One of the cool things about custom distributions of GNU/Linux is that they usually have better "eye-candy". However, it's not really that hard to provide your own. If you are setting up a multiple boot system, the GRUB boot menu will be an important startup step; remarkably enough, it is possible to include some graphics even as early as the boot menu.
In tight economic times when I was growing up, my family generally had "homemade" Christmases, where all the gifts were handicrafts they had made. It takes a lot of time, but it does save money, and in all honesty, those were some of the best I can remember. This year, I'm following much the same pattern, though my skills are different (I couldn't knit a sock to save my life, and while I can sew, I'm not exactly good at it): this year I'm giving my kids (refurbished) computers.