Don’t wait until that Christmas in July – start it with Leon Day in June! June 25th 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 homemade gifts we create every Christmas it becomes necessary for us to plan ahead and take all the time we can get. If you’d like to enter the holiday season in a calm, prepared way please join my family in celebrating Leon Day and make a homemade Christmas.
Now, this little family tradition of Leon Day 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, here’s little about the Christmas version of Leon Day.
Noel Spelled Backwards
Leon (Noel spelled backwards) Day marks the six month mark until Christmas day. Six months may seem like a long time but it can go by fast. As a parent, I have the noble goal of being ready for Christmas in a calm, organized, measured way. If we want to make ours a HOMEMADE Christmas it is especially important that we begin as soon as possible.
However, the LAST thing you need is another line on your to-do list. Make this fun by making it a tradition – complete with special foods, music and decorations.
The Importance of Traditions and a Homemade Christmas
Here’s a little excerpt from our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead on the importance of traditions:
“Don’t neglect creating righteous traditions in your family and on your homestead. They’re pleasant things to do and lovely ways to connect with your family, but they are also one of the tools your family has to prepare against hard times. When sorrows come, jobs are lost, disaster strikes, or other maladies afflict your home, the rhythm of your traditions will provide a peaceful constant. I’ve had this lesson taught to me again and again.
“Recently, our family struggled with an emotionally and physically draining experience. As the mom, I’m in charge of making sure that things get done, whether I feel like it or not. But I just didn’t have energy to come up with fun things to do to distract us from the stress of the situation. The children reminded me that, because of our family rituals and traditions, I didn’t have to come up with new ideas. We already had traditions in place, established over the years of our life together. Sunday, we have a family night, Monday night is game night, and Friday night is homemade pizza and movie night. All the nights in between, we sit and read together as a family.
“Those traditions may sound simple, perhaps too simple to even bother with, but I can assure you that they have saved my sanity many times over the years.”
For a little addendum to your personal devotionals this morning I encourage you to read and ponder further on the topic of traditions by reading this article we wrote and investigating some of the resources there. Click here for Building Family Traditions.
Homemade Christmas Realities
We have loved the results of simplifying our Christmases and are so grateful that they’re small, Chris- 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.
Being Worthwhile Without Wearing Out
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.
Celebrating Leon Day- The Set Up for a Homemade Christmas
Ok, you’re building a tradition from scratch here and you can do it any way you like. The following is just a list of suggested activities for a homemade Christmas, but it’s your family so do it YOUR way.
In the Holiday Mood
The first thing you’re going to need to do is get in the mood. Don’t skip this step because it’s really hard to feel Christmas-y when it hot outside and your kids practically live in their swimsuits.
My sister listens to Christmas music all year round – crazy or spot on, I’ll let you decide.
When do YOU start listening to Christmas music each year? Leave a comment and see what others say!
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. In all honesty, I start listening to Christmas music 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.
Decorate for Christmas – Don’t Go Crazy
Get a few Christmas decorations and put them around. Just a few – this should be fun, not work!
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.
Make Christmas Cookies
Not far behind in importance is the Christmas cookie. Any event can be made more festive with the addition of a cookie. The key to engaging the children here is excitement! You don’t want them draped all over the couch in their annoyance, moping and waiting for this to be over so they can go play.
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 to actually accomplish. As far as Leon Day is concerned, 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.
The Philosophy of Homemade Christmas for Families
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.
- Ponder what would make sisters and brothers happy is a wonderful thing for any child.
- I want them to have to work hard to ensure that brother has a gift that will make him smile.
- We all need to learn to stick to projects we undertake, especially those in the service of others. We especially need this lesson when they take a long time to complete or can require learning 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 family members 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!
Draw Family or Friend Names for Gift Giving
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.
Planning for Homemade Gift Projects
Other projects we’ve done are:
- simple quilts
- dough ornaments
- finger-knitted and loom-knitted scarves
- sock animals
- embroidered hankies
- picture frames
Here’s a post with several tutorials for gifts that are easy to do quickly and even with young children – click here.
My favorite resource for learning about handmade gifts for the holidays is the library where they house real, tangible, non-digital books. I love real books. They also have e-books, if you prefer. Librarians are also staffed by librarians who are super book savvy and can help you find what you need. Walk in confused and say, “I read this crazy post online about getting ready to make Christmas gifts in June, or something…do you have a book for that?”
Some of our favorite craft books for kids may or may not resonate with you. I’ll list some below but don’t feel limited by them – if they aren’t your style, the library can help you out with finding whatever is your thing.
- The Children’s Year, by Cooper, Fynes-Clinton and Rowling
- Festivals, Family and Food, by Carey and Large
Here’s a little note on those two previous books from our post 3 Ways to Make Christmas More Meaningful:
“Festivals, Family and Food is another great one, especially for you Waldorf enthusiasts. It’s companion book, The Children’s Year, is a worthy sister. Both are full of crafts and activities that follow the seasons and holidays. The authors are British, which make them an even more charming read for this Anglophile. The Children’s Year has a greater focus on crafts, especially knitting and yarn crafts. The Festivals book includes snippets from literature and recipes. I like both but if I had to pick one, it would be Festivals, Family and Food.”
- Crafts Through the Year, by Thomas and Petra Berger
- Nature’s Art Box, by Laura Martin
- Candle Making in a Weekend, by Sue Spear
- Happy Gloves, by Candle Making
- Candle Making, by Sasha Duerr
We’re pretty fond of our Christmas book that offers homemade gift suggestions, service projects ideas, recipes and so much more! We’d be honored if you’d check it out below:
Use Pinterest for Inspiration
Pinterest can be our best friend while we gather resources for Leon Day. People are SO creative and generous with their information. You can get a lot of ideas for homemade gifts there.
However, don’t freak out if your projects don’t look like the perfectly photographed and marketed ideas you see on Pinterest pins. Those images are pretty much fake – or, at best, they’re highly staged. I say that without malice because, as a blogger, I create Pinterest images all the time.
Just remember that the reality behind what you see on Pinterest is illustrated below. The image on the left is what went to Pinterest and the image on right is what it actually looked like (and you can’t even see the manky winter boot off in the corner that probably had a spider in it):
To Use Pinterest Effectively
Search keywords like:
- handmade gifts for kids
- service projects for kids
- gifts from scratch
- herbal gifts handmade
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.
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.
Matching the Child to the Handmade Gift Project
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.
- Calendar you homemade gift making so that make a little something every month. You really can’t leave homemade gifts to the last minute. Except when you do. And when you do, it helps go herbal for unique gift.
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.
Two Handmade Gift Examples Kids Can Do
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. My friend Angi from Schneider Peeps created a course for kids just to teach them to do basic stitches.
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. Even the kids and Daddy use them without much input from me and love them. We use them for winter service projects every year now and they work equally well to create gifts.
More Help with Leon Day Celebrations
FYI, when I link several things so close together, desktop users will have to pardon any funky formatting. I try to space the links so that mobile users of the site don’t tear their hair out trying to get the link they want in the tiny space on their phone.
So, here are a few more helps for your homemade Christmas ideas list:
- Make Your Own Nativity Sets from us here at Homestead Lady
- Here’s Homemade Christmas Cards…Or Not by The Elliott Homestead – I love her writing so much
- Rag Quilt Christmas Ornaments from Melissa K Norris’s site – a guest post we wrote for her – easy enough for any kid who can tie a knot.
- Homemade Gingerbread Houses – these take a little time and planning but are so fun!
- Here’s a gift bag tutorial from Schneider Peeps – Angi, the author, helped inspire me to transition from paper wrapping to using these bag and they make great gifts – click here
- My friend Kathie from Homespun Seasonal Living wrote a whole book on homemade food gifts – they’re simple, tasteful and sweet – just like her
- Here are five simple gifts any kid can make with a little help – firestarters, upcycled sweater sachets and more –another one from us
- Borax ornaments also by Schneider Peeps – we’ve made these for all sorts of holidays and they hold up really well – very sturdy for gift giving by kids
- If you or your kids can crochet, these DIY Crocheted Ornaments from 104 Homestead are so easy even I can do them and that’s saying something
Round-Up Posts for Homemade Christmas
There are a bunch of posts that have multiple gift ideas linked inside. Here are some from my favorite bloggers – these ladies actually live a homemade lifestyle and I love their ideas:
- Preparing for a Handmade Christmas by Joybilee Farm
- DIY Holiday Gifts from Ever Growing Farm – click here
- Have Yourself a Homemade Christmas by Learning and Yearning
- The Ultimate Homemade Holiday by Imaginacres
- 10+ Handmade Gifts from the Heart by Grow a Good Life
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.