12 Day of Christmas – Giving

The final day of my journey through the things that mean Christmas to me is of course giving.  I love to give!  It can be giving presents, giving time, giving of your heart, etc.

I have always tried the best I could to try to find that “perfect” gift to give someone that WOW moment when they open a present.  I delight in watching my daughter open her gifts.  I don’t think I can ever top the year I got her a new instrument (a piccolo).  She was completely unaware and really surprised.  No big surprises this year but I do really hope she loves her Crazy Frog Lady shirt.

At this time of year I always wish I had more energy so I could give of my time more.  Volunteering to be a bell-ringer for Salvation Army.  Or work at a the homeless shelter to feed the hungry.  I do it more in small personal doses.  Giving time to my Dad to just visit a while.  Writing letters to friends and family I cannot visit.  Some of those small gift that are “free” can mean a lot too.

Around the holidays people often give to charities as well.  Whether it be a toy drive or your favorite charity with an end of the year gift it is giving for those who need help.  Just once I would like to win the lottery to be able to do more than a $5 or $10 donation.

No matter what you give do so freely and with pure love in your heart.  I have learned if you give with strings attached it can just cause heartache.  Giving freely and without conditions is the only way to guarantee it will not hurt you in the end.

I hope you take the time to embrace all that Christmas means to you.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!!!!

In case you missed the other 11 days they were…

12 Days of Christmas – Nature

12 Days of Christmas – Friendship

12 Days of Christmas – Music

12 Days of Christmas – Cards

12 Days of Christmas – Spirituality

12 Days of Christmas – Children

12 Days of Christmas – Family

12 Days of Christmas – Love

12 Days of Christmas – Winter Snow

12 Days of Christmas – Food

12 Days of Christmas – Decorations

12 Days of Christmas – Decorations

Everything is so shiny and sparkly this time of year.  From twinkling lights to glitter galore homes are transformed into a wonderland.  And through the years I have seen so many things that drew my attention.

As a child we would pile in the car and drive through town sometime during the week of Christmas to look at all the light displays people had put up on their houses.  I can remember through the years many familiar houses I would always anticipate seeing the latest creations they had done.  From the simplistic glow of all white lights to a collection of rainbow colors, it all would dazzle the eyes.

Indoors I recall a heavy cardboard fireplace we would assemble every year to hang our stockings on.  It even had a motor and light that simulated the fires glow.  Sadly it only held up for so many years before the cardboard began to degrade.

There was the anticipation of seeing my Gma’s holiday village display when we visited our grandparents.  It was a hand-made village created by my great-grandmother.  The tree would be a work in progress for days until the tinsel had all been placed one strand at a time, one branch at a time, bottom to top.  It took a long time but it was so beautiful when it was done.  And the Christmas cards that would line the doorways and mirror of our living room.

Today the decorations are minimal compared to when I grew up.  The tree is still the focal point.  There are the bells on the door, the vinyl clings on the windows and some stand alone decorations – my favorite being a snowman with a lamppost a friend gave me.  I still at 50 years old delight in seeing the light displays in the neighborhood and all over town.

What are some of your favorite decorations to see this time of year?  What is a must in your home to add sparkle to the holiday?

12 Days of Christmas – Food

Just like many holidays there always seem to be some sort of food when friends and family gather, and Christmas is no different.  There are three main themes in my Christmas traditions around food.

Growing up we would always have some kind of sweet rolls, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, etc. for a light breakfast before we would open gifts after a little bit of food.  That is a tradition we continued with my daughter.  In recent years we have had to alter that sadly to fit with schedules, but on occasion it still happens.

There is always a big meal. Growing up it would be an afternoon to evening meal depending on how early we woke up that morning. This year it will be a lunch with my boyfriends family consisting of a pot luck type meal where we all share food… we are bringing chili.  But we will also have a nice pot roast simmering in the crock pot to have for dinner with all the trimmings later when we return home to open gifts of our own.

Then the fun stuff!  Growing up I always remember going to my grandparents house and my Gma having the best sweet treats left out on the table to snack on throughout the day.  One of my favorites was always the white chocolate covered pretzels.  When I grew up and started family traditions of my own I had to include sweet treats.  What I bake and cook up has changed through the years, but there is always pretzels!  My daughter helps me make them now and hopefully will carry on the tradition when she has her own family too.

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Pretzels, potato chips, and peanut butter cracker bites
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Chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies

Just today my daughter and I made up cookies and candies.  We sampled as we created and approved of this years treats.  It makes for a long day to try to get them all done in one day.  And as a matter of fact there is still the new recipe item to make yet another day… a honey nut cookie ball.  We will share treats with friends and family.  Gather to eat a good meal.  And create more memories each year that passes.  What do you eat that is a special treat on Christmas?

12 Days of Christmas – Winter Snow

It is hard growing up in the Midwest not to think of a Christmas being snowy white.  I can remember getting sleds for Christmas and taking them out right away to try them out.  With today being the first official day of winter I had to include snow as part of what I associate with Christmas. This year is not going to be a white Christmas as we are expecting highs near 50° F.  There is a chance of precipitation but it is not snow and actually thunderstorms instead.  But I will hold on to the memories of the snow falling on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day… I guess I will just be dreaming of a white Christmas.

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12 Days of Christmas – Love

The one overwhelming emotion of Christmas is love.  Love of family, friends and faith.  You give to those you love.  Celebrate surrounded by loved ones.  And it is the love of Jesus that is the center of the origins of Christmas.  How many times have you seen couples engaged on Christmas?  Often a baby’s first Christmas is a highlight of the year… and that is just the love the new parents have, because the child will not remember a bit of it!  There is love and appreciation for the beauty of the season, the decorations and the shiny wrapped gifts topped with bows.  There are favorite parts of the holiday that we love.  The part I love is the look of happiness when I have chosen the perfect gift for someone… I love giving. What do you love about Christmas?

12 Days of Christmas – Family

Family is a big part of Christmas for me.  I can remember back to when I was a child and we would drive the three-hour trip to my grandparents place to spend the holiday with them.  Later we would postpone the Christmas trip and go over afterwards but still there was always aunts and uncles, cousins and everyone around.  I remember eating in the basement with a huge table that we could use to fit all of us around… it had to be close to 20 people gathered.

Then as we got older it was the immediate family Christmas on Christmas morning and the later trip to Gma and Gpa’s.  Marriage, children and divorce all changed how and when we celebrated.  But no matter when it happened it was always with family around us.

This year I will go to my boyfriends family to celebrate early Christmas and then come back home for an immediate family celebration.  And the following week with my side of the family.  It does not matter where or when you celebrate, as long as you are celebrating with family it makes the holiday even better.

12 Days of Christmas – Children

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picture from the net

This one is from memories and as an observer both.  As a kid I remember my parents capturing my attention with a beautiful Christmas tree, all the pretty cards we would get and display and of course there was the magic of Santa.  Mom always said if you don’t believe you don’t get any presents… I believed with my whole heart!

As I grew up and saw for the first time my cousins wide-eyed expressions at the tree, Gma’s village and the gifts… it really made me appreciate the total wonder kids can have this time of year.  Those decorations are some of the shiniest, prettiest things they have seen in their short lives.

There is nothing quite like watching a kid open gifts.  They for one are very honest and you know if they like it or not instantly.  But the moment they open something they like it is like a new world for them.  A child really into the whole Christmas experience makes the whole day worth while.

Next week I will see a great-nephew open gifts.  He is now three and should be at a great age to watch.  The two nieces are too young for much wonder yet, but next year should be great with all three of them aware of the awe of Christmas.  Do you have young children in your family you are excited to see experience Christmas?

12 Days of Christmas – Spirituality

This is a post I am kind of afraid to write, but know I have to include it as a part of what Christmas means to me.  First of all I chose spirituality instead of religious as I have never felt I was a religious person, but I am spiritual.  And I take my spirituality as something very private and personal, so that is why I am afraid to bare my soul.

The saying Jesus is the reason for the season comes to mind every year… and I do believe in God and Jesus’ birth (although I have heard more than one person say there is no evidence that it happened on December 25th).  I don’t really care when it happened… I care that we take this time of year to acknowledge His birth.  I put a star on my Christmas tree to represent the star that lit the way for the wise men.  I buy presents for those I love like the wise men brought presents to the baby Jesus.

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I also believe there is a certain spirituality in the story of Santa… children have to believe in order to get presents on Christmas Eve.  You have to take a little faith in miracle like behavior (visiting all children in one night all over the world, flying reindeer, knowing what the children want) to keep the magic of Santa alive for the children.

There is not a year that has gone by as a parent that I haven’t felt a great deal of awe at the magic of Christmas.  There is just a feeling I get… you know one of those warm and fuzzy moments you can’t really explain… when it is late at night, the house is quiet and all the gifts under the tree sit in the glow of the tree’s lights.  A feeling I get when I see a child, my own or others, open a gift and express pure joy.  A feeling when friends and family are all gathered together however briefly it may be when there is love all around the room… THAT is the feeling.  That is the feeling of spirituality at Christmas.  A greater presence in the room.  A love showering down on us all.

I believe in the spirituality of the holiday… of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and any other celebration that brings together love and faith.  This is a magical time of year.  And I wish you all love, light and peace this Christmas season.

12 Days of Christmas – Cards

I still remember as a kid growing up how we would have Christmas cards taped to the wall every December for display and decoration.  There would be ones that I would love to look at all the time.  I would study who they were from and try to remember just from looking at the outside of the card who had sent them.

As I grew up and was engaged and then married I began my own traditions with Christmas cards.  I began to do paper crafts and would make my own cards to begin with, until we had a beautiful daughter who would change the meaning of the family Christmas card.  When she was old enough we let her (well honestly some years it was more HAD her under protest) draw the artwork for the cards.  My husband would get the image printed onto cards and I would then stamp the greeting inside… a real family card.

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Once my daughter grew up and didn’t want to do the cards any more I went back to creating my own again.  I did this every year except when I was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer and just did not have the energy to do it.

This year I will once again pull out my list of about 50 cards to send out.  I have the parts and pieces gathered and I need to assemble them now and get them in the mail.  I must admit I have never been very punctual with arrival times but I figure if I get them in the mail before midnight on the 24th they are technically  on their way before Christmas.

Some years I have added letters or short notes to a majority of cards, but this year I know I am short on time and energy to get that job done.  I will be happy and proud of myself for still at least carrying on the tradition of the Christmas card.  It is a great way to keep in touch with those you don’t get to see very often.  Do you send or receive many cards?

12 Days of Christmas – Music

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I love music so it stands to reason that Christmas music is a big part of my holiday.  When decorations go up, making cookies and candies, making Christmas cards, or just because … I love to listen to a wide variety of Christmas music.  As you may be able to tell from the picture I also like a few of the novelty variety songs (although I steer far away from Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer… too over played in my opinion).

It is not a complete Christmas with out a few favorites.  I have to hear the duet by Bing Crosby and David Bowie of “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth” every year at least once.  The Dr Demento CD has to be played in its entirety.  “Silver Bells” was my Mom’s favorite carol and I listen to it so she is still “here” at Christmas time with me.

If have extra money after gift shopping and buying food for Christmas dinner I try to find one new Christmas themed CD.  I listen to a Pandora Christmas station, have the TV on the seasonal music station to catch a variety of old and new hits.  And there is a local radio station that goes to 24 hour Christmas music.

I am currently listening to my cable station sounds of the season channel… Louis Armstrong’s “Zat You Santa Claus” and I have to smile. Music can bring forth so many emotions and memories it is hard to imagine any time of year without it. Do you have any favorite carols or performers you like to listen to at this time of year?