US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Crafting perfect Christmas memories

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Mistakes and tears are all forgotten when one family looks back on their tradition of making crafts.

By Guest Blogger Lisa Calderone-Stewart

I always wanted my sons to develop a love for creativity and an appreciation for time. When they were old enough to receive an allowance, I told them that they could buy Christmas presents for their extended family from their own money, or they could make presents and I would pay for the materials. They always chose to make presents—obviously the better financial decision! Catalog shopping and trips to the hobby store were part of every November.

My boys learned to latch-hook rugs, sew pillows, do needlepoint, and glue and paint on any texture. They made angels, St. Nick figurines, door knob decorations, wreathes, and all kinds of ornaments with wood, glass, plastic, and fabric. They learned how to read instructions, follow directions, and assemble items in stages.

Some years they miscalculated their timeline, and didn’t finish until Christmas Eve, but they soon learned not to procrastinate.

I also made presents for everyone. I had “themes” each year that focused on some symbol of Christmas (like evergreen trees, bells, angels, stars, snowflakes, wreathes, St. Nick) and always included some spiritual reflection.

We spent hours watching Christmas specials and football games working together with our craft supplies spread out on the floor.

We also had our annual “Christmas cookie and craft day.” We took one Saturday every December, and the boys took turns in the living room working on crafts, and then in the kitchen baking cookies. They would switch places every hour or two, to prevent boredom.

Those “cookie and craft days” didn’t always run smoothly; we didn’t always resemble a Norman Rockwell family or a Hallmark Christmas card! Every so often, some disaster led to overwhelming frustration, angry shouts, and tears (often the tears were mine). Something was spilled requiring major clean-up, or a major ingredient or supply was missing, or an essential step was skipped by mistake, turning a one-hour assembly time into a three-hour assembly time.

Because we were up early and working all day, and sometimes late into the evening, we’d become tired, cranky, and impatient. One year, our younger son “ran away from home.” We later found him sitting on the picnic table in our back yard. He just needed to escape and vent.

Now they are both married and I have three grandsons.

What’s funny is when I recently asked them about their “Christmas cookie and craft day” memories, they seemed to have no recollection of anything negative—not even the year of the run-away son! They remember only joy and laughter, family pictures, and the sense of accomplishment every year. In their eyes, we were a Norman Rockwell family in a Hallmark movie!

I always had them make an extra item for our family to keep, and now that I have terminal cancer, I have given them all the Christmas crafts they created over the years. They were so delighted, you would have thought I had given them gold! In a way, it was the family treasure—as a family we had all grown to value time and creativity, which had been my goal all along.

Guest blogger Lisa Calderone-Stewart is the director of Tomorrow's Present and an author and speaker on youth leadership. Read more about her interfaith youth program in Student Teachers, from January 2006.

Lisa was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. For more on her story, see "The dying wish of a youth ministry pioneer." You can also read Lisa's personal blog Dying to Know You Better. Her blog posts on can be found at Final Thoughts.

Read more blogs about Advent and Christmas traditions at Submit a guest blog to We may put this together into a holiday theme Meditation Room for the magazine next year. Any reflections selected for publication will win $50! 

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.