Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas Tradition-Thinking Outside the Gift Box

Some Christmas traditions are passed down through generations.  Others are established intentionally to preserve the part of Christmas that is important to a family.  Sometimes though, traditions rise out of the ashes of human tragedy.

In 1999, a family of six was involved in a tragic car accident.  Three of the four children who were injured in the accident would not have made it had it not been for the heroic actions of the rescue personnel who arrived at the scene.  Several months after that awful day, the children, having finally been released from the hospital, traveled back to the rescue service stations to personally thank the men and women who had so bravely fought for their lives but it just didn’t seem to be enough.

In their hometown, the fire company has a tradition of putting hundreds of lights on the fire trucks and rescue vehicles on Christmas Eve.  Santa Claus climbs aboard the ladder truck and the vehicles travel from one neighborhood to the next blowing their horns with sirens blaring. The firefighters walk alongside handing out candy canes and toys to the children who come out to see them.

The family who was saved by the firefighters decided that one year they would turn the tables on them and instead of receiving candy canes from the fire company would instead give goodies to the fire station for those working on Christmas day to enjoy.  They set to work.  They baked cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning and put  them in a gift box along with cookies, caramel corn, candy, hot chocolate, microwave popcorn, hard tack candy and a thank you card explaining how appreciative they were for people who risk their lives to save the lives of others.  (After all, that is what happened the first Christmas when Christ came to earth with the sole mission of selflessly giving his life for the world.) The children stood anxiously along the road awaiting the fire trucks arrival and were delighted when the firefighter received their gift with a surprised, but appreciative smile and a tear in his eye.  From that time on, they asked every year to do it again and it soon became a Christmas tradition.

Even though those children are now young adults, you will still find them standing along the side of the road on Christmas Eve with their box of goodies in hand.  Some of the neighbors who have seen them do this every year have also jumped on board and offer their own gifts and thanks to the firefighters.

For them, Christmas is a time to remember how much they have received through the sacrifice of others.  It’s their Christmas tradition. And I might add, it’s their favorite one.

Christmas Decor: Benefits of LED Christmas Lights

Each December families all across America decorate their homes with beautiful, colorful, decorative lights for the Christmas season. Traditionally, large incandescent light bulbs were used for this purpose. However, in recent years LED Christmas lights have grown in popularity, and they are being used more commonly each year. If you have not yet switched out your traditional incandescent Christmas lights for new LED lights, you may be wondering what benefits can be gained by using LED Christmas Lights. These Christmas light decorating tips will help you to see why you should switch from incandescent Christmas lights to LED Christmas lights.

 

Cost and Efficiency

Cost is perhaps one of the most motivating factors that lead people to switch to LED Christmas lights. While LED Christmas lights will cost you roughly the same to purchase and replace as incandescent lights, their operating costs are significantly lower. The cost of running LED Christmas lights is about 90 percent lower than their incandescent counterparts. This equates to substantial savings over the course of one Christmas season. So while it may seem like it will be expensive to replace all of your incandescent Christmas lights with LED’s, you will make back that money quickly in energy savings.

 

LED Christmas lights will also save you money in that you won’t have to replace them as often. LED Christmas lights last three to four times longer than incandescent Christmas lights, which means that you will not have to worry about strands burning out for a few years.

 

Easier Storage

Another fact that makes LED lights more cost effective than incandescent lights is that they store better. Incandescent Christmas lights are very fragile, and for this reason they often break while they are in storage causing them to need to be replaced. LED lights are much more durable and are able to withstand a fair amount of abuse without breaking; this helps to keep replacement costs down.

 

Safety

Many people know that incandescent Christmas lights can be dangerous since they give off most of their energy in the form of heat. However, many people do not know just how big of a problem incandescent lights are during the Christmas season. Due to how hot they can get, incandescent Christmas lights start many fires each Christmas season. LED lights on the other hand do not heat up, which makes them the much safer option for you families Christmas lighting.

 

As you can see, many benefits can be gained by switching to LED Christmas lights, the most important benefit being improved safety for you and your family. This next Christmas season, help to ensure your families safety by switching to LED Christmas lights.

How Eight Famous Christmas Traditions Began (Part II)

In the last blog we looked at some fascinating tradition beginnings…let’s explore four more, shall we?

Santa Claus

How can you have any Christmas traditions without having a child’s favorite? Santa Claus! The legend of Santa Claus begins in the fourth century when the generous Bishop of Myra, located in today’s Turkey, gave gifts to others, especially to children. According to stories, Saint Nicholas, the bishop, could also perform miracles which made people even more devoted to him. He passed away—coincidently in December—in the year 340 and his popularity increased all over Europe when his body was moved to Bari, Italy. In Russia, St. Nicholas was made a patron saint of their country and was well-known by his white, flowing beard, red cape and bishop’s cap. In France, St. Nicholas was the patron saint of lawyers; the patron saint of sailors in Greece; and he was the patron saint of travelers and children in Belgium.

Even though European devotees of St. Nicholas decreased after the Protestant Reformation, the spirit of St. Nicholas remained alive in Holland. There, his name was converted into Sinterklaas and the Dutch kids left their wooden shoes by their fireplaces; if the children had been good, Sinterklaas would put goodies in their shoes. In the seventeenth century, Dutch immigrants came to America and brought with them the legend of Sinterklaas; the name was changed once again into the American English version, Santa Claus.

Many other countries celebrate Christmas and each one calls St. Nicholas something different. In England he’s known as Father Christmas; Puerto Rico, Spain and Mexico have The Three Kings; Pere Noël, Christ Child or Father Christmas is what they call him in France; he’s La Befana in Italy; In Austria and Switzerland he’s called the Christ Child or Christkindl; and other countries call him Kris Kringle.

As a gift for his children, Clement C. Moore wrote a poem in 1822 that was called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. When it got published, it was changed to “The Night Before Christmas” and became famous. Moore describes Santa Claus in this way:

“He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.”

This description of the red-suited man is how everyone—adults as well as children—identifies Santa Claus today.

Holly and Greenery

Christmas was celebrated in the middle of winter in Northern Europe. This was right during the time that those cold, winter winds howled so loud that people thought the winds carried demons and ghosts with it. It was thought that, because it stayed green all winter, the holly must be magical. So the Europeans hung this holly above their home’s doorways to ward off evil spirits. The Europeans also used greenery inside their homes to enliven the mood and make the air fresher through the long, harsh, boring winter.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Robert L. May, a 34 year old copywriter for Montgomery Ward, was asked to help with customer’s Christmas gifts in the year of 1939 by writing a book; instead of giving out coloring books to children as they had every year prior, Montgomery Ward wanted to save money by doing something different. So Robert May sat down and wrote a book that was based on his own childhood experiences of being teased as well as the story of “The Ugly Duckling”. He originally thought of Reginald or Rollin for the name of his main character but ended up choosing something else and entitled his story, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, a tale about a misfit reindeer. As he wrote the fable, he chose his four year old daughter to be the guinea pig—is it any surprise that she loved the story?

In 1947, May’s book was commercially printed and then the next year a nine-minute cartoon was shown in theaters. But when Johnny Marks, songwriter and brother-in-law to Robert May, wrote the music and lyrics to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” the wonder of Rudolph came alive. The song was turned down by many singers because they didn’t want to grapple with the Santa Claus legend. But in 1949 Gene Autry’s wife encouraged him to record the song and it sold two million copies that same year! Second only to “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” quickly became one the best-selling songs of all time. In 1964, a television cartoon was made of Rudolph and was narrated by Burl Ives. Rudolph the reindeer has developed into a beloved Christmas idol and this 45 minute Christmas cartoon is still a Christmas favorite.

Mistletoe

During winter festivities 200 years before Jesus’ birth, Druid priests utilized mistletoe. In fact, they were in awe of it because this plant stays green through the entire winter without having any roots! The mistletoe was viewed as a sign of peace and it’s claimed that enemies of the Romans would put down their weapons and hug if they met underneath the mistletoe. It was also considered to have magical healing powers by the Celtic people. They used it to treat infertility, poison and to keep away the evil spirits.

In Scandinavia, the people related mistletoe to the goddess of love, Frigga. Maybe this is where the ritual of kissing under the mistletoe stems from. It’s said that anyone who kiss underneath mistletoe will have good luck and happiness during the next year.

There are many more Christmas traditions but they’re too numerous to list here. I’m sure you and your family take part in at least one of these eight Christmas traditions—maybe you’ve even started one of your own. So enjoy your traditions and family and have a very Merry Christmas!

How Eight Famous Christmas Traditions Began (Part I)

Christmas is such a joyous time of year and soon your children will be hanging their stockings and anxiously waiting for Santa to arrive on what is, to kids, the longest night of the year—Christmas Eve. Christmas brings family together to share good food, laughter and traditions—new ones as well as the old ones. But while you’re sharing in those Christmas traditions, did you ever stop to wonder where they began?

Christmas Stockings

As the tale goes, a nobleman became very depressed after the passing of his wife and foolishly spent all of his money. This left his three daughters unable to marry as they didn’t have dowries and it looked as if they would grow into old maids.

St. Nick—or Santa Claus as he’s known today—had heard of the daughters unfortunate circumstances. One night he anonymously rode to the nobleman’s house, entered and dropped a bag of gold into each of the newly washed stockings that the girls had hung to dry by the fireplace. The following morning, the three ladies and their father were quite surprised to find the bags of gold in each stocking. Now the nobleman had plenty of money for his daughters to get married—and they did! Kids have been hanging stockings on Christmas Eve ever since then.

Many years ago, Christmas stockings were usually hung by a fireplace; but since most homes today don’t have fireplaces, just about anywhere you can find to hang your stocking will make a good spot. The stocking is supposed to be filled with gifts from Santa Claus. For those children that are naughty during the year, it’s said that these children won’t find anything in their stocking on Christmas morning.

Christmas Trees

In Germany in the sixteenth century, outdoor and indoor fir trees were adorned with colored paper, apples, gold-covered candies and roses. It’s claimed that while driving home one December night, a theologian got the idea to place candles on his Christmas tree after seeing the bright stars shining through a fir tree’s branches. By the seventeenth century, decorating a Christmas tree was very popular in German towns and spread to other areas of Europe.

Prince Albert of Germany brought the Christmas tree home to England and his wife, Queen Victoria, where, in 1848, a portrait was made of the royal family around their Christmas tree in Windsor Castle; thus causing the Christmas tree to become famous in England. This portrait was then brought to the United States in 1850 and by the late nineteenth century Americans favored decorating the Christmas tree in their homes—and that tradition is still going strong today.

Candy Canes

A modern story of the symbolism of the candy cane is the colors represent Jesus Christ: white signifies His purity, the three stripes are the Holy Trinity and the red color of the stripes is for the blood He shed for us. However, there isn’t any proof that this story is fact. The true legend of the candy cane dates back to the sixteenth century when Europeans started decorating Christmas trees. The people mostly decorated the trees with food—like cookies and candy. One of those candies was a white, straight candy stick. In the seventeenth century, it was suggested to craftsmen by a German choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral that these sticks should be made into the shape of a shepherd’s staff.

At ceremonies such as a Nativity scene the candy canes were handed to the restless children in hopes that this treat would keep them calm. It must’ve worked because it soon became popular at ceremonies through all of Europe to pass out candy canes to the children.

In 1847, a German settler of Wooster, OH decided to adorn his Christmas tree with candy canes. It’s said that over fifty years later, a resident of Albany, GA created candy cane goodies to give to local shops, family and friends. Then his brother-in-law designed a machine that would produce candy canes at a much faster rate automatically; this removed the tedious work that was involved with making the candy canes and because of this inventive machine, the candy cane became a favorite treat.

Christmas Wreath

Like the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath began in Germany many centuries ago. The circular wreath represents a life that doesn’t have an end and they were made of evergreens. The wreaths were set on tables with four violet-colored, evenly placed candles put in the wreath; a fifth candle was set in the center and this inner candle was pink. Once a week one of the four candles was lit and a prayer of hope was recited. On Christmas Day the inner pink candle was lit to symbolize Jesus’ birth.

Many wreaths are ornamented with red berries and thorns, both of which are the image of Jesus’ journey. The red berries are His self-sacrifice and His blood; the thorns stand for the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Jesus’ head on the day He was crucified. Berries and thorns are the two most popular items to have on a wreath but there are many other things that can be put on a wreath as well such as bows.

Many Germans started hanging their Christmas wreaths on their front doors and in the sixteenth century, Christians adopted this tradition and it continues to this very day. Wreaths are even hung over fireplaces, on walls or in windows.

There are more of these interesting Christmas traditions to come in part two—so stay tuned!

Holiday Gathering Activities

It’s wonderful to have family staying over during the holidays. However, after the traditional meal is devoured you might wish you had a list titled holiday gathering activities. Memories are made when you are active together, laughing and having fun, and when all are included from little cousin Jimmy to great grandma Betty. Here are a few suggestions for activities that will get the fun rolling and make for treasured family memories.

Watch Home Videos

Ask each branch of the family to bring some of their favorite home videos to share. Simply pop up a big bowl of popcorn, throw pillows on the floor for the little ones, and have a family movie festival.

Do Something Outside

It can be as simple as a walk in a park, or you can plan an ice-skating party complete with hot chocolate and mulled wine. If there is snow, maybe have a snow man making contest and get everyone involved.

Win it in a Minute

These games are based on the hit TV show, Minute to Win it. It is easy to do a web search and find just the right games for your family to play. Most of the materials are things found around the house or can be found at a dollar store. Find five or six games to play and take turns pitting age groups against each other.

Talent Show

Your family is filled with talented folk and those that just like to show off. With a little planning ahead (so they know to actually bring their clarinet), you can organize a family talent show that may just become a yearly event. Set up an area as a stage and advise your family that it’s just for fun and is to be a safe place for family to express their interests and talent.

It doesn’t take much for a family to have fun together. Sometimes they just need a little leadership, encouragement and a push in the right direction. That’s where you come in.

Winter Activities for Kids That Go Beyond the Norm

As a parent I think we can agree we are all looking for Winter Activities for Kids that will engage our children while providing something fun for the whole family and maybe even a little educational for the kids.  I can almost guarantee there are a million and one posts about sledding , ice skating or roasting marshmallows over a fire.  Those things are fun and to be honest should be a part of every child’s life; not just once, but on a regular basis.

I would suggest finding things to do that go beyond the normal scope of everyday winter activities for the kids.  One of the things that will help determine what to do with your kids on any given fall day is the weather.  Winter brings uncertainty when it comes to the weather.  You can have a beautiful, sunny day followed by a snowy day.  Or if you life in the south weather might not be an issue.  Here are a few ideas of things to do on different sorts of day.

Indoor Winter Activities:

On a day when the weather doesn’t agree with outdoor activities look for a museum to visit.  It doesn’t really matter where you live it is almost guaranteed there will be a museum in the vicinity.  The trick is finding the one that will provide entertainment for the kids.  Most large cities, and even a fair share of smaller cities, have a children’s museum or a something of the sort that is geared towards children.

Outdoor Winter Activities:

If the winter weather is agreeable it can prove a great time to visit a historical site.  Places like Plymouth Plantation or Jamestown can provide a wonderful interactive experience for the kids.  Look for a fort to visit if the weather is nice.  I was surprised to find an incredible number of forts throughout the US that are open to the public on a daily basis.  Ranging from Colonial forts to World War II forts, there is a wonderful array of exciting places to visit.  The best part of visiting historical sites like these is that they allow the whole family to engage history on a person, interactive level.  I remember as a young kid the thrill of being able to run around old forts; climbing the battlements and pretending I was a Colonial defender. The memories have helped foster a love of history that follows me to this day.

My last suggestion would be to take in a sports game.  There are some great sports taking place in the fall and winter; soccer, football, hockey, and later in the season some basketball and volleyball.  If you feel inclined you can fairly easily find a team in any of the major sports.  If you are like me, however, more affordable is better.  In this category fits you I would suggest finding a local college team to follow.  Tickets will tend to be free or very inexpensive and will allow your children to watch a competitive sporting even.  If you want to find something in the middle there are many more semi-pro teams for every sport that will have tickets for under $20.

These are just a few of the things that are available for families to do in the winter.  One of the best things in my opinion is to find something new to broaden the horizons of your children.  The best thing to do is have fun with your kids and enjoy their enthusiasm.  Cherish every moment you have with them.

Ice Skating: Great Winter Activity

Holiday Decorating: Inexpensive Ideas

Holiday Season

Part of the fun of the holiday season — besides eating all the goodies — is decorating. With budgets tight, finding ways to decorate inexpensively can lead to creative holiday decor. To get some ideas on holiday decorations, check with local stores and get inspired to make your own seasonal holiday decor and pick up some holiday deals.

Thanksgiving

The holiday for sharing and giving thanks is the perfect time to decorate with traditional Thanksgiving decor. One of the easiest and most colorful decorations is the cornucopia, also known as the horn of plenty. Filled with the “bounty of the season,” these decorative horns add a splash of color as a centerpiece or as a table or counter decoration.

Supplies needed:

  • A wicker cornucopia cone
  • 1 bag of craft moss
  • Several miniature pumpkins, squash, Indian corn, and small gourds, a handful of acorns, miniature pine cones, cinnamon sticks, and artificial grapes, apples and oranges
  • Autumn-colored silk leaves
  • Hot glue gun and clear glue sticks
  • Large platter or tray

To construct:

  • Place a layer of moss on the platter or tray.
  • Line the cornucopia with moss.
  • Situate the horn on to the platter.
  • Optional: Adults only. Secure the horn to the platter using several dollops of hot glue.
  • Begin placing fruit and vegetables inside the horn alternating and mixing colors.
  • Continue placing the items outside the front of the horn so it looks like the fruit and veggies are spilling out of the cornucopia.
  • Embellish with autumn-colored leaves throughout the arrangement.
  • Adults can carefully use the hot glue to secure items to the side or bottom of the horn and to each other.
  • Insert fragrant cinnamon sticks inside the horn.
  • Optional: add pine needles, uncooked cranberries, and fragrant potpourri for extra decoration and aroma.

Christmas

Making holiday decorations is a project the entire family can do together. Children will enjoy decorating pine cones.

Supplies needed:

  • Small, medium and large pine cones purchased from the craft store or gathered from the backyard or local park
  • Gold or silver craft paint
  • Artificial snow
  • Glue or hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Red, gold and silver glitter
  • Red, blue, and gold ribbon
  • Miniature decorations such as bells and ornaments
  • Scissors

To construct:

  • You have two options to decorate the cones. First, paint the tips and a portion of the petals with gold paint. Once dry, brush a tiny dollop of glue on the tip of each petal and sprinkle a dash of gold glitter. Second, apply artificial snow to the cone, let dry, then brush the tips with glue and apply silver glitter.
  • Insert miniature bells and ornaments to petals and secure with glue.
  • Cut a piece of ribbon in the appropriate color, tie in a bow, then use regular glue or hot glue (adults only) to adhere the ribbon to the top of the pine cone.
  • Place cones in crystal glass vases, in baskets lined with seasonal colored tissue paper, or fill a clear bowl with the colorful cones.
  • Glue a gold, red or white pipe cleaner behind the bow, create a loop, and use to hang the pine cones on the tree, a decorative garland, or a mantle piece.

Holiday Decorations

Family Activities For The Holiday Season

If you are preparing to host a house full of family and friends this holiday season chances are football will be on the television and kids will be under foot. However this special time should be celebrated by talking, laughing and having fun instead of television and time-outs. It’s time to start planning some holiday activities that are sure to keep everyone occupied and entertained while dinner is in the oven.

Family Football Game

Nothing is more fun on a crisp autumn day than a football game with the entire gang, and everyone can play flag football, even the little ones. Choose teams (make sure to even out the kids on both sides to make it fair), discuss the rules, hang “flags” from your back pockets and get the game going. Let your guests know in advance if you want to plan a football game; they’ll want to bring a change of clothes and some sneakers.

Table Games

If the weather keeps your holiday party indoors, consider setting up a few strategically placed board games on card and coffee tables throughout your living area. Chess, checkers and dominoes are simple two-person games that almost everyone can easily learn to play. Alternatively, invest in a Carrom board, table-top Foosball or Air Hockey table, and your party guests will enjoy lively and good-natured competition. Don’t forget to include games or puzzles for the younger children.

Kids Crafts

If space allows, set up a craft table for kids complete with everything they need to create a masterpiece. Paper, paint, pinecones, gourds and glue can become works of art in the creative hands of a 4-year-old, and a Christmas tree centerpiece or hand drawn place cards are the perfect extra touch for your Christmas table décor. Protect holiday outfits with old oversized t-shirts or artist aprons.

Put on a Skit

Children love to put on plays. Find a simple skit online, write one of your own or have the kids write one, and assign a character to each child who wants to participate. Ideas include a re-enactment of the first Christmas, using puppets to act out what they are thankful for or pretending they are a family of Christmas trees who live on a farm. Have a few, simple costume pieces on hand; adults can join in too. After the actors have practiced a bit, encourage the entire family to watch them perform.

This special time only comes once a year, so promote thankfulness this Holiday season by turning off the television and spending time together. Enjoy your company, your bountiful feast, and your day.

Amy Adele has great thank you notes. Your kids will love writing Thank You notes to grandma after Christmas. Or leave a note to your aunt thanking her for hosting your family!

Family Christmas Catus

How to Encourage Thankfulness at Christmas and Birthdays

Holidays can provide us many opportunities to show our children how much we love them.  In some cultures so much emphasis is put on celebrating that children can become greedy.  Of all the holidays that we celebrate, Christmas and birthdays are often the times of year that our children are very self centered.  As much as we love to give them their heart’s desire on these special days, it is also important to communicate to them that these are days that we should be especially thankful.  But how can we prevent materialism and advertising from affecting our children, especially on those days when they receive the most gifts and toys?

One idea takes a little planning and time but is well worth the effort. Through the year pick a day each month or every 3-6 months to have your children go through their clothes and toys and get rid of anything that they don’t play with or wear anymore.  Put it in a box or bag.  The week of Christmas or their birthday, take the toys and clothes to a second hand store or a charitable organization so that other children can benefit from them on special days as well.  Talk to your children about how fortunate they were to have all these things given to them and remind them that not all children have had that opportunity.

Another idea would be to pick a number (perhaps the number of gifts they are going to receive on any given holiday) and have them find that number of toys to give away.  Not only will they learn to appreciate what they have but it will also help with clutter in the toy box.  And of course, in both of these instances they will also be taught generosity.

With some thought if is not difficult  to encourage thankfulness in our children.  Thankfulness is not an activity, it’s a state of mind that needs to be fed, trained and nurtured.  Eventually it becomes habit and a part of their personality.

Using Words in Family Photos

Here’s a trend we love — using letters and words in family photos. It’s so simple, yet it makes such a statement.  (With special thanks to Stacy Rank on Pinterest).

From chelseabeephotography.com

From thebmcreport.blogspot.com

From lifecapturesbykriscinda.com

From http://pinterest.com/pin/56013589085053509/

 

Some of Amy Adele’s Family Photo Cards:

Red and Green Speckled Border Photo Card
Snowy Bird House Photo Card
Richmond Winter House Photo Card
Christmas Palm Tree Photo Card

Find more photo cards HERE.