I love the joy and anticipation of the Christmas season because it means more time spent with my family and friends. Christmas shouldn't be a time of feeling frazzled - it should be a time of calm reflection. It is a time to slow down and count your blessings. Everything doesn't have to be absolutely perfect! The holidays can be festive without so much fuss and muss that it detracts from the joy of Christmas. Here are 14 ways you can have a fresh and festive holiday season (and, if you are having a Bah humbug moment, these will also help get you in the spirit of the holidays!)
1. Use candles to help freshen your home and remind you of your Christmases past. I love the scent of sugar cookies because it helps remind me of making cookies with my mother. I can almost taste that sugar frosting when I light a sugar cookie candle.
2. Playing lots of board games is a great way to spend time together as a family. We always buy a family board game as a gift at Christmas. Last year, we even bought a Mr. Monopoly family game night trophy to give to the victor (to be transferred to the winner of the next game). I remember many Christmases where I played Monopoly and Pay Day with my cousins. It just wasn't Christmas until the Monopoly money was counted out and you chose your game piece.
3. Plan to bake your cookies well in advance of Christmas. I prefer to start the baking right after Thanksgiving to coincide with Advent. With Thanksgiving a distant memory, my focus turns to the approaching joy of Christmas.
4. If you can't be home for Christmas, do all you can to call when everyone else has just finished Christmas dinner. It can be really fun seeing who you get to talk to next, as your family passes the phone around the room. It is nice to talk to everyone and ask them how their families are doing.
5. We pray for snow! We moved to Virginia several years ago and had our first white Christmas in a very long time last year. We prayed hard for snow and finally got some. For me it was magical. The air smelled so crisp and clean and though it was cold, I was so thankful for the blanket of white.
6. Holidays are more festive when you adhere to traditions. True story: We eat chili every year on Christmas Eve. We didn't cook a fine dinner for Christmas Eve the first year we lived in Virginia. No stores were open anyway, so we scrounged around for some chili over rice. Our daughter ate rice with brown sugar and cinnamon and we ate chili poured over rice. It has been a Christmas Eve tradition ever since! So if there's a scent of chili in the kitchen, it must be Christmas Eve at my house.
7. Do you have small children? One way we keep Christmas Eve a festive night is we make sure we leave the reindeer food (oats) outside for Santa's reindeer. Why should the jolly old elf get all those cookies and all that milk while the reindeer do all that flying with no goodies to help them keep up their energy?
8. Christmas, being the time of year that families bake, is a time for recipe sharing. We all want to eat those foods and goodies that we had as kids. My cousin has my grandmother's recipe box, so if I want the recipe for grandma's special fudge, I know who to ask. (We adopted a kitten one year who was the color of fudge. I picked him up just a few days before Christmas and when I saw his chocolate colored fur, I immediately thought of my grandma's fudge. What did we name him? Fudgie!)
9. Make a beautiful centerpiece for your table by taking a large, clear vase and filling it with holiday scented potpourri. If you want, you can top it off with a small lace doily, tied with a Christmasy ribbon. It will look divine on your table, but also can be easily moved and fit right in with other decor if the scent is too overpowering over turkey.
10. Take the holidays with you in your car by buying a holiday scented car air freshener. Pine is an easy one to find and will get you in the holiday spirit! Yankee Candle also sells cookie scented car air fresheners. Those you can usually find at larger chain card stores.
11. In-Laws coming? Make sure you wash up any extra sheets, blankets and comforters a few days before they come. I toss in a few extra dryer sheets just to make sure my sheets and blankets smell fresh and inviting. I also make sure the towels are extra soft by using both liquid and fabric softener sheets.
12. Swapping cookies is a great way to get a nice variety of goodies to munch on during the holidays. Do you love your friend's macaroons? Does she love your peanut butter blossom cookies? Bake a double batch and swap cookies! If you have a bunch of friends and family, plan a night to make the swap and make a party out of the event.
13. One of the things I remember most about Christmas as a kid was writing out a letter to Santa. Encourage your kids to keep up this tradition and sit down and write a list to Santa too! This not only is something that you can do with your family, it also serves another purpose since your spouse is wondering what to get you for Christmas anyway! Plus, you can act just as surprised and happy that Santa brought you just what you had asked for, just like the kids do on Christmas day.
14. Look for Santa's sleigh! Each year, we go down to the beach in our town and look east, since Santa flies from west to East. We track him on Norad and when he gets close, we drive down to the beach for a clear view of the sky. One of us will see a distant aircraft blinking and know that it must be Santa on his way! After we have confirmed that Santa is on the way, we drive around town looking at all of the holiday lights and yard ornaments.
I hope you have enjoyed some of my family's traditions, which were mixed in with some other holiday tips! Of all of the traditions, I think I love looking for Santa's sleigh best. One day, our kids will be on their own, and we hope that they keep the tradition - and Christmas magic - alive for their families.
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