A New British Family Challenge – The antidote to a consumer Christmas.

We have set ourselves another unusual challenge this Christmas. We are not going to buy any presents, decorations or packet foods this year. Instead we are going to make, upcycle or craft everything we need for the festive season.

James lost his job over a year ago now and has struggled to find steady employment since. The market being what it is I expect he is not alone in being in this predicament and we are, like many others, facing a rather lean Christmas this year.

It is fair to say that we love a traditional British Christmas so rather than get depressed by our situation we want to make the most of it. We hope that by removing the mass-consumerist pressure of Christmas and basically buying nothing, 2014 might still be a truly magical affair.

So what does this mean? Well it does mean that our friends and family will be receiving gifts that we have made ourselves (which hopefully will not be as bad as it sounds) and we will make our own cards and decorations too. Food-wise we will make as much as we can from scratch, everything from our own puds & sweets to sausages & smoked salmon.

We will of course share our successes and failures here on our blog. It is fair to say that, following last year’s Christmas of only buying British, this year is set to be another adventure.

Any advice, recipes or craft ideas are much welcomed in the comments section below.


  1. Christine S. says

    Decorate with origami! Not exactly British, but a fun thing to do together. I remember making popcorn strings, and colored paper chains as a child. You can turn your plain windows into ” stained glass” art with window chalk (you can make you own).

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  2. Trisha says

    I think that sounds lovely – Christmas as it should be before marketing got at it! There are lots of paper decoration instructions on the internet; just Google.

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  3. You’ll probably find you enjoy Christmas even more..!
    But start now, especially if you are making gifts. It always takes longer than you expect.

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  4. Anne C says

    YouTube is also an excellent source for ‘how to ……’ ideas such as soap (melt & pour – use old Tupperware or ice cream boxes as a loaf mould and cut into slices before wrapping. Washed and lined Pringles cans also work for a different shape), candles, decorating your own wrapping paper and cards, decorations etc. and cooking as well. I get lots of inspiration that way. Good luck. I look forward to hearing all about it!

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  5. I echo the sentiments above – start now! For years I made handmade Christmas presents and I’d begin in the last week of September. Now it’s mostly food – takes less time than crafts! I made our own Christmas tree last year out of upcycled fencing wire. It’s become a permanent feature in our living room, we just change the decoration occasionally 🙂 http://www.elizabethskitchendiary.co.uk/2013/11/diy-christmas-tree-from-ashes-to-art.html/

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    • Loving the Christmas tree! Now sure what we are going to do for a tree this year. Stealing your idea is now an option. Many thanks

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  6. I always find homemade fudge is a winner as a gift. The recipe in “How to feed your whole family: A healthy, balanced diet with very little money” by Gill Holcombe is reliable. Although I don’t stir it, Iet it come to temperature on a VERY low heat. Takes a while, but saves burnt pans and you don’t get so hot! Good luck.

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  7. That’s a fantastic idea, and exactly what we chose to do here at the McCollough household too. It is a lot of fun, much more thoughtful, and a pleasure to both make and give hand made presents!

    Best of luck finding suitable and enjoyable employment James.
    All the best, and have fun.

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  8. I’m not into the gift culture as so often it’s just more “stuff”! It’s why the charity shops do so well after Christmas. Candles might be useful to guard against power cuts; jam and chutney is handy if you have the vegetables and fruit from an allotment or garden but then again not everyone eats jam and chutney. I’d say it’s always worth questioning your gift list – people might be glad to not have to do the return gift thing. I know that sounds bah humbug but we are locked into a consumer culture where shopping is supposed to make the world go round. And that’s not what Christmas is about. Provide food and ask visitors and friends to drop in for a chat no strings attached, just to enjoy their company. We did family open house at Christmas when I was a kid and it was just nice to see people. A good party needs no gifts.

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    • I agree with your sentiment entirely. Our house will be the centre of our wider family Christmas this year. I suspect we will have not shortage of guests.

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