The Best Thing About the Holidays
Nowadays, The Dane and I don’t necessarily have the “Traditional Christmas” that both of us had in our youth. With a multi-blended family, there’s so much more to take into consideration. And then there’s the usual things that sort of get in the way – nurses are on-call and have to work holidays, children have pageants, chorus, Christmas plays and a wealth of other things demanding their time, there are other families and friends to consider and overall, it can get a bit overwhelming.
Since all that takes our family hither and yon (yeah, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever used that in an actual sentence), The Dane and I have a list of things that we rely on to fill in around the edges which I thought I might share with all of you. And here’s my list in no particular order (except that it’s the way I thought them up):
- Holiday Movies. I know this may seem a bit corny, but I seriously love them. The sappier the better. Our most recent watch was “A Journey Back to Christmas.”
- Christmas Carols. In years passed, I’d dread the day that Christmas music started on the radio or blared in the store. But now, The Dane and I make a game of it. Playing songs that we remember from our youth and try to sing all the words without messing up. My favorite “I don’t know the words, but I love hearing that song” is Good King Wenceslas. It seems I only remember the words at the end that rhyme – Stephen, even, night, sight. So I hum and blurt out just the words I know. From time to time, The Dane will surprise me with a Christmas tune I’ve never heard or an updated version. Try it! It really is fun.
- Tacky Christmas Everything. Each year, The Dane and I have an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party (or an Ugly Christmas Shirt party – depending on the weather). For some reason, this has sort of evolved into getting a shirt/sweater that has the most honkie Southern Christmas greeting – Ho, Ho, Ho, Ya’ll! But honestly, I don’t think you can do tacky enough. Want to tote that Santa-head Christmas purse? Go ahead. The right time for that is right this very minute. That gaudy Christmas watch? Wear it!
- Christmas Pageants. I love them! We missed the one at our church this year. That’s the great thing about having family and friends though, there is always a friend/family’s church that will be having one on a different night.
- White Elephant. Actually, I’ve heard this “tradition” called a lot of things – Chinese Christmas, Thieving Elves, Dirty Santa, and the Grinch Exchange – just to name a few. Whatever name you use, it can be great fun. We did one a few years back at work that was sincerely laugh out loud funny. It really works best when there are things people want to get for Christmas. That year, the big prize was a lighted Christmas decoration that was handmade by one of my coworkers. I didn’t mind, because I ended up with a quaint little espresso maker (that I still haven’t quite figured out how to use).
- Snuggling. In my house, snuggling never goes out of style. I snuggle with the grand-kiddos, with the nieces and nephews, with the kiddos and with The Dane. Usually, snuggling goes along with movie night, but really, it’s anytime I find one of them nestled up against me. Most of them are used to the fact that I’m going to play with their hair and 9 times out of 10, they’ll be snoring before it’s over. But the best time to snuggle is when The Dane and I find ourselves huddled up next to a roasting fire while sipping on a cup of hot-chocolate chock full of marshmallows. One of my favorite memories of New Year’s is doing just that, with a blanket over our laps, watching distant fireworks.
- Christmas cards. The Dane and I still have this tradition of sending out cards to all our family and friends. It’s a dying tradition for most as the internet has made it so much easier just to email, but I still sit down with a list of addresses and write out my cards. I like getting them, so I’m sure there are others that do as well.
- Magic Oats. It started when my sister’s kiddos were small. On Christmas Eve, I’d usually spend the night with them. Back then, it was my job to get the kids all excited so they couldn’t sleep, just like my dad did when we were kids. I recall this one year when my niece came home with a bag of oats and sugar. She told me that her teacher had given it out in class. She said that it was magic reindeer food and we were supposed to sprinkle it around her house so that Santa would be sure to know exactly where she lived. We bundled up and out the door we went, sprinkling around all the oats. Just as we were finishing up, my niece noticed that her dog, Ginger, was licking it up as quickly as we had put it down. My niece burst into tears. She was heartbroken that her “magic” food was gone. I picked her up and told her not to worry, that Santa had given me the recipe. Secretly, I prayed that my sister would have some Quaker instant oats, because if she didn’t I was going to have to make a run to town. As luck would have it, my sister had some. I sent my niece away while my sister and I prepared the magic food. We had a great time with all our drama and exaggeration as we “prepared” the magic oats. Once we were done, my sister made sure to bring Ginger in while we put down the food again.
- Holiday Lights. Each year, The Dane and I try to find a different place to go and see Christmas lights. My favorite was a town called McAdenville in North Carolina. Around these parts, it’s called Christmas Town USA. Our last visit there really was ‘one foggy Christmas Eve’ and it was well worth it! Here are a few others on my ‘to do’ list: Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens (Pine Mountain, GA), Lights of the South (Grovetown, GA), and Christmas at Biltmore (Asheville, NC). Honorable mention: The Pelzer Light People. When I first moved to South Carolina, I kept hearing about the Pelzer Light people. One year, I went with a coworker to see them. I don’t know if they still do this, but it truly was something to see.
- Faux Ice Skating. Since we live in the South, we don’t actually get real ice skating in. At least not the kind you would normally associate with Christmas. We don’t have any frozen lakes with ice thick enough to drive a car over, so instead, we fake it. Special ‘ice rinks’ are put together this time of year especially for us so that we can experience the feel of ice skating. In Greenville, we have Ice on Main. In Spartanburg, there’s Skating on the Square.
- Faux Snow. A friend of mine told me recently, “I have the best job in town. I’m the man who makes it snow.” He was right. He has a great job and he did indeed make it snow. Well, kind of. It’s actually some sort of soap, but for just a few minutes on a couple of Saturday nights around Christmas, he mans the machines that make it ‘snow.’
- Christmas Breakfast. My sister started this tradition when her kiddos were small. As I mentioned, I would usually stay with her on Christmas Eve. The next morning, we’d all watch her kiddos open their gifts from Santa. We’d spend a lazy morning in our PJs and then she’d make a huge breakfast. Though the years, we’ve come to love standing around her kitchen on Christmas morning, chatting as she makes her muffin pancakes on a wide skillet filled with bacon and sausage. Another of my favorite memories is of the two of us drinking coffee and laughing over something one of the kiddos said while opening up a gift from the Jolly Ole Elf himself.
- Family Game Night. No matter when my siblings and I manage to make it to our parent’s house, we usually end up doing a family game night. Each year it’s somewhat different. It might be Christmas Karaoke or Boys against the Girls Trivia Pursuit. (Last year, it was that silly game with the dental detractor mouth openers).
- The Perfect Holiday Christmas Dress. Finding that perfect dress is one of those things I look forward to each year. This year, the ‘perfect’ dress is a bit different, mainly because we’ve had to change things up a LOT this year. One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to wear it and I’m looking forward to the blog that will follow. Stay tuned! You don’t wanna miss this outfit!
- Christmas Eve Services. For Christmas Eve, we’ve attended several different services – the Traditional, the Family, the German, and the Sing-a-long. It doesn’t matter to me which service we attend, so long as we get to do this. Some years, travel takes us away from our home church and we find that there aren’t always Christmas Eve services around. It makes me miss our home church so much when we miss out on this celebration. I love standing with my church family, all with our lighted candle, singing songs about the Savior’s birth.
- Spending time with family and friends. In all of our traditions, The Dane and I are spending time with the most important people in our lives. Each celebration, each party, each event, includes those we love and celebrates our faith. But the one thing that I love most is that I get to spend all of those moments with the man of my dreams. I sincerely hope that all of you are able to spend your Christmas season with that special someone who makes your heart glow.
- Charity. I saved this one for last because I sincerely believe this time of year is the time to think of others regardless of whether you are a Christian or not. And it doesn’t have to be monetary. Service works just as well and there are so many ways to do that. The Dane and I believe in helping out with local charities, but also give to Samaritan’s Purse. There are a number of ways to give through them. My pick has always been the clean water projects. Another that is very close to my heart is the Jesus Loves Me Lambs. Why this charity? Because they have a 100% accountability and transparency rating. This way, I know that my money is going exactly where I want it to go. Interestingly, my youngest niece, out of the blue, mentioned charity to me a few days ago. She told me that she thought that providing water was the most noble charity. We had a lengthy discussion and it amazed me how much this teenage girl was thinking about the world and her place in it. It was just heartening that this was on her mind and that I had a chance to talk to her about something that we both seem to share a passion for. I laughed and told her, “maybe we do have one gene in common.” She hugged me and said, “Oh, I think we have a great deal more than one.”
Until next time – Peace, joy and love be with you all.
PS: A note about “King Wenceslas.”
The song was written by hymnwriter, John Mason Neale in collaboration with music editor, Thomas Helmore and first appeared in “Carols for Christmas-Tide,” 1853.
The song references Wenceslaus 1, Duke of Bohemia and tells the story of the king going on a journey, braving very harsh winter weather. He is out in the weather as he intends to give firewood to a peasant on the ‘Feast of Stephen,’ otherwise known as the 2nd day of Christmas (December 26th). A page along with him, is fighting the bitter cold and about to give up. The King tells him to follow his footsteps, which he does precisely. Doing this, the page is able to continue the journey.
This is not a typical Christmas carol and does not mention the nativity and possibly is not referring to it at all, though in my youth, I thought that King Wenceslaus was one of the wise men.
Instead, King Wenceslaus is simply going out to bless the poor. And the final line indicates that if you bless the poor, you shall find your blessings.
The real King Wenceslas was Catholic. He was assassinated by his brother (and his brother’s supporters) and became a martyr. His Saint’s Day is September 28th. King Wenceslas is considered the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic.
The Feast of Stephen being December 26th is probably why this song has become a popular carol; however, the sentiment of the song is certainly in keeping with the season.