I really do love the holidays. From watching the Thanksgiving Day parade to wrapping gifts to tree-lighting to gift-making, I adore so much of it. But it's easy to get sucked under it, into the swirl of buying, and needing, and obligating. 

To keep it joy-filled, I'm creating a series on How to Enjoy the Holidays As…. The first in the series was focused on cooking, and today's is focused on making.*

Being a maker during the holidays can be a double-edged sword. On one side, there are all these fabulous things to make! Decorations! Ornaments! Gifts! Wrapping. But on the other side: expectations. Others have expectations of you (they expect handmade gifts), and you have expectations of them (you want everyone to appreciate what you make!) It's easy to feel discouraged when expectations aren't met.

But let's opt out of those expectations and craft the kind of holiday you really want. Here are three questions to make sure you enjoy being a maker this season:

1. Who is handmade-worthy?

Remember: Gift giving isn't about you. It's about the gift-receiver. And not everyone on your list will appreciate a handmade gift…no matter how awesome it is. It isn't about you, it's about them. Instead of trying to win them over, release those expectations and accept them for who they are.

While the internet forums are full of makers + their horror stories of rude gift recipients, let's skip the drama. Don't make a gift for someone unless you're 99% sure they'll love it. It's a waste of your time and holiday cheer.

That may sound harsh, but it's very kind in practice- you can focus your attention on what they will love, and give yourself a break. You're giving them a gift to bring joy to their life – so give them what will bring them joy. Maybe that's a handquilted quilt, or maybe it's a candle in their favorite scent, or a book by their favorite Food Network star. Your gift can be thoughtful even if it's not handmade.

2. What do you love making?

I don't know about you, but I find the holiday season incredibly seductive. There are all these tutorials and ideas and crafts I've never tried! Maybe I'll take up lace tatting for a traditional snowflake ornament! Or woodworking for a book shelf!
But remind yourself: your probably crafting more in this coming month than usual. Focus on what you know you're good at and that you just love doing for hours and hours. As much as I love knitting, I just can't do it for hours and hours (my sad little wrists!), but sewing is comfortable and interesting, so I'm making quilts for Christmas.

3. What are the experiences you want to create?

Just like the foods we make, the crafts we spend time on will shape our holiday experience. Do you want to be snuggled with family around the tree? Or stuck in your studio sewing that last bunting for the tree? It's not an either/or scenario of course, but make sure you leave time for the experiences you want to have (Holiday Sanity can help you schedule that in).

Another way of thinking about the experiences is to think about what you can craft to create traditions- do you want a handmade ornament to pull out of storage every season when you decorate the tree? Or a handmade menorah to light (and pass down to your grandchildren)? Or stockings for everyone? Set aside a little of your making time (perhaps in the new year) to create these traditions.

What do you do, as a maker, crafter or artist to enjoy the holiday season?

*Got a thing that makes the holiday season hard-to-enjoy? Or got a tip for how you bring the joy? Leave me a comment and I'll include it an upcoming post in the series.

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Holiday Sanity, from Tara Swiger


The Holiday Sanity Kit gives you the space, questions, and system for learning from your busy holiday season. Make plans, get to work…and then reassess what actually worked and what didn't.
Grab yours here.

4 Comments on How to enjoy the holidays as a maker

  1. Julie Dumas
    November 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm (11 years ago)

    Hi Tara,
    The first thing I do is pull out the box of decorations. . . Wow they are treasures! Kids have grown and they are reminders of all the years we made them together, (handprints, photo ornaments, hand stitched felt Santas and gingerbread men. These are 30 years old! ) This year I had the privilege of making a new stocking for our first grandbaby to match the ones I had made years ago for our whole family. I was so excited that his mama wants to start traditions for their family, I just wish they lived close by to see and enjoy. Thank goodness for Skype.

  2. Tara Swiger
    November 27, 2012 at 12:34 pm (11 years ago)

    So sweet, Julie! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Julie Dumas
    November 27, 2012 at 1:38 pm (11 years ago)

    Oh! I forgot my newer stuff!! 
    “Still crafting after all these years, Ohhhhh, Still crafting after all these years.”