food

Christmas in July!

Over the weekend, I went to a beautiful Christmas in July celebration.

dining table set in a Turquoise Christmas theme

 

Yes there is a bit of hype about this and it became something of a trend, but it really does make some sense!

CHriChristmas tree beside a roaring fire

It was cold outside all day so heading indoors for a full roast meal with open fires going felt welcoming, cosy and special – just like the Christmas we imagine. And we probably ate more and better enjoyed the roast meats, onion tart, roast potatoes, roast carrots, vegetable salad and Christmas puddings in the cold than we do in the heat of summer!

collage of Christmas food photos

We all got into the spirit of Christmas – we had the full Christmas tree and table decorations, popped bonbons, kids wore tinsel (and ran around making noise!), Christmas jewellery was worn, we played Christmas music in the background, and shared some lovely time and a delicious meal with people we care about. And various foods were Christmas themed – star shaped dragon fruit, a Christmas wreath cheese plate and Christmas tree meringues were amongst the banquet.

It was also more relaxed than Christmas in December as no one had rushed around worrying about gifts, it was a one off event (ie no one had to deal with more Christmas events the next day) and it was one group of friends (no family squabbles interfered with our celebrations and no guilt as choosing one family over the other either).

As someone who spends Christmas Day with family, I loved having a formal Christmas celebration with a group of friends and I think that is what will inspire me to host Christmas in July next year!

A Christmas party

We started December by going to a wonderful Christmas party, thus delaying our start of the 2017 advent calendars!, so here are some of the photos from the night…

Santa beside a 'Santa stop here' sign

Obediently, Santa stopped by…

There were lots of Christmas treats to eat…

CHristmas doughnuts, Christmas tree watermelon and muffins beside a Christmas candle

Some gorgeous decorations, including a bunch of mistletoe

Array of CHirstmas decorations, including mistletoe and a Christmas tree

Outside were some pretty lights

Christmas light display photos

And the star of the night, of course, was Santa!

photos of Santa at a party

Santa gave lovely cuddles to Charlotte, the little elf.

Making Christmas frugal

I like to think of Christmas as a time of giving, happiness, love and friendship. The spirit and magic of Christmas and Santa are about kindness and sharing a celebration.

The decorations add to the atmosphere and magic, but are a bonus.dollars hanging on Christmas tree sketch

Gifts can be a lot of fun, but I think they should be secondary to the real Christmas feelings, but it takes effort to avoid the commercialism of Christmas in the western world.

So if we take away the expensive trimmings, Christmas doesn’t have to cost us a lot of money.

If we keep a lot of the trimmings, it will cost us but here are some ways to minimise those costs. Hopefully others will add to my list so we can all have a Merry Frugal Christmas this year!

  1. make Christmas gift tags and cards instead of buying them
  2. make paper chains out of junk mail as a cheap alternative to tinsel or bought streamers
  3. if hosting an event, ask people to bring a plate to share
  4. when cooking for Christmas events, make a green salad, rice salad or pasta salad instead of a plate of char grilled vegetables or other expensive vegetable options
  5. plant lettuce, tomatoes and others so that they will be ready for harvesting at Christmas time and you have a really cheap salad or vegetable dish to present
  6. where appropriate, you could regift some things
  7. make some gifts – choose ones with materials you already have or can get cheaply. Some good simple gifts I’ve made include bath salts, cake ingredients, herb vinegars and beaded necklaces
  8. use a plain red sheet as a table-cloth – brighten it up with glitter, tinsel or baubles off the tree and it will still be cheaper than most purchased Christmas table cloths
  9. find inexpensive alternatives to Christmas wrapping paper – use kids’ artwork, use brown paper with some stickers or drawings on it, recycle last year’s paper, buy in bulk, use gift bags that can be reused, etc.

    collection of brown boxes with purple gift ribbons

    Simple brown packaging can look stylish without costing a fortune

  10. get the kids to make decorations – this saves buying decorations, gives the kids genuine self-esteem and is probably cheaper than many other entertainment options for the kids!
  11. have a tree of thanks instead of the common decorations – cheaper and very special
  12. when people ask what you (or your kids) want, tell them! It may not save you Christmas money but if you are given something you need it will make your overall budget go further. And that includes getting others contribute to a large gift you want to give your kids
  13. make vouchers so you give the gift of your time and skills rather than things that cost you money. Try vouchers for babysitting, walking dogs, gardening, spring cleaning a house, giving a massage, running errands or doing admin tasks.
  14. think of resources to give as gifts. For instance a list of good books or information about choosing a computer could be really valuable to others
  15. do your Christmas shopping throughout the year. This gives you the chance to grab things on sale (and avoid any mark ups in December) and spread out your spending (which may not save you money in total but makes it easier to bear – and it can save interest payments from over used credit cards)
  16. set a budget for gifts. Personally I find this very hard to do but if you have a budget it does keep things under control. $10 a head for 20 people is $200 – if that sneaks up to $15 or $20 for even half those people it will now cost you $300  – it adds up quickly so think about what you can afford in total then divide it between the number of people (evenly or otherwise).

OK, 16 is my favourite number and I’m about out of ideas for now but they will all save you money and get you thinking of other things to do. Have you built up any traditions or habits to make your Christmas more affordable?

Maybe you don’t like the idea of a frugal Christmas at all – if so, let us know how you manage…

 

 * Images courtesy of 123rf & Love Santa

An Aussie Christmas

I think my childhood Christmases were pretty Australian.

We spent the day at my Uncle’s house every Christmas. They lived right on the beach so in between food and presents, we’d spend the day on the beach – mostly I remember playing cricket for hours on end.

It was hot, sunny and great fun!

Regardless, we had the traditional roast meal – lamb, pork and turkey I think were there most years, with loads of veggies, followed by Christmas pudding and custard and/or cream.

Present time was a bit mad, but it was controlled enough that we all watched what everyone got before the next presents were handed out – made it more fun to prolong the pleasure and enjoy everyone’s happiness at their gifts.

The day was loud and seemed to last forever, and we hated going home afterwards.

Through the eyes of children

When I was little my sisters and I would LOVE Christmas Eve. My step-father and his family were from Europe and so we celebrated the festive season on Christmas Eve at either my grandparent’s home or my Aunt’s home. Either way, it was special.

Grandpa would have lovingly put up the Christmas tree weeks before – a Christmas tree that stretched up to the ceiling and spread out across the room. We would feast on a range of Australian and European foods, including some specialities that Grandma would only make at this time of year, and there were never enough of those! But there was always MORE THAN ENOUGH food to feed us well for a week and then some!

After dinner we would open presents… piles and piles of gifts, carefully wrapped and decorated. But the present-opening wasn’t a frenzied free for all. We would hand out the gifts one at a time – that was always done by the kids – and then everyone would watch as the recipient opened their present, then we could hand out another.

The night continued with a myriad of Christmas music, dancing and performances by my sisters, cousin and myself, and perhaps some Christmas movies thrown in too.  And there were always on-going discussions throughout the night as to who was going to Midnight Mass and who was staying home. Grandma always chose Mass and at least one other adult would have to accompany her.

Somewhere between 1am and 2am we would be fighting to keep our eyes open and would eventually fall asleep in some corner of the loungeroom (or on an adult lap), only to be carried, still sleeping, to the car and then into bed (still fully dressed) when we arrived back home at around 3-4am.

We still celebrate on Christmas Eve but now that I’m grown up the tree doesn’t seem quite so big. And being allowed to stay up practically all night for one night of the year isn’t as big a deal as it was back then, yet the magic is still there. Instead, the magic now comes from watching the excitement in the eyes of the current generation of littlies – my son, nieces and nephew. As I watch their sparkling faces I fully understand their awe at the size of the Christmas tree and their excitement at being able to stay up waaaaay past bedtime.

Merry Christmas to all…

Santa’s Snacks

Santa is a very busy man on Christmas Eve – he has a lot of houses to visit and many presents to deliver. So it’s understandable he gets hungry & thirsty along the way!

Santa appeciates having a snack waiting for him when he visits – and it’s good manners to offer him something in return for all those gifts, too.

There are some recipes and ideas in our snacks article, but maybe you have a special snack you leave out for Santa every year. We’d love to hear about it, and even better, we’d love to have the recipe if you know it.

To add your story and/or recipe, please register on the site by clicking “register” under the meta heading on the left, and then log in using your password. Go to the “write” page and type in your story – simple! Stories are all moderated before they go live (just to ensure it stays family friendly) but your story should be live not long after you post it.

Love Santa’s Elf

Share your Christmas story
Instagram