Jennifer Mansour supervises her sons William, 6 (center), and Michael, 8, as they decorate holiday cookies. “These traditions are very important,” Mansour says of making decorations, gifts and holiday edibles, which is part of what makes Christmas special for the Mansour family. Mansour, and her husband, Michael, say what the family is really making is memories.

Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star

Michael Mansour, 8, enthusiastically stuffs a heart-shaped, handcrafted fleece pillow for his grandma while brother William, 6, loads sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles.

Little sister Elise, 4, gets help painting the inside of a glass Christmas tree ornament from her cousin Anna Valencia, 12.

Making decorations, gifts and holiday edibles is part of what makes Christmas special for the Mansour family. Parents Jennifer and Michael Mansour say what the family is really making is memories.

"It crosses generations," Tucson mom Jennifer Mansour said of Christmas crafting projects. "My mom gets involved, and we enjoy sharing this with our cousins. These traditions are very important."

Said Anna, "It's just so much fun to spend time with your family and to make stuff for each other."

Anna held a clear glass ball ornament steady while Elise poured in paint. Elise then rolled it around, coating the inside with a pink-and-white marbled effect. Elise then carefully affixed decorative holiday stickers to the outside.

"This is for Grandma Nancy," Elise proclaimed proudly.

Whether you are crafting a macaroni menorah or constructing a gingerbread cottage, filling your home with handmade holiday creations is good for the soul.

Tucson pediatrician and author Dr. Marilyn Heins, who writes a parenting column for the Arizona Daily Star, has fond memories of her mother teaching her to make paper dolls from folded paper, a tradition she passed down to her children and grandchildren.

"Anything that brings families together, anything that can be done by both a 4-year-old and a 74-year-old, is wonderful," Heins said. "Cooking, making gifts, making crafts - something both age groups can do together and have fun."

There are unlimited crafting and cooking ideas online, but it is important to find projects that are age-appropriate.

"The older people have to provide the right thing for kids to do," Heins said. "It can't be too challenging or they give up. It can't be too easy or they want to go watch TV."

Experiment with different projects and crafts until you find the right ones. "It can become a new family tradition," Heins said.

Passing down these traditions is important. "It is the way that we pass on the knowledge from before to those that are coming after us," Heins said. "It's like a wonderful warm glue or honey that pulls people together. It says: 'This is something we do together. This is our family. It's a place of love. Let's keep it up.' "

Busy parents can streamline the traditions, Heins said. If you don't have the time to bake a gingerbread house, buy a kit. The fun is in the creativity.

"Remember that the idea is to be together to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah - not to put a gourmet meal on the table," Heins said.

While you are spending an afternoon crafting or baking cookies, remember that children love to hear about how life was when Grandma was a little girl, Heins said.

"We live in a world of instant gratification, and things happen very quickly," Heins said. "Even children have to take a deep breath now and then. To counterbalance the instant gratification, all of the instant clicks in our life, sit down and share those stories and traditions.

"It really doesn't matter what you are making," Heins continued. "Being together and keeping traditions from the past alive is what's important."

A Few Ideas for Handmade Holiday Crafts

Dip-Dye Scarf

What you need:

• Scarf

• Iron

• Clothespins

• 3 plastic bins the size of shoe boxes

• Liquid dye, such as Rit

• Dye fixative

What you do:

1. Accordion-fold scarf. Press with the iron, secure with clothespins. (If scarf is wider than bins, fold in half widthwise after folding.)

2. Mix dye in a bin according to the manufacturer's instructions. Dip scarf's folded edge in dye (the resulting stripe will be twice as wide as the dip).

3. Dip scarf's folded edge in another bin filled with cold water to rinse.

4. Mix fixative in another bin according to the manufacturer's instructions. Dip folded edge in fixative to set.

5. Clip accordion-folded scarf to a clothesline or pants hanger. Place newspaper or a drop cloth underneath scarf to protect surfaces. Let hang to dry, about one day.

Source: Martha Stewart Living

Peppermint Ornaments

What you need:

• Unwrapped round peppermint candies

• Red-hot candies

• Vanilla frosting

• Twine or thin ribbon

What you do:

Lay five or so peppermint candies in a circle to form a wreath; bond sides together with icing. Adorn front with cinnamon candies. Let dry two hours before hanging. Loop twine around ornament; knot.

Source: Martha Stewart

Macaroni Menorah

What you need:

• Dry macaroni

• Dry lentils

• White glue

• Cotton bud

• Red crepe paper

• Cardboard

What you do:

1. Take small pieces of red crepe paper and roll them between your fingers until they are thin enough to poke inside macaroni. Use this technique to make nine macaroni candles.

2. Paste candles onto cardboard to make a menorah. Use two pieces of macaroni for the shamash.

3. Using white glue and a cotton bud, paint on the rest of the menorah and decorate using dry lentils.

4. Cut out and paste onto contrasting cardboard to make a card or picture.

Holiday Cones

What you need:

• Solo water cooler cones

• Paint

• Markers

• Cotton balls

• Sequins

• Yarn

• Glitter

• Glue

What you do:

This craft is pretty much a creative free-for-all. Turn the paper cups upside down and use paint to transform them into Christmas trees, Santa Claus or snowmen. Once the paint is dry, decorate as desired.

Holiday Crafts at the Library

The Pima County Library offers free crafting opportunities for families. Check with your local library to confirm schedules, but here are a few fun holiday happenings.

• 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Sahuarita Branch, 725 W. Via Rancho, Sahuarita. Read holiday stories and make cupcake treats.

• 11 a.m.-noon, Dec. 15, Kirk-Bear Canyon Branch, 8959 E. Tanque Verde Road. Kids age 5 and older can make a cookie wreath. Bring one dozen cookies, 2 inches or larger in diameter.

• 3:30-5 p.m. Dec. 19, Woods Memorial Branch, 3455 N. First Ave. Make a holiday craft and watch a holiday movie.

• 11 a.m.-noon, Dec. 22, Dusenberry-River Branch. 5605 E. River Road. Decorate a mock gingerbread house.