The holidays are a time for celebration. Unfortunately, today’s uncertain economy is making it difficult for many people to purchase the gifts that are so closely tied to the season and to decorate their homes in a festive manner.

Thankfully, there are some creative ways to do both.


The biggest investment in a do-it-yourself project is time. The good news is that spending time and working together with family members and friends create not only cherished gifts and crafts, but also shared memories.

When it comes to decorating your home, some time-honored traditions are the best. Our holiday tree is never without homemade garlands – the looped kind made from multi-colored construction paper or the edible kind made with popcorn and cranberries. These also make great gifts for people who prefer a traditional, “down-home” feel to their holidays.

The looped garlands are easy to make. All you need is construction paper and staples. Cut your construction paper into 1- or 2-inch wide strips in 8-1/2-inch lengths. If you’re using multi-color paper, stack the strips so that the order in which the colors appear is consistent. Secure your first loop with a staple, then loop another through the first loop and secure with a staple, and so on.

Avoid using tape or glue to secure your loops. Both tend to pop open after a while. And this is a great project for several people to take on at once. Each can create a garland; you can join the individual strands into one large garland afterward.

And make sure everyone helps lay the garland on the tree so they can admire their handiwork.

The edible garlands take a little more effort and cost slightly more, but they are well worth both. You need day-old, plain, popped popcorn (day-old popcorn will not break as easily as fresh), needles, white thread, fresh cranberries, and small ornamental beads or satin balls that have holes in which you can run your string.

Double-up a length of thread about 3 or 4 feet long and thread it. Anchor the strand with a colorful bead, and then strong five pieces of popcorn, followed by a cranberry, five more pieces of popcorn and then a colored bead. Continue until the strand is full.

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