We’re nearing the end of one of the tightest semesters on record here in the Osborn home. Let’s just say that between Matthew’s full course load, and my caring for baby, there hasn’t been a lot of extra time for the bringing in of income. I’m not saying that in a woe-is-me-feel-sorry-for-me-please way, just stating the facts. It is what it is. It’s been totally fine, and my frugal self thrives on a challenge. Our food budget is almost nonexistent this month, so I planned an entire month’s worth of meals in advance in order to maximize the use of every single food item I buy this month. And it was fun. (Weird, I know.)
The only problem is, when your food budget is tiny, it’s hard to rationalize buying a Christmas tree, or lights, or decorations, or anything, other than…food. Let me rephrase that. It’s impossible for me to rationalize buying…blah blah blah. But this is our first Christmas as a family of three, and while in the past I have not decorated at all and barely missed it, I now feel a sense of responsibility to form holiday traditions for our growing family. Eliza will not remember this Christmas at all, but I still feel the need to acknowledge the fact that it really is Advent. Christmas is approaching!
So yesterday, armed the vague memory of making Christmas ornaments as a child, I searched the internet for dough recipes and proceeded to bake pseudo-gingerbread ornaments. I strung popcorn to hang with the gingerbread ornaments across the door frames downstairs, and found a decent sized tree branch to use for a Jesse Tree to celebrate Advent. Now, believe it or not, I still had to fight my obsessive frugality even in such an inexpensive decorative project (the ornaments used up four cups of flour, after all…and that’s a loaf of bread or two batches of pancakes! I know, I know…henceforth you may refer to me as Your Royal Cheapskateness), but the result has turned our little duplex into, if not a winter wonderland, at least a place that nods in deference to the season.
Decorating in this frugal season has reminded me of a sweet Christmas when I was a kid. My family was also struggling financially, and we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, which was one of our favorite traditions. So my grandpa built us a manger, and we filled it with straw, and maybe even put our Christmas gifts (I think it was one book per child) in it for Christmas morning. I’m not sure how that all lines up theologically, but it worked for us. I’m sure we were disappointed not to have a tree that year, but all I remember is that my family came up with a creative way to make the season special, and it remains one of my clearest Christmas memories to date.
So I am happy with how my little preparations have turned out, and I’m so excited to follow in the footsteps of my parents who always found a way to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a way that was special and meaningful, regardless of their financial situation.