In the spirit of the fact that I will be cooking most of the day today and tomorrow and will intersperse that with quite a bit of wine, lazing about in pajamas and opening presents, I’m just going to leave you with this survey! Hope your evening is magical … I can hear the reindeer already
With tomorrow being Christmas Eve, I guess it’s probably time I show you what Christmas looks like in my house. There’s a bit of old mixed in with some new. We’re slowly building traditions of our own Christmas decorations. I am so, so pleased with how our decorations turned out this year. They make me smile every time I walk past them. So please join me in a tour of Christmas at Casa de Four23.
One of the things we should all remember during this holiday season is that it isn’t about what you get, it’s about what you give. Whether it’s your love and affection to family members or donations to your favorite charity, we should all take the time to realize how blessed we are and pass these blessing onto one another. You don’t have to make sizable donations to huge charities to make a difference. Every little thing counts and giving versus not could make a difference in just one person’s life. Here are some ways to give back this holiday season.
- Leave a good book in a waiting room, on the bus, on the subway – anywhere it might be picked up. Put a “free to good home” note on it and maybe even write Merry Christmas inside.
- Small surprise pay offs – pay for someone behind you in the drive through, pay off someone’s layaway. Something that will make someone’s day because they weren’t expecting it.
- Don’t forget the furry friends! Donate to your local SPCA – our local one takes cash donations as well as extra supplies like blankets, food, bowls, etc.
- Donate blood! Give the gift of life. The Red Cross is sponsoring at least two blood drives that I know around our area. Go here to find one local to you.
- If you see an opportunity, take it! Even the small things – donating a dollar the register, dropping some goods in a food drive bin at the grocery store, putting extra change in the bucket of the Santa ringing the bell – help and make you feel like you’ve done something.
- Invite people to dinner. Whether it’s a few close friends, a family from the neighborhood, or someone from work, it’s always nice to be able to provide a warm meal to those who may need it during the season.The good company is just a bonus.
- Remember your service people! You don’t have to tip everyone and their brother but it’s nice to acknowledge those who do things regularly for you that you take for granted. I like to leave batches of cookies and, this year, Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards (in small increments so there’s no conflict about accepting gifts) for my mail carrier and garbage collectors. If you have someone who does an awesome job dry cleaning your clothes or a daycare worker who takes care of your kid, remember them and thank them for helping out, even if it’s something small. They’ll feel appreciated and you’ll get an opportunity to recognize how much others do for you.
- Bake cookies and give them to people. Sometimes this is the cheapest route to go. I used to do this for my coworkers when I was in a smaller office. I’d buy the premade dough, in rolls or the big buckets and for five bucks, I had enough cookies to go around. It was just a little way to show my appreciate to those who may feel uncomfortable with getting an actual gift but that I wanted to recognize.
- Hang some mistletoe and call people out when they’re standing under it. Nothing like encouraging love during the holidays!
- Smile at everyone you pass and wish anyone you talk to Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, whichever your preference). You’d be amazed at the power of a simple smile.
What do you during the holidays to give back? Any other ideas besides the ones above? Am always looking to spread the cheer!
[featured image via]
We all have them, whether they are blatant or subtle. There are certain things that just need to be done every year for things to really feel like it’s Christmas. Some of the more magical parts of Christmas are the pieces of nostalgia that float back into your life – it’s a time when everyone is gathering and enjoying each other’s company and remembers holidays past and making new memories as new members get added. Some of the nicest parts about Christmas for me are continuing some of the traditions that were prevalent in my family – sharing them with Steve makes it feel a little more like Christmas because to be honest, it doesn’t feel like Christmas without these.
Opening One Present on Christmas Eve
We were always allowed to open one of the wrapped presents we had sitting under the tree on Christmas Eve before we went to bed. I think this tradition came from my mom’s family and continued with us and now continues in my household. When I was young, it was usually a gift from the grandparents. When I got older and moved out, it became a new pair of pajamas from my parents to all of us kids and now, in my own household, it’s a new pair of pajamas for us. And you have to put them on immediately. They range anywhere from themed pajamas (Steve has AC/DC ones and Oscar the grouch – these kill me because they have Oscar all over the pants and Steve calls them his grumpy pants!) to regular old pajama pants that I started buying because sometimes the shirts that came with the themed pajamas weren’t all that comfortable. This year, I found fabulous Christmas themed pants from Old Navy and cannot wait until Christmas Eve (in years past, I’d stuck with regular old flannel pants from Target).
Choosing a New Ornament Each Year and Putting it on the Tree
Each of us three kids always tried to pick a new ornament (some years it didn’t happen that we picked them but rather that we might have gotten ones with our name on them) and then every subsequent year, we’d get our ornaments and we’d hang them on the tree. My mom still has my ornaments from when I was young that she hangs on her tree. But I also have ornaments in my house that are special to us. Our initials, ones we’ve gotten from the Festival of Lights, funny ones we’ve picked out (Steve has a fishing one) or are relevant to us. The key here is that we never have had a theme to our tree. There’s no color scheme with simple ball ornaments. We’ve always mixed the ball ornaments with some pretty garland but the majority of our ornaments, both growing up and in my household now, are sentimental. Nothing matches and I kind of like it that way because each ornament holds significance to us.
Festival of Lights
Every year, I reference the Festival of Lights but I don’t think I’ve ever gone into detail about what it is and what we love about it. It started in 1989 and takes place at one of our county parks. It’s a three mile loop that you drive around the park interior and go through different exhibits that are all lit up, ranging from traditional Christmas scenes to Lowcountry landmarks. You can drive through it as many times as you’d like once you’ve gone in the park. You can also park the car and walk to Santa’s Village, where they have marshmallow roasting, a huge sand sculpture, a train ride around the park and an enchanted lit up forest you can walk through. There’s gift shoppes that sell annual ornaments that commerate some of the iconic displays in the park. All the while, there’s Christmas music playing and people milling about in Santa hats and it’s just an overall good time. We went many, many times when I was young and started going again when we moved back here. The displays, for the most part, don’t change – they’ll add a new one each year. Actually, a lot of things about it doesn’t change and I think that’s what I love so much – it’s tradition. It’s the same as it was when I was kid. It’s familiar and it always make Christmas feel like Christmas. I love this place so much that the one year I got sick with DVT right before Christmas, Steve loaded me in the car and took me there as a surprise because he knew it would cheer me up.
There are other things that I remember from my childhood that have fond memories but may not have been carried over to adulthood. When we were little, my grandmother made my brother and I these stockings that were probably three feet long. They were huge and we loved having those stockings – they seemed like real live stocking caps hung from the mantel. I still have mine but we don’t have any to match so it stay tucked away for me to ooh and ahh over it every holiday.
We also had a Nativity scene that we put up every year and would only put Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Eve. We don’t do that much in my house mostly because we’re not really religious and mostly because I don’t have a decent Nativity. (Though I did ask for one this year and when my mother questioned me about it, thinking I wouldn’t want one, I told her I liked the significance of it – as in the significance of the tradition.)
There was the gingerbread house I made and while I was taking video of it, my parents kept stealing candies. There are sounds of my dad dive-bombing in and yanking gumdrops from the lawn and my mom’s fingers sneaking in from the side and stealing M&M’s off the roof, all the while I’m shrieking and whining like they’re kicking it over and stomping on it. (For the record, the video is hysterical looking back on it, though I haven’t made a house since but that will change this year, because not only did I buy a house to make but my parents, remembering the video, also got me the exact same one, so we’ll all be putting them together on Christmas Day).
I swore there was more but my mind is drawing a blank right now. What are your Christmas traditions? Anything that you have to have at Christmas? Anything you did as a child that you wish you did now?
We all have them and we all are probably able to argue with anyone why one trumps the other. Some sit solely in the classics arena and regard anything contemporary with contempt. Others like the new modern movies, the ones that were integral parts of our childhood. But regardless, if you ask anyone to name a favorite, I’m sure they can pick one right off the top of their immediately.
We are not any different in my house and every Christmas Eve we make a point to sit down with some eggnog and rum or wine, in my case, in our Christmas Eve pajamas and watch as many of these movies as we can. It doesn’t matter that we may have already seen them earlier in the holiday season. We have to watch these on Christmas Eve or it won’t feel like Christmas.