Making memories

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With the economic pressures from the recession weighing down Americans this holiday season, most people aren’t going to remember this holiday season as the year where they traveled abroad or received an expensive new gift (like a car, computer, etc.). Therefore, this year requires some extra effort to ensure that it stays in yours and your loved ones’ memories forever. Years later you can recall together, “Remember that one Christmas when … .”

Here are a few thrifty, nontraditional holiday ideas to shake up the season. Feel free to think of something wackier. The goal is for you and those around you to have a fun and memorable closing to 2008.

Celebrate another holiday
With Christmas decorations covering everything from newspapers to skyscrapers, it’s easy for other December holidays to be forgotten by nontraditional holidays. Minorities, however, don’t have much choice to not celebrate Christmas. Even just a trip to the grocery store involves listening to holiday music, a Salvation Army bell ringer in a Santa hat, adorned plastic evergreens and Christmas sales. In an effort for Christmas celebrators to understand and appreciate another culture, pick a new holiday to read and learn about. There are plenty of holidays to enjoy: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Winter Solstice and more.

Create your own holiday
Who says someone else had to think of it first in order to celebrate it? Perry County, Ala., decided to start its own holiday. Perry County offices will have a paid holiday on the second Monday of each November, which is now known as “The Barack Obama Day.” Decide on your own holiday and ways of celebrating. It could be Video Game Day or After Finals Celebration Day.

Adopt a pet
What could be more memorable than a day spent with a furry new friend? Animal shelters in and around Portland have such an excess of abandoned cats that adoption fees have been significantly decreased or entirely waived. Most shelters cover the cost of the first shots and spaying/neutering in the adoption fee, so it usually ends up being a cheaper option than picking up a free kitten from a Craigslist ad.

Enjoy a vegetarian or vegan feast
Keeping in the trend of saving animals this holiday season, wouldn’t that baked Christmas ham be 100 times cuter if it stayed a pig? Instead, explore options toward meat-free alternatives. If you’re feeling extremely adventurous, make a nut loaf or other main dish from scratch. Your body will thank you for the healthier meal.

Make homemade gifts
Doing a Google news search for “holiday” mainly brings up articles about how much people are or are not spending, showing that in the business world Christmas means one thing only: money. Deny corporations your hard-earned cash by making homemade gifts. Knit a scarf. Make a scrapbook of photos of you and your loved one together. Bake a favorite dish. Or do anything else that you think your friends and family would enjoy.

People will appreciate the time, effort and thoughtfulness put into a one-of-a-kind gift. It’s nice to receive something unique that was made with love rather than a carbon copy of millions of identical constructions by underpaid workers in a Third World country. If you start now, you have three weeks to take advantage of your craftier side.

Reconnect with family and friends

With homework and graduate school applications, friends and family begin to feel a tad neglected. Reconnect with your loved ones. There are plenty of cheap or free holiday events. Start a new holiday tradition of doing charity work together or watching holiday movies together. Invent Christmas stories to share with each other, or take advantage of some local events that you haven’t had the opportunity to experience in the past.

Vacation locally
Numerous articles report that travel is significantly reduced this year despite the last-minute slashed airline ticket prices. Skip the cost of a plane ticket and vacation locally. Grab your skis or snowboard and head up to Mount Hood. Or drive to the beach. Sure, the water’s cold. The ocean is always cold. It’s still breathtakingly beautiful and, without the summer rush, it’s almost like having a private beach. The lack of tourists makes this a great time to visit the tide pools.

Give to others
A month-long break from school gives students the opportunity to give to others. At this time of year, soup kitchens have more volunteers than they know what to do with. But other venues may have more need for volunteers, such as shelters and donation centers. Someone has to sort and distribute all of that canned food. You could go door-to-door collecting unwanted winter garments and, once you have a stack, give them to homeless shelters. Help send holiday cards and other necessities to the troops.

Winter cleaning
Don’t wait until spring to start cleaning out your closets. This is the perfect time to donate old clothes or sell unwanted items on eBay. After a slump in online sales, reports show that Americans are beginning to shop again. Take advantage of their Christmas buying so you can have some extra money for Christmas shopping or to buy next term’s textbooks.

Start a blog

Keep a record of all of the interesting, innovative things you’ve done during the holiday break. Make it public to inspire and move others. Or keep it private for your own enjoyment. The best way to remember any event is to write it down, plus it’s therapeutic. Vent all you like about visiting Aunt Mildred, whose house smells like cat urine, or Uncle Joseph, who can never remember your name. They’ll never know.

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