Friday, December 12, 2008

crafting christmas

The snowballing green movement and plummeting economy are converging to create the perfect storm for old-fashioned holiday cheer in 2008. (Read: cocktail, not consumer, fueled.) Here, Erin Dixon, Dossier Journal's new online style editor, discusses handmade holiday gifts. She isn't jumping onto the DIY (do-it-yourself) bandwagon, she's carrying out a family tradition.

Erin has been away from New York for the last few Christmases. Coincidentally, her first year back in the city, Irving Berlin's White Christmas is back on Broadway. The 1954 movie version is a longtime favorite of Erin's.

File:Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen in White Christmas trailer.jpg

Maybe it's because watching Vera Ellen twirl in a yellow dress or Dean Martin swig a martini by the fire makes her want to do both. Indeed, in today's entry on the Style Dossier she mentions a hankering for a highball.

File:Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in White Christmas trailer 3.jpg

Or maybe it reminds her of her own family Christmases in snowy Idaho, where traditions have always included a heaping spoonful of 1950s kitsch.

This was not digitally remastered White Christmas, but the real thing. Erin's grandmother Anita has reserves of white flocking she kept over the decades (in case the nuclear winter did not include artificial snow) for decorating their tree. Erin's mother, Claudia Haspedis Dixon, required that the gifts piled under said tree be nothing short of handmade.

"I can tell you how it all began," said Claudia. "Back in the 70's when I was a young adult and just-married, I decided to embody the gift of giving by making Christmas gifts. This became a tradition with the belief, insane as it might seem, that making gifts taught my children the true nature of giving--giving of yourself."

Those fortunate enough to benefit from Claudia's generosity may receive a lambswool and angora hat--not just hand-knit, but hand-knit from hand-dyed, hand-spun wool from her own sheep and rabbits. Last year her son Colin sent out jars of preserved "summer peaches" and in the video above Erin tells about the wish vessels that she's working on for this year.

In younger days their crafts were a bit cruder. "There is telltale evidence of 'the puffy paint Christmas' in every closet at the lake," said Claudia. "And it all comes out when a summer night turns unseasonably cold."

The more complex projects can be dangerous. Colin was working under pressure one year on mobiles made of wine bottles when a drill went awry. Erin's aunt brought the DIY (do-it-yourself) trend to new heights, sewing on part of his thumb back on at the kitchen table.

"That was fun for everyone," said Erin, who becomes faint at the sight of blood.

As the Haspedis Dixons' homemade Christmas yurt above suggests, Christmas crafts don't have to be perfect and pristine to bring a bit of cheer to the people you love, hazardous and messy as they may be.

"From Thanksgiving until the 24th of December, on the drive over to Idaho, children and parents were insanely active baking and making to celebrate the gift of giving," said Claudia.

"Instead of sanity we have lots of stories to remember and tell."

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