Tag Archives: holiday season

Cheers To Simplicity This Holiday Season!

I am choosing simplicity this holiday season.

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No elaborate Christmas light display this year for us. – Which means we didn’t spend the $1000 (?!?) to have our home professionally lit by off-season landscapers. Who does that? (Sadly, quite a few in our neighborhood.) Except for our two tasteful mini-lit trees flanking our door and the traditional candles in each window, I’ve convinced my husband to skip his traditional fling-up-to-see-what-branches-the-Christmas-lights-hit approach to decorating our yard. Seriously. One thousand dollars? You could feed a small village for that amount.

No lugging every single Christmas decoration box up from the basement. After a day of decorating, I called it quits. The tree is up. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. I have my favorite advent calendar, a homemade advent wreath, a creche, a few favorite Santas and snowmen. But that’s about it. I looked around and thought, this looks festive enough. Key word = enough. Less clutter. More time for baking. Sounds good to me. And to my kids.

No guests to entertain for the first time………well, ever. The Jane household will be empty-ish. Just us. Me. Husband. Three adorable children. It will be quiet. It will be sane. It will be easy. Compared to years past, when we’ve entertained 3-4 weeks straight, of various out-of-town relatives and friends, this holiday season will be a breeze!

No laundry list of gifts to purchase. After working two food drives and our typical Salvation Army bell ringing stint the boys have decided they have too many toys! Well, that and the fact that they would love a pricey handheld gadget this year and knew they’d have a better chance of receiving it if it was the only thing on their list. I don’t care. Less shopping for me, less wrapping for my husband. Win-win-win.

No menus to create. I’m gonna stick with the standbys. Honeybaked ham, scalloped potatoes and bacon brussel spouts for Christmas Eve. Turkey, turkey fixin’s, green beans and lemon cranberry jello salad for Christmas Day. My famous-I-can-make-it-in-my-sleep-cranberry-relish will grace both meals. Come to think of it, all the above recipes I can make in my sleep. Holiday cooking this year will be a piece of pie! Probably apple. I haven’t decided yet.

No jam packed weekends for the month of December. My husband and I sat down and actually said no to a few invitations this year. It felt naughty but now our weekends look nice. Relaxing even. We’re actually looking forward to the few things we have penciled in. What a concept.

No blogging schedule to follow. For a few weeks, anyway. I’m taking a break to enjoy the season, enjoy my family and enjoy the peace and quiet we are actually going to be able to enjoy during this frightfully busy time of the year. I haven’t left. I promise not to disappear. But I’m taking a bit of a long winter’s nap to recharge.

Wishing you all a very Merry, Happy, Joyful, Restful, Relaxing, Healthy, Peaceful, Simple Holiday Season and New Year!

(And provided the doomsday prophets aren’t right and we find the Mayan’s new calendar, I’ll see you next year!)

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Filed under Holiday, How We Roll

Yes, Dear Bloggers, There IS A Santa Claus

(Below is an edited version of a post from last season. It has the same message. And I am as passionate today about the message as when I first wrote it. It needed to be said again.)

I believe in Santa Claus.

I’m shocked when I meet someone who doesn’t.

Recently, I was perusing your blogs out there and I found not one, not two, but three blogs dedicating posts to the evils of Santa Claus.

Santa = Evil?!?

And there were comments, lots and lots of comments agreeing with them.

I was angry. I was outraged. I vowed never to read those blogs again. I started taking names to avoid reading the blogs of people agreeing with such blasphemy.

And then I stopped myself. Jane, I said to myself, You believe in God. You have friends who don’t. You read their blogs. You’re fine with their difference of opinion, faith and beliefs. You preach, “One mountain, many paths.” How can you completely disregard another blogger’s right to disagree with your belief in Santa Claus? How can ONE post nullify all the other posts you read by them and enjoyed?

So….reluctantly….because logic won with this internal struggle…..I re-bookmarked all three of those blogs and I tore up my McCarthy list.

But not without defending my stand!

When my daughter was about three-years-old a friend told me about a wonderful Santa that I absolutely must take her to. We did. He was elderly. (Of course) He had a genuine white beard and longer white hair. (Of course)  He wore a red suit with shiny buttons and he sat out in his sleigh every night between Thanksgiving and December 23 (because he’s very busy on the 24th!) listening to children, finding out about their lives, helping them to narrow their lists (he only allowed 2 toys because his sleigh was only so big!) and chatted with the parents.

He must have had an eidetic memory. Through the years he would remember what school my daughter attended, her love of gymnastics, that she had a cat, even a few of the gifts he had brought her in the past. Before any of you start jumping up and down yelling, “Creepy!” I can assure you (and I’m quite sensitive to creepiness) it never, ever, ever, ever appeared creepy.

He was genuine. He was sweet. He was Santa Claus. And he did this out of the goodness of his heart. He was a member of our community – recently retired. His many acres of property were decorated with Christmas lights that brought people from miles around. He dedicated his time to help children believe in kindness, in goodness, in unconditional giving. He cared about the children in his community and took collections to “pay his light bill” and to give to the local Boys and Girls Club. He reminded them to study hard in school, mind their parents, brush their teeth. He reinforced strong values and the “real” reason for the season.

There is a 10 year age difference between my daughter and my sons. So for a time – she felt too old to see Santa in person – we skipped visiting. Oh sure, we always rode by to see the lights. If he wasn’t busy with another child he always waved to those passing by. But then we moved to another part of the county and once my boys arrived we skipped seeing Santa because we felt they were too young.

Then, they were 3 and 2 years old. They were ready! And I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for Santa to see how our daughter had grown. To meet her two new brothers. We talked to the boys about Santa. My daughter filled them in on what was to come Christmas morning. She helped them make a list. Just before we turned down the street I cried, “Let’s look for Santa!” But the street was dark. Only a porch light was on at the house. The area for parking wasn’t marked off anymore. My #1son asked, “Where Santa?” My husband quickly piped up, “Oh no! He’s not here tonight. I forget to check the schedule. I’ll bet he’s at the mall this evening.”

It’s a good thing my husband spoke up. I couldn’t. A tear made its way down my cheek.

When we got home I scoured the internet. I found our local online paper. The headline read “County Santa Will Return to the North Pole.” I was crushed. But he was getting older. His health wasn’t as good. And he just couldn’t keep up the hours anymore. He had been doing it for 13 years from 6pm until 8pm every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The article showcased parent after parent talking about all he meant to their child’s vision of Christmas and to our community.

He truly was Santa to all of us.

Santa is not about commercialism. He’s not about greed. He’s about giving for the sake of making someone else’s eyes light up. He’s about wonder and imagination. He’s about love and kindness.

And if you’re looking, you will see him. He may not be dressed up in a red suit. His beard may not have grown in. You will find his spirit in every act of generosity and grace during this wonderful season.

But you have to be willing to suspend your cynicism. You have to be willing to accept gifts without the expectation of something in return. To my knowledge, Santa doesn’t discriminate. As long as you believe, the gifts will come. Some are wrapped. Some are not. Some are obvious gifts. Some you realize as a gift only later.

But Santa is real.

If only you believe.

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Filed under children, Holiday

When I Think About Traditions I Can’t Help But Hear Tevye’s Voice Booming In My Head

Traditions. Traditions. Tra-di-tions!

I never realized how essential they are to me until one is forgotten, or lost, or cancelled. Now, I make it my mission to continue old and create new traditions for our family. We have traditions that we follow throughout the year. For birthdays, for Halloween, for our favorite vacation spots. At Disney, we always start and end with Magic Kingdom. At Hilton Head, as the rest of the family is settling into the condo, I go to Fresh Market and stock up and that evening we take a long walk on the beach after dinner.

But Christmas? That’s when the traditions start the month before. This has to be my all-time-favorite season. I get into the Christmas spirit long before the actual season arrives. For goodness sake, I never put away my Christmas cds. I listen to them all year-long.

Our traditions are many…..

1. We always decorate the house on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, get our tree the weekend after and put the finishing touches on Christmas cards the week after that.

2. My mother-in-law has made us two advent calendars. One for me, a beautiful quilted piece where I add a quilted square each day until all 25 squares are completed and Christmas has arrived. One for the boys, little pockets filled with coins, candy and tiny gifts.

3. Honeybaked Ham on Christmas Eve and Turkey on Christmas Day. Only the side dishes vary. The one time I made beef tenderloin the family complained. We’re back to the traditional menu this year.

4. We always open one present on Christmas Eve and it’s always a pair of pajamas. Although, I always pretend I have no idea what we’re opening and act surprised at my own gift. (I’ve purchased all of them, for everyone, including my in-laws who share Christmas with us every year — another tradition, of sorts.)

5. We all know the reason for the season. Don’t worry about our salvation – we are well aware about the true meaning of Christmas. But Santa Claus is a really big deal in our house. My kids still believe in Santa and more importantly, I still believe in Santa. (A message to little Brandon in #2son’s class at school: I respect YOUR beliefs but if you hint/tell/try to convert my child one more time about the “myth” of Santa Claus I will come to your house, beat down your door and give your entire family a stern talking to. There is nothing wrong with teaching my children about unconditional giving and surprise and wonder.)

6. On Christmas Eve, after dinner, we all pile into the car and go enjoy the Christmas lights. A few years ago, my sons asked why they had to put on the pjs but the big people didn’t. We do this because they typically fall asleep in the car and it made it easier to slip them into bed. My mother-in-law said, “Yeah? Why don’t the big people have to put on their pjs?” So a new tradition was born. We ALL get into our jammies, pile into the car and see the Christmas lights now. God help us if the car should ever break down!

7. The kids sleep with us on Christmas Eve and they can’t leave the bedroom until we wake everyone in the house (their sister is 10 years older and the grandparents want to be in on the fun, too!).

8. We open gifts one at a time. One present at a time. Everyone taking turns. Yes, this can last hours. But this is the way our family focuses on the giving rather than the getting.

There you have it. A few of our family traditions. I would love to hear what you do to enjoy this wonderful holiday season.

What are some of your traditions?

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Filed under family, Holiday

Seeing the Good or Seeing the Greed – It’s All a Matter of Choice

I read an article by a published author I was familiar with. For the life of me I can’t remember who it was, where I read it or even the specific details (sorry, childbirth combined with motherhood with a little sleep deprivation thrown in will do that to you.) But I want to share with you the gist of the story. If anyone out there recognizes it (I read it in a November issue of some magazine) please tell me so I can give proper credit – and amend the details since I’m sure to get some things wrong. So, I’m paraphrasing here, and embellishing to fill in what I’ve forgotten but here is basic premise…….

A woman was on a bus ride to some major city out east (New York, Boston – I already told you I don’t remember). She wanted to relax, get work done (it doesn’t matter) but she was being distracted by a sweet, yet mildly annoying little girl. The girl was traveling with her grandmother. They were of modest means. She had pleasant conversation with them. The bus arrived at their destination and they parted ways.

But she realized she left her laptop behind. She went back. She couldn’t find it. The grandmother and granddaughter were still there and helped her look. To no avail. She filed a report and went on her un-merry way. Walking to her next destination she tried to hail a cab – difficult. The cab driver she gets is grumpy. She looks out to the street and it’s filthy. Is sanitation on strike? She sees bums and prostitutes. She wonders why in the world anyone would want to live in this horrid city.

Then she gets a call on her cell. Someone has found her laptop and turned it in. She races back to the bus depot or the home of the finder (I already told you I can’t remember the details – geez!) The grandmother and granddaughter found it. They recognized it when they saw a man holding it, walking away from the bus depot. The grandmother shouted, “Hey! That laptop isn’t yours.” Scared, the man dropped it and ran away. The author, grateful, tries to give her a reward. The grandmother won’t take it.

The author gets back in the cab, jubilant. She strikes up a friendly conversation with the cab driver. She looks out the window and sees how pretty the streets look decorated with Christmas lights. She notices the great variety of stores and is happy to see so many “Mom and Pop” shops still thriving. She sees a sweet family, pushing a stroller down the street. They look so happy to be living is such a wonderful city.

Perspective. We can create it. We can change it. Our moods can be dependant on it. Or we can shift perspective to dictate our mood. But it’s our choice. It truly is. The city hadn’t changed miraculously between losing her laptop and finding her laptop. Her perspective had. If it can shift that rapidly based on circumstance, it can shift just as quickly if we choose.

I used to be annoyed with how early Christmas items and decorations would appear in the stores. I cursed capitalism and greed. But somewhere along my life’s journey I started getting wrapped up (giggle) in the holiday momentum and I didn’t care how early it appeared.

Where I grew up there was a radio station that played a Christmas song every evening at 7:00pm to help keep the Christmas spirit alive all year long. I loved that idea! I no longer put away my Christmas cds (and it is quite the collection) because I listen to them all year round. As soon as the stores start putting up their Christmas decorations I notice a shift in people. I notice more smiles. Instead of good-bye, people say “Have a happy holiday!” Clerks and cashiers strike up conversation with “Are you ready for the holidays?” Invitations may appear in the mail. Friends keep me up to date with new pictures of the kids tucked in Christmas cards.

I’m reading many posts out there talking about how cranky everyone gets this time of year. How greedy stores are. How pushy and mean other shoppers can be. Honestly, I don’t see it. Really. We are now smack dab in the middle of the holiday rush and I haven’t seen one act of evil, one greedy advertisment, one cranky person. I’ve only witnessed cheerfulness and fun. I’m not saying the evil doesn’t exist. I just haven’t seen it. And maybe it’s because I choose not to see it. Frankly, I don’t want to know what the reason is. I just want to enjoy the bliss of not knowing.

I choose to enjoy this time of year. I choose to see the fun and the good. I see people helping each other. Our local soup kitchen always has an overflow of volunteers at this time of year. We have so many people offering help we actually turn people away. I see more smiles. I see joy in my children’s eyes anticipating the surprises ahead. I see the thrill my husband gets when he thinks he’s found the perfect gift for me and he can’t wait for me to open it. Church parking lots are more full with people remembering the reason why we’re celebrating. More people give money at this time of year.

It’s a time of giving. A time of sharing. A time of love. That’s what I choose to see during the holiday season. And the choice is all mine.

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Filed under Be-Causes, Soapbox

An Early Christmas Present For All My Scrooge Friends Out There

Listening to friends and blog friends bemoan the early Christmas season chock full of capitalistic greed I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite holiday comedy skits by Stan Freberg. Fifty years old and it still applies today. How sad.

Green Chri$tma$ – by Stan Freberg

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Filed under Holiday