By Vincent Nezzer
Growing up in the borderland meant my holidays were always filled with the smell of my grandma’s red chile and my grandpa’s biscochitos (cinnamon cookies). I vividly remember sitting around my grandparents’ dining table for the communal family meal. Well, I wasn’t sitting at the dining table — I was seated nearby at the folding table for children. And by “seated at the table,” I mean “stealing hot sopapillas (hot fried pastries) from the counter.”
Over the years, things changed. Recent health issues left my grandparents unable to cook the traditional holiday dinner. This year, we’re all going to bring dishes for a festive family potluck instead. I’m an adult now so I don’t receive gifts from my uncles and aunts anymore. Now, I get presents for them. As a recent college graduate, this is easier said than done. To achieve my Christmas goals, I’ve had to learn how to do more with less. Here are six of my favorite hacks for Christmas.
Decorate with Lumanarias
When I was in high school, the marching band held an annual luminaria sale to raise money for upcoming field trips. At the time, I hated setting up paper bags in the cold. The process took hours and I always ended up with sand in my socks. Today I’m thankful for my experience because I can decorate the outside of my home for next to nothing. All you need is paper bags, sand and tea candles. If you don’t know how to put up luminarias, check out this convenient guide. Pro tip: Always light the candle before putting in the paper bag.
Bake holiday cookies
During the holidays, I try to give presents to everyone in my immediate family. However, I also have more cousins than I can count on both hands. In recent years, I’ve started baking holiday cookies and packing them in unique tins. This year I plan to make sugar cookies with royal icing, authentic biscochitos and Mexican wedding cookies. For the tins, I usually just browse through a handful of local thrift stores. Most tins are about a dollar a piece!
Take up crocheting
I’ve recently taken up crocheting. As a child, my home was filled with afghans from grandmas and aunts so I thought it would be fun to give back. Over the last few years, I’ve crocheted blankets for my great aunt, my grandma and my mom. However, my favorite holiday gift is known as the crochet kingston cap. I’ve made this gift for an aunt, an old friend and a co-worker. Don’t worry, they were all different colors.
Search for unique ornaments
I inherited this tradition from my cousin from the Midwest. Each year, her family purchases unique ornaments for one another. On Christmas morning, they open their gifts and add them to the tree together. This tradition has allowed their Christmas decorations to tell stories of past holidays. For unique, handmade ornaments, Etsy is my favorite place to shop. I also like to shop in Old Mesilla near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Most of the shops carry an assortment of ornaments made by local artisans.
Give the gift of relaxation
Truth or Consequences is a town in southern New Mexico. Before it changed its name for the popular radio show, it was known as Hot Springs, NM. Despite this unfortunate name change, T or C is still home to a variety of geothermal hot springs. One of my favorite spots is Riverbend Hot Springs. For $30, two people can soak in a private outdoor pool overlooking the river. This is one my favorite Christmas gifts for the important couples in my life. However, if your loved ones can’t make it to T or C, consider a gift card from a spa near you. Throw in a homemade pumpkin spice facial, and you have a gift that is both thoughtful and inexpensive.
Try alternative wrapping paper
Traditional wrapping paper is expensive and bad for the environment. To cut costs, I started using creative alternatives. Newspaper may be my favorite unconventional wrapping material. With newspaper, it’s possible to wrap presents, construct gift bags, and even create paper mache Christmas ornaments. For more alternative wrapping ideas, check out this article from the Huffington Post.
Despite these unconventional ideas, there are a few things that never change. Our family is still making posole (a traditional Mexican soup or stew) for Christmas Eve dinner. I’ll still watch my younger cousins rip open piles of presents. I’ll still participate in the annual family poker game. While trimmings have changed, the spirit of the season remains the same. How about you, do you have any Christmas hacks? Please feel free to share them in the comments.
Vincent Nezzer is a blogger from Las Cruces, New Mexico. He earned an English degree from the University of New Mexico and cut his teeth writing web content for the Anderson School of Management. He makes his living writing stories for a variety of online publications. He plays videos games and hangs out with his dogs, Peaches and Rose in his spare time.
Photos from Pexels, Vincent Nezzer