By MARY TOBIA

tneditori@tnonline.com [1]

Three weeks from today will be Christmas Eve.

I am not ready to give up the Thanksgiving holiday to start the Christmas rush.

But whether I am ready or not I will soon be caught up in the hustle and bustle of decorating, writing out Christmas cards, baking cookies and shopping for just the right Christmas present for family and friends.

Growing up I was very lucky. I had both sets of grandparents until well after I was married. As I think back, Christmas was always a very special holiday on both my Mom and Dad's side of the family. Midnight mass was a must, even if it the temperature was below zero and twelve inches of snow on the ground. We would drive the seven miles into town to attend church. I remember many times whining and not wanting to go because it was too cold.

Too cold in South Dakota - Bah Humbug!

Christmas presents were different back then too. The gifts from my grandparents on my mother's side were always handmade. My grandfather was a carpenter and my grandmother was an expert seamstress. So all the boy grandchildren got something built and all of us girls got something that was sewed or crocheted.

My grandparents on my dad's side always gave us "store bought" presents. I was always happy to receive any present, but I believe I may have looked forward to unwrapping the purchased gifts a little more than I did the handmade ones.

Well, lucky for me I still have a small white doily I received from Grandma Gau many years ago but that store-bought sweater from Grandma Cahoy has long been outgrown and discarded.

I recently read an article written by Daniel Peterson. His motto for this year's Christmas gift buying was "Let's keep it local in 2011." Shopping in our community keeps the money in your local economy. Dollars spent in locally-owned businesses have up to three times the impact on the community as those spent at the large chain stores.

By shopping in our own towns we may be helping our friends and neighbors to keep their jobs.

We have so many ideas: gift certificates to favorite hairdresser, barbershop, gym or our local grocery store. How about a gift certificate for a free oil change, round of golf, a lawn service or a housecleaning service for a month?

With today's gas prices, a prepaid gas card from our local gas station is perfect for any driver.

We can keep the dollars in the community buy purchasing gift certificates to local restaurants in our area.

Who doesn't like the thought of being catered to while having a delicious meal after we just spent hours cooking and waiting on others during our Christmas gatherings?

Another thought would be a one-year social membership to a local country club, this is not as expensive as you may think.

Gifts this year can include something we have made ourselves.

Now I don't see my husband building and perfecting a new Xbox game for our grandsons and I highly doubt I will be sewing anything my granddaughters would actually want to wear. But we all have some special talent whether it be crafting a special Christmas ornament or baking a pie or making candy.

Don't forget the most important gift we all have to give the gift of ourselves. This gift don't cost us a penny and maybe the most rewarding of all. Like our own handmade gift certificates to wash someone's car or to take our elderly friends to the store (and help carry in the groceries).

Give a busy mom or dad freedom for a few hours and take the kids out to play at the park or visit the local library where their imaginations can run wild.

How about speaking with the administrator of area assisted-living and nursing home facilities and offer to help play bingo or host cards games once a month.

The possibilities are endless.

This year, as you make out your gift-giving lists, remember to try to "keep it local in 2011."

It is good for the economy, health of our community and we can help keep our local businesses flourishing.

Let the Christmas season begin!