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The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Christmas is What You Make It
By Susan Nye

Every year I hear the same complaint: Christmas has become too commercial.
People mumble and grumble and worry that the holiday is all about buying and
taking and not giving. Charlie Brown has been in despair over the madness for
more than four decades.

I don’t care, I love Christmas.

Sure the stores are filled with frenzied chaos, holiday advertising is merciless
and catalogs overwhelm the post office. It doesn’t matter, I still love the spirit of
Christmas, traditions old and new and all of the hustle and bustle.

Every year I look forward to watching sappy Christmas movies. I particularly
like the ones which make me shed a tear or two. Even on the most frigid day, I
like going out and getting my wreaths and a tree. I love bringing out my
collection of decorations, tchotchkes and dust collectors and decking the halls.

I am particularly fond of those little white lights and string them along my fence
posts, wrap them around my tree and sprinkle them throughout the house.
When I was little we had big multicolored lights. At five or six I thought they
were wonderful; today they would probably be considered retro.

I don’t even mind shopping, although over the past few years I have made more
and more of my gifts. I have made wreaths and topiaries and tree ornaments.
Last year was a scarf year. I don’t really knit, but I can make scarves so I made at
least a half a dozen, probably more. I have created gift bags with homemade
cookies and candies as well as savory dips and tapenades. I create my own little
version of Santa’s workshop, by putting on Christmas music and going to work,
mixing, rolling and dipping; gluing, sewing and knitting.  

Making holiday gifts and decorations is nothing new. My mother still uses the
wreath that her mother made with artificial sugared fruit more than 50 years ago.
I remember my Mom wielding cans of gold paint and spraying anything from
pinecones to wreaths made from cork screw, bow tie and wagon wheel pasta or
crèche figures made from rags, Styrofoam balls and pipe cleaners. It is amazing
how a little gold paint can transform the ordinary to the extraordinary -- at least
for a six year old.

In elementary school our teachers helped us out with gifts for our parents every
year. I think I was in the first grade when I made my favorite gift for my Mom. It
was a magnificent pair of plaster of Paris earrings. I thought they were
absolutely beautiful and very festive. We started with big globs of plaster and
after they hardened we painted them red or green. I chose red. We added a big
spot of glue in the center and sprinkled them with glitter and attached clasps to
the back.

My mother bravely wore those earrings for an hour or two. They weighed a ton
and the clasps were like miniature bear traps.

Fast-forward several years to college when I discovered baker’s dough and
made chubby little Santas and red nosed reindeer. I was an art major and got
carried away so I also made taxi cabs, suns, stars, moons and a bunch of fruits
and vegetables as well as Adam and Eve. Over time all of these decorations have
broken or been eaten by mice, except for Eve.

I still make tree ornaments every year or so. Last year it was loons nesting on
pine cones. It is great fun creating these mini-masterpieces and sharing them
with family and friends.

Today my kitchen table and counters are covered with felt, buttons, beads and
yarn. Chocolate almond brittle is cooling on the porch and cookies are baking in
the oven.

I don’t worry about Christmas being too commercial. Like most things,
Christmas is what you make it. Enjoy the holiday and make it your own.

About the author: Susan Nye lives in New London, NH. A self-confessed “foodie”, she
likes nothing better than a crowd of family and friends around her table. To learn more
about her cooking classes and catering services, visit her web site at
Susan Nye or email her
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