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Light up the world with holiday joy!

Let’s make some Christmas magic

The holidays are here, just when we need them most. Although the chaos of the world swirls outside your windows, you can focus on the many things that make this the best time of the year. Welcome the spirit of the season into your heart and into your home, and this will be a holiday to remember.

Let’s face it, this terrible-horrible-no good-very bad year will keep on going without us. I’ve been dealing with it like it’s a spider on the wall, keeping my eye on it so it doesn’t creep up on me! So not necessary!

It’s time to take a break from our pandemic obsession and focus on something else for a few short weeks. Let’s mute the endless litany of bad news and focus instead on creating a little joy. Go ahead, it’ll be OK.

Like Auntie Mame, we need a little Christmas now. So turn off the news and step away from your phone.

Cue the lights, the snow, and the bells. Bring on the baking, the board games, and the ceramic Christmas village. Set the holiday jigsaw puzzle on the card table next to the cookie jar. Wrap the front door in evergreen boughs and hang a wreath on the front of your car.

Let’s carve some happiness out of this year and send our love out to the world. It needs it … and so do you. Let’s light it up!

Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand.

Dr. Seuss, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

Light up the world

Across all cultures, the end of the calendar year brings an explosion of holidays and human celebration. It has always been that way. Something instinctive in us refuses to let the dark win.

This is one of the best qualities of humanity: when faced with hard times we persevere. When thrust into darkness, we light a flame. In the midst of calamity, we remember the good things in life and we believe they will be ours again.

Have you heard the story of the Christmas Truce? It was December 24, 1914. WWI was raging and the British and German soldiers were huddled in their opposing trenches. Then on Christmas Eve, despite the death and destruction all around, something unprecedented happened. The night air was filled with men’s voices, singing Christmas carols in their native languages.

When Christmas day dawned, in an act of supreme trust, an unspoken truce was reached. Weapons were set aside and Axis and Allied troops met in the middle of the battlefield to clasp hands and exchange gifts and holiday greetings.

If desperate men can rise above their troubles to celebrate with strangers in the frozen ditches of a war-zone, surely we can set aside our fears and find ways to celebrate this December.

Give yourself permission to celebrate in the midst of the darkness. Feed your weary soul with the magic of the season and share your magic with the world. Send your love far and wide in whatever way you can.

And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent…

Taylor Caldwell

8 tips for creating a holiday to remember

The holidays have always felt like a time of abundance to me. Our annual traditions provide a feast for the senses and an important time to reconnect and rejuvenate.

My gift to myself is to unapologetically enjoy every minute of the season, to revel in every sentimental moment. I am going to believe like a wide-eyed toddler, party like a college freshman, love like a newlywed, and celebrate like there’s no tomorrow.

It will make me stronger and more resilient when it’s time to face the new year and all the challenges ahead. I will not feel guilty for stealing some moments of happiness this December. Neither should you.

Here’s my list of all the things that make this time of year so wonderful. I’ll be crossing it off and checking it twice! To get a free copy of my Holiday Refresh & Rejuvenation Tips, click this link!

1. Spoil yourself with festive scents

Seasonal scents

Treat yourself to the scents of the season with peppermint candies and scented candles. Warm some cider with cinnamon sticks on the stove or make a pan of hot cocoa the old-fashioned way. Doesn’t it smell marvelous?

For me, nothing tops the smell of a freshly cut spruce tree. It’s sticky sap and sawdust promise good things to come. Even a few fresh pine boughs wrapped in ribbons on the mantle or in an arrangement with candles will fill your home with their fresh fragrance all season long.

I’ve read that many families are reviving the tradition of picking a fresh tree this year. It’s a fantastic, outdoor excursion for the whole family.

Something’s Cooking!

One of the upsides of this lockdown is the gift of time. Why not use it to fill your home with the wonderful smells of baking — vanilla and spice, home-cooked meals, and holiday sweets? You may not be able to visit grandma’s house, but the smell of cinnamon rolls or roasting turkey can take you back there in a flash.

This weekend I’m going to bake a batch of our family’s White Peppernuts recipe and fill the kitchen with the aroma of confectioner’s sugar and anise. Yum!

What are your favorite holiday smells? Find a way to bring them into your home this month.

The magic of Christmas lives inside of you, always.

James Barbato, ‘The Magic Christmas Ornament’

2. Savor the taste of good things

Holiday treats

Don’t wait until the holidays are here to enjoy the tastes of the season. There is so much to savor, the month of December is not long enough!

Let’s start with beverages. Stock your fridge with eggnog with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Stir some hot cocoa with a candy cane. Give some fancy cocktails a whirl or enjoy a snifter of cognac. My family enjoys all of the above, plus some sparkling grape juice for our younger family members. Festive is the rule!

One of my favorite parts of the holidays are the lazy day meals of snacks and appetizers. My family loves to make a spread of savory finger foods to enjoy while we watch a movie together. It always features veggies and hummus, olives, dried fruit and nuts, crackers, and a selection of specialty meats and cheeses.

Sometimes we’ll throw in some meatballs or jalapeno popper. Other times we bring out something simple like popcorn or apple slices with peanut butter. I know other families that make a holiday Fondu, maybe this will be the year I will finally give that a try.

A feast like no other

Then there’s the main event. Every family has its own special traditions for the winter holidays, whichever ones they celebrate. Christmas day is the highlight of the year at my house.

Our family stays in our pajamas until all the presents are opened. We take our time, stopping to enjoy a cup of coffee and a cinnamon crunch bagel (or two) from Panera. It’s afternoon before we shower up and start thinking about our Christmas feast.

Our holiday meal is the same every year because, in 20 years, we’ve never found anything to top it! It’s easy to make and soooooooo good: Port-Marinated Beef Tenderloin with Cranberries with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus (Heaven!)

What foods mean the holidays to you? Will you fit them into your celebrations this year?

3. Delight in the beauty of the season

Light up the world

The holiday season is the only time of year when we decorate the world. Cities hang lights and string garland. Neighborhoods string up enough bulbs to light the sky. Inside our homes, twinkling lights and colorful ornaments are festive and bright. The contrast with the velvet darkness of quiet winter nights is so beautiful.

Of course, it’s easy to press through the short days of December with your eyes down and your heart focused on your to-do list. Don’t let the beauty of this season slip away!

So many holiday seasons, I sit down on Christmas afternoon after the hustle and the rush are over only to realize that the holiday has passed me by. Year after year I end up missing all the things I love about this season.

No regrets for me this year. I’m going to enjoy every beautiful moment.

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

Charles Dickens, ‘A Christmas Carol’
Savor your solitude

I’m setting aside a few minutes each morning to sip my coffee in the quiet light of the Christmas tree before I start work. I savor the solitude, just me and glow of the tree in my silent house. It’s the perfect way to start the day.

I’m also starting my wrapping early so I can actually enjoy the ritual of decorating each present instead of racing to beat the clock on Christmas Eve.

Most importantly, I’m turning my darn phone off and stopping to enjoy the occasional moment of stillness and gratitude. It makes all the difference.

Winter wonderland

Although our city’s annual holiday light show has been canceled, my neighbors staged their own displays. I’m planning to jump in the car, turn the radio to a holiday station, and take a drive through the sparkling streets of my town. All these simple homes, taking their stab against the dark, lighting up my world. I am deeply grateful.

When we finally get some Christmas snow, I’ll take a walk through a tree-lined park and admire the snow on the tree boughs. I may even wax my old cross-country skis so I can get out in nature and enjoy the muted greys of the winter landscape.

What about you? What have you been missing? There is beauty all around. Take a moment to drink it in.

4. Can you feel it?

It’s the most comfortable time of the year! Snuggle up in comfy sweaters or wrap yourself in a cozy throw while you enjoy a quiet read. Revel in the soft, the warm, the comforting. You don’t get to enjoy these sensations in the summer.

This is also a great time for self-care. Pamper yourself with soothing bubble baths. Slather on a rich, hydrating lotion. Take time to stretch and reconnect with your body. Ah! Doesn’t that feel good?

Of course, if you really want to feel all the feels, you need to get your butt outside. Yes, I know we’re all huddled in our homes, but you need to stick your head outside once in a while. You’re not going to catch the virus from a dose of fresh air.

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

Normal Vincent Peale

I live in Minnesota, so if I can do it, you can too! Enjoy the feel of a snowflake gently kissing your face or the invigorating touch of the brisk winter air as it wakes you up and makes you feel alive. If you’re waking up in Florida or California, take a walk along the closest beach. (Christmas in the sand!)

Whatever you do, don’t forget the power of human touch. Reach for a hand, rub a back, ruffle some hair. Touch someone and relish the warmth and feeling of connection. Give your honey a massage (and a strong hint that you’d like one too!) If you’re lucky enough to have a pet, give them some extra loving. You’ll both be happier.

5. Enjoy the sounds of the season

Indulge in the music of the holidays. There is such a rich tradition of celebratory, seasonal music. Enjoy it while you can.

What’s your preference? Classics, jazz, choral, pop? There’s something for everyone and much to choose from. I’ve got my headphones playing Christmas carols while I work, while I clean, and while I walk. Don’t be afraid to sing along, or better yet take your family out caroling!

Don’t forget the other sounds of the holidays. How about a winter bonfire or a cozy fire in the fireplace that pops and crackles. There are also wonderful sounds in nature. Last night, my husband and I were walking through our neighborhood when we were greeted by the “Hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo” of an owl. I also love the sounds of snow crunching under my feet as I walk.

Then there’s my favorite sound – the sound of happiness. Why not put on a good comedy or play a silly game until laughter fills your home.

6. Connect

Stronger together

If there was ever a good year for writing a Christmas letter, this is it! I’ve missed getting this done more years than I care to admit. But I always love hearing from my friends and family. I hope they know I’m thinking of them, even when I don’t get those darn cards in the mail!

But this year my Christmas Letter is a must. I need that connection. They need that connection. And I’m sure you do too.

We are not alone. We are a thousand lights, separate but still part of a beautiful glowing string of color. Let’s keep our connections strong.

Make a list of all the people that hold a place in your heart and make this the year you say hello again. It doesn’t matter how – phone, zoom, letter, text – reach out and connect. We need each other and we are so much stronger together.

Remember our family White Peppernut recipe? I plan to ship some to my dad this week. Why not frost some cookies and send a package of sweet affection off to your own loved ones? You don’t have to be physically present to light up their world.

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?

Bob Hope
Connections far and near

For those friends or family members that you can see safely, try to make some special holiday plans together. Classic activities include making cookies, decorating the tree, watching a holiday movie.

I have always loved setting up a jigsaw puzzle over the holidays. It makes a great place to gather and, as we sort through the pieces, the conversation flows.

It doesn’t really matter what you choose. Just spend time together.

Those dear ones you can’t see face to face can still feel the touch of your love and friendship:

  • Send festive packages and colorful cards.
  • Print out favorite photos and frame them for a personal gift.
  • Drop off cookies or a box of wine.
  • Let them hear your voice often. Call with a joke. Call with a story. Call, call, call. It is so important.

My dad has been isolated for months, so my sister Dee likes to take him on virtual walks with her. With her phone on facetime, she points her camera at her dog, at the scenery, at whatever she’s passing. She’s his window on the world and he loves it.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You don’t have to spend a lot of time. Just pick something meaningful and do it. The smallest gestures can have a big impact.

7. Get Nostalgic

Sentimental Classics

Bring on the Hallmark movies and the classics I’ve seen a million times. This year I am going to revisit them all and enjoy every sappy, sentimental moment to the hilt. My viewing list includes everything from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer to It’s a Wonderful Life. I plan to savor them all.

What about a good Christmas story? I love a good book at any time of year, but I usually have more time to read over the holidays. I think I’ll give Dickens’ A Christmas Carol another read and maybe follow-up with the Guthrie Theatre’s streaming performance of the same. ($10 per household!!!) Why not? We’re not going anywhere!

My piano skills are pretty rusty, but I’m going to dust it off and dig out some old holiday sheet music. Christmas carols always bring a sweet nostalgic ache to my heart. They take me back to my grade school years, sitting in the basement of our farmhouse and singing with my dad at our old upright piano.

For somehow, not only for Christmas, but all the long year through, The joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you.

Margaret Elizabeth Sangster
A Christmas memory

Carols also remind me of one perfect New York night, many years ago. My sister, Kaye, and I were drafted to go caroling with “Tomato Bob” and his friends through the streets of Greenwich Village.

There were only about ten of us and a golden retriever, struggling to deliver long-forgotten harmonies. We were accompanied by an accordion and a guitar (I think there was a guitar) and quiet snow, but somehow it worked.

We wound through the streets, singing every carol we remembered (and a few we didn’t). Families waved to us out of their apartment windows or stopped to listen as we passed. It was truly magical.

Tomato Bob is long gone, but this memory will stay with me always.

Why not create some magical memories of your own this year? I wonder how many carolers will visit the senior homes this year?

8. Give

There is so much need right now in our world and it feels so good to give. Look for little ways to give every day. You’ll be glad you did.

  • Help a local business out by shopping local.
  • Treat yourself to a take-out meal that gives you a break from the kitchen and helps a restaurant stay afloat.
  • Go ring some bells for the Salvation Army
  • Give some blood to the Red Cross.
  • Pick up a letter to Santa from the Post Office website and make a child’s wish come true.
  • Drop a toy in a Toys for Tots collection box.
  • Deliver a good book or a bottle of wine or a box of fudge to a friend.

There must be a dozen different ways you could make someone’s holidays brighter. Please share your ideas in the comment below. Let’s light up the world with joy!

What is Christmas? It is the tenderness of the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future.

Agnes M. Pahro

Believe in the good that will come

When the holidays wind down, I’m want to feel like I gave them my all this year. Then I’m going to put this year to rest, knowing I stayed the course and gave it my best.

In less than a month when 2021 comes into view, I’m going to dream and plan like anything is possible. Because it is. It may be farther away than we’d like it to be, but it is out there.

Every day takes us one step closer to happier days. They are almost in sight.

It’s been a dark year, the darkest year that I can remember. But I still believe in the light. Let’s light up the world and start again.

Happy Holidays!

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Kaye
9 months ago

Thanks Jane. Great article! I am inspired,