross the Bay Bridge, they pay for the car behind them. Recently, Norah was commissioned to paint a few model horses to look like Chincoteague Ponies. When she was paid, she donated half her money to the Feather Fund. Her mom suggested it, and even though she is saving for a pony of her own, Norah was quick to agree.

Before the day is over, Norah always me to read her favorite Christmas book, “The Christmas Baby” by Marion Dane Bauer. Even though she has long outgrown it, I suspect she will ask for it again this year. Then, if there is time, we will end the day with a Christmas movie. Now that we have Netflix, the possibilities are endless.

Christmas Craft Day with the kids reminds me what Christmas is all about. For me, it is about the kids, it is about life lessons, it is about time spent with those we love — but mostly, it is to remember the birthday of Jesus. I’m looking forward to craft day with my grandbabies this year, even though I have a feeling I’m going to have to read “The Christmas Baby” a few more times.

Some projects are displayed from a previous Christmas Craft Day.
Some projects are displayed from a previous Christmas Craft Day. (Lois Szymanski)

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