So, tomorrow marks the six month point until Christmas – did you realize that? Yep, June 25th. Did I just make or ruin your day? Because of the high volume of handmade gifts we create every Christmas it becomes necessary for us to plan ahead and take all the time we can get. Enter Leon Day and homemade Christmas.
Making family celebrations meaningful is A LOT of work for families – especially parents. We have loved the results of simplifying our Christmases and are so grateful that they’re small, Christ centered and include homemade gifts!! However, as I write this, I have five children under the age of twelve. Five. There’s one of me. I’m no math whiz but it seems to me that I’m greatly outnumbered here. The reality of homemade gifts is this – I’m going to need to help my children craft each gift. Not all of the kids require the same kind or level of help but it can still get a little overwhelming. As with anything worthwhile, making religious holidays meaningful to children will take some effort on my part. Ask any Jewish mama how much time she spends in the kitchen just before Passover and you might get the mom look. Or, ask your Hindu friends who have children how many times they’ve scrubbed and scrubbed the house to prepare for Diwali only to have little feet smudge up hand painted mandalas. Bottom line, parents need all the time they can get to prepare for holidays!
Never fear – we have six months to get our butts in gear! A little rhyme there to introduce the idea of Leon Day, if you’ve never heard of it. Now, this little family tradition is not to be confused with the great Leon Day, the Negro League’s remarkable strike out pitcher who played for the Black Sox and other teams in the 1930’s and 40’s. He had a wicked curve ball and crazy fastball and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995. If you’re a baseball fan, you can learn more about him here. With a hearty salute to Mr. Day, let me tell you how we celebrate Leon Day and homemade Christmas.
Celebrating Leon Day
The first thing you’re going to need to do is get in the mood. My sister listens to Christmas music all year round – crazy or spot on, I’ll let you decide. My Christmas crooners are never very far away, either, since I keep them in a separate box under my bed so that I can access them for Leon Day and along about September when I just can’t take summer anymore. Subconsciously I’m thinking that if I start playing Bing Crosby on and off, summer will get the hint and GO AWAY! Anyway, get some Christmas music out.
Then, get a few decorations and put them around. My favorite thing in the Christmas decoration department is lights. I love them. I love, love Christmas lights. Don’t overwhelm yourself with doing the entire house, just get a few family treasures out that will set the mood. Not far behind in importance is the Christmas cookie. Any event can be made more festive with the addition of a cookie. Ask any kiddo you know. The key to engaging the children here is excitement! You don’t want them draped all over the couch in their swimsuits moping and waiting for this to be over so they can go play in the water. They need to be engaged and totally stoked that you’re making plans for your homemade Christmas. This make take a few years of trying and you may want to start a week or so in advance every year of June 25th to get them into it. Inspire don’t require. If you’re kid really isn’t wanting to make Christmas gifts by hand, don’t make them. They can do chores to earn extra money to buy their gifts. No biggie. For now.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve studied history. There may come a time, as economies fluctuate likes tides, when purchasing Christmas gifts for all the people we love just wont be a feasible option. Do I celebrate Leon Day with my family because I’ve nothing better to do every June 25th? Uh, no. What’s going on in the garden and on the homestead around June? EVERYTHING! I have a lot of other things I could be doing.
We celebrate Leon Day because I want my children to have an organic, personal connection to gift giving. I want them to have to ponder what would make their sister happy. I want them to have to work hard to ensure that brother has a gift that will make him smile. I want them to learn to stick to projects they undertake, especially those in the service of others, especially when they can take a long time to complete or can require learning and practicing a new skill. Service and sacrificing self matter. What is Christmas to the Christian, after all? Its the day we celebrate the birth (regardless of what time of year we think it took place) of the One who taught all we’ll ever need to know about service and self sacrifice to benefit others. And to make them happy.
Resources for Celebrating Leon Day
The point of celebrating Leon Day in our home is to draw names of the people for whom we will be creating gifts and then to plan out those gifts. We do fun stuff, too, but that’s the primary reason we observe this day. We don’t have each person give gifts to every other person because that just gets too cluttered for us – we want to keep the focus on Christ, not stuff. Besides, I could have a year to prepare and I’d still never oversee five kids hand crafting gifts for every family member! So, we do a name drawing with each person picking one immediate family member and one just-outside-immediate-family member. For example, last year, my oldest daughter had Daddy (her father = immediate) and one cousin (Olivia the awesome = just outside immediate). Dear Daughter decided to make fabric flowers and attach them to headbands for cousin and make a duct tape wallet for her father. She is my oldest and so all she really required from me was that I present her with ideas, help her gather materials and provide time in our school/family schedule for her to complete her projects.
Other projects we’ve done are simple quilts, dough ornaments, finger-knitted scarves, embroidered hankies, picture frames and, the ever popular, treats. For more ideas, see below.
Pinterest can be our best friend while we gather resources for Leon Day. Search keywords like “handmade gifts for kids”, “service projects for kids” (yep, we pick our holiday service projects on Leon Day, too, and every year the children pick more and more so I’m grateful to have six months to prepare), “gifts from scratch”. Keep in mind the different ages and energy/personality profiles of each child. Try not to overwhelm yourself or them. You know each kid best and for some of them, three ideas to choose from will be better than thirty. Plus, if you and I screen the ideas beforehand, we can filter out any we’re just not willing to do. Its ok for us to say, “Nope, we’re not doing that this year – maybe next year, when you’re older”. I have one who likes to bite off more than she can chew – she gets that from me.
The biggest resource for effectively celebrating and making use of Leon Day is, quite frankly, you. You know your children best. If you don’t have children in your home, borrow some from somewhere. You NEED children to effectively celebrate anything – the older we get, the more boring and self absorbed we become. Grab grandchildren, neighbor kids and kids you go to church with – find a child and help them with this project over the next six months. You may just find that you’re the one being mentored.
Gather ideas for handmade gifts to present to them but don’t overwhelm them – go with what they’re naturally drawn to and at which they naturally excel. Ponder what each child’s abilities are and guide them to choices that are do-able. If they’re passionate about trying a project that you’re sure will be too much, what real harm can be done by letting them try? Have a back up plan for those passionate planners so that you can redirect and encourage them should their best laid plans go awry. Suddenly this project becomes more about crafting your relationship with your children than it does about crafting stockings and bunny rabbits. Truthfully, that’s the greatest Christmas gift of all.
To read more on simply celebrating Leon Day, visit this link – How to Celebrate Leon Day by Coolest Family on the Block. Make it fun.
I finally, finally set up two Pinterest boards to keep track of my online searches for ideas of handmade gifts and service project ideas and you’re welcome to visit them and even join them, if you’d like. Just leave me a message if you want to pin there (or on any of my group boards for Homestead Lady).
I would love some help filling up those boards since they’re brand new. I don’t know why I didn’t think to create them sooner! (Oh, yeah, I’m busy offline with three dimensional responsibilities.)
Here are examples of two ideas from last year that we got off the internet that were rockin’ awesome!
Here are some simple sock animals that require only minimal hand sewing skills – yes, you and I need to teach hand sewing to our kids, girls and boys alike. Its a quality skill to have. It drives me bonkers, quite frankly, but I insist they learn to hand sew before I let my kids touch a sewing machine. Mentoring children is very rarely about what the adult wants to do, except that we want to raise happy, useful children. Besides, if I teach them, then maybe I won’t ever have to sew again!
We bought these knitting looms one year at the behest of my dear daughters after they saw the looms on a crafty website. We love these. We use them for winter service projects every year now and they work equally well to create gifts.
Leon Day and Homemade Christmas
If you’re wanting to simplify your Christmas celebrations and make them more about family and service than they are about store bought stuff, then Leon Day may be something you want to start observing. Are ALL our gifts handmade? Pfft, yeah right! I’m only human. I will say, though, that deliberately gifting in a handmade way has made us slow down and savor the season. We really do think more about what gifts will please each other and delight our loved ones. We’ve increased our skill sets and we’ve spent more time together hatching wonderful plans and laboring to please others. I wouldn’t trade these times with my children and others’ children as they’ve joined us for service projects and craft parties.
Just a little something to think about. Happy Christmas and Leon Day, my friends.
*This post was shared at the Homemaking Link Up