Crowded malls. Traffic-infested highways. Credit card debt. Holiday hangovers and food comas. Christmas songs by Britney Spears.
I know, I’m shuddering, too!
The 2010 reality of the holidays — and of Christmas in particular — is that well, times have changed. Times have changed since I was a child, and since my parents were children, and since my grandparents were children … and the other reality is, times WILL change for the holiday in future generations as our world and society continues to evolve and adapt to new familiarities of what encapsulates a “holiday tradition.” Santa in a space sled? That could be the future!
One of my favorite past times as a child was to ask my grandparents about their “lives.” I remember my grandmother telling me how every Christmas, she asked for a new pair of ice skates. And that’s it — nothing more. She’d get her ice skates every season and ride them until the blades were dull and the toe a bit TOO tight for her growing foot. But then, she’d get another pair that very Christmas … and the cycle would begin again. But the appreciation for a new pair of ice skates? That NEVER died.
I have a vivid memory as a child of finding something in a stocking with a price tag on it. I asked my parents why Santa would BUY something for a gift? My parents replied that, “Santa is sometimes busy, and he has to buy things instead of make them in the North Pole.” I don’t remember questioning their reply — I was a child of a society where Toys R’ US reigned supreme, and so my 5-year-old brain understood that sure, Santa had to charge a few things on his AmEx every now and then just to keep up with the pace.
Every event, every holiday, every time we sit down with our families to eat dinner … these are experiences meant to celebrate life. To recognize that we are blessed to have consciousness on this planet, amongst these people, with a past, present and future of positive energy and positive impression within our lives and that of those around us.
So while you may be stuck in traffic listening to Britney Spears sexualize Christmas on the radio with a pounding headache from too much egg nog and rum at last night’s office holiday party … rest assured, you can still infuse a little bit of “calm” into your Christmas by looking back at past traditions for present-day holiday pleasure, and to help you reflect on the great picture of what it means to celebrate “the holidays.” I promise fulfillment doesn’t come wrapped in a present — but felt in your heart.
Read on for 10 fun — and totally manageable — ways to add some vintage holiday cheers now through January. And the best part? Some of these traditions aren’t even just for the holidays — they’re great life mantras to follow so that you can seek the best out of your day for you, and for loving, fulfilling relationships with the people and blessings in your life.
Happy holidays everyone!
1.) Give Gifts Everyday … Not Just the 25th
You’re probably thinking to yourself right now … “Give gifts EVERY DAY?! What are you THINKING Sammy? I don’t have that kind of money!”
These aren’t gifts that come with a tag, receipt and the option to return for cash or credit …. these are gifts that cost nothing. But the value? Priceless.
Now through the end of the season, touch base with someone you love and care about. Call your great Aunt and tell her about your exciting life so that she can live vicariously through your youth. Smile at a young girl and tell her she looks pretty today. Give someone change for their parking meter. Pay for someone’s coffee in line behind you, or allow someone to cut in front of you with less groceries than you at the store.
Look in someone’s eyes as your speak to them, compliment your neighbor’s yard, pick up a friend at the train station who needs a ride.
I could go on and on about the “gifts of everyday.” The basic gist? It is the gift of YOU — of being with someone in the moment, and directing positive energy toward them because it makes YOU feel good knowing that it will brighten their day. It is almost like the “good deed of the day” mentality, except this isn’t about fulfilling a requirement. This is about viewing the world as a positive place, and the people around you — whether strangers or not — as individuals who deserve to experience that positive place, too.
2.) Host a Cookie Bake
My mom used to host the most massive cookie bake in our kitchen with her closest friends. She’d then “freeze” the cookies to keep them fresh, and on Christmas Eve and Day, we’d have a variety plate of every cookie imaginable.
Hosting a cookie bake is a fun way to bring friends together over a shared holiday tradition — no matter their religious or spiritual backgrounds, everyone loves COOKIES!
3.) Wear an Ugly Holiday Sweater
… like you mean it. And I MEAN that! Holiday sweaters are a lost art only maintained by savvy suburban mothers. Pick one up at your nearest thrift store and pair it with bright leggings or fun accessories. You’ll get compliments everywhere you go — the busier the sweater, the better!
4.) Simplify the Tree
I can’t criticize my Dad for it, but growing up, we sucked SO much electricity with our Christmas tree and house lights. My Dad would literally “map” his “Christmas light attack” on the house — decorating even the roof, fence and BACK YARD! My mantra is: less is more. And stringing pre-packaged lights on your tree is easy, but forgets the essence of the holiday’s beauty: creative collaboration.
Here are some ideas to simplify your tree …
… Loop Cheerios or other “holed cereal” through wire or string and decorate your Christmas Tree
… Conserve energy and decorate without electric lights, but …
… Use bulbs and handmade decorations instead!
… Append a large angel or star to the top of the tree
… And don’t forget the candy canes!
5.) Bring Nature Indoors
Warm fires, warm ugly holiday sweaters, warm hot chocolate! Everything about the holiday season revolves around staying warm and dry away from the cold, blustery weather conditions outside. The negative side of this is that you have less time to enjoy mother nature’s beauty during the winter season — and it truly is beautiful, because nature has “removed” its outer skin to reveal it’s hidden beauty beneath.
Bring nature’s hidden beauty indoors with a few simple strategies … and enjoy all of the below WARM and by the fire!
… Dip sap-sticky pine cones in glitter and place decoratively in a large glass bowl for a dinner table centerpiece
… Hang mistletoe from your ceiling
… Light a fire in the fireplace
… Cut your Christmas tree fresh from a tree farm
… Decorate with poinsettia plants
… Light a candle that smells like evergreen trees
5.) Lessen the “Stuffing” in Your Stocking
I’m 24 years old — and I still get a “stocking.” Now, my stocking includes necessary toiletries, gum and the occasional book … but in generations past, a stocking gifted children sweets like apples, oranges,nuts and chocolate coins. And of course, if the child had been naughty that year, he would receive coal in that stocking!
I love the idea of stuffing a stocking for a young child with arts and crafts supplies and healthy foods/fruits. These are simple things that will teach the child to cherish the beauty in small things … like a pack of crayons and a delicious orange.
6.) Make a Traditional Christmas Dinner
What IS a traditional Christmas dinner? I Google searched the very idea and was presented with an array of options depending on the culture of the “tradition” represented. The beauty — but also confusion — of the American culture is that well, we have SO MANY cultures living here! So “tradition” as we know it really stems from the first Americans to live here — the pilgrims.
Because they were previously British citizens, the REAL vintage tradition of a holiday meal is in ham as the main entree and mince meat pies for dessert. The best tradition? The holiday meal was meant to be shared amongst all members — from the cooking to eating, enjoying and cleaning … plus packing up those leftovers for lunch the next day!
7.) Join a Christmas Caroling Group
When I was in girl scouts in 3rd grade, we went Christmas caroling at a home for the elderly. We had practiced our carols at the local meetings, anxiously preparing for when we would make our “singing debut.” This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to actually Christmas caroling — and I can’t say that I’ve ever encountered carolers in my neighborhood going door-to-door. This seems to be a tradition that is either only found in small communities, or slowly losing footing in our era of always-accessible-anywhere holiday music!
I’d love to open my door to the song of my neighbors. It’s like discovering that there is an ice cream truck in your suburban neighborhood — least expected, and most enjoyed.
Life is busy, and maybe you don’t have time to join a caroling group in between your cookie bake, shopping and holiday party styling … that’s OK! Print out a few Christmas song lyrics and sing the songs with your family and friends. Do it as a joke … but a few notes in, you’ll forget your off-key singing and want to carry that tune for a few more “jokes” longer!
8.) Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas
Holiday fact! The “12 Days of Christmas” begins on Christmas Day the 25th, concluding on January 5th, the “12th” day. Many of us are familiar with the traditional Christmas song, “The 12 Days of Christmas,” where a girl receives gifts from her lover for each day of the two-weeks-minus-two-days-long holiday.
Instead of gifting ALL presents on the 25th, spread them out with your friends and loved ones to celebrate all 12 days. Or, plan a different holiday event for each night — maybe you exchange gifts on the 25th, but just … celebrate LIFE on the other days by seeing a movie, baking cookies, going on a winter hike … whatever you like to do, do it in this 12-day window to remember why you are a unique individual and to share your passions with the people you want to spend time with most.
9.) Give Less Material Presents
Full disclosure: I did ask for a few specific gifts for the holidays this year, like a coffee grinder, some running pants and yes, VINTAGE! clothing.
But what I also asked for: the gift of experience. I’m running my first marathon — that’s 26.2 continuous miles — on May 15th in Pittsburgh, PA. My family resides on the east side of the state, so for them to see me complete the marathon, they have to spend money on travel, hotels, and food while in Pittsburgh for marathon weekend.
As part of my Christmas gift, I requested that my family invest in the experience of seeing me run the Pittsburgh Marathon. That is a great gift for me, because completing that first marathon will be a monumental accomplishment in my life that is heightened and immortalized most when experienced with family.
So while you may not be running a marathon, you can still request [or GIFT!] a magical experience. Maybe it’s taking your mom to see a show, or having a dinner date with your Dad at his favorite restaurant. The experiences that can’t be wrapped are often the ones we remember — and cherish — most.
10.) Share Your Favorite Traditions with Others
The gift of language is the gift of communication … and connection. Like I just shared a few family traditions and memories with you in this post, share your own fond holiday experiences with others this season.
Whether it’s dragging friends to go “Christmas light viewing” in the various neighborhoods of your town, or making your signature “Christmas cocktail” at a friend’s party … infusing a bit of YOU and a bit of your own holiday past into your holiday present is how we can pass on the magic of what makes the season so great in the first place.
Life — and holidays — are about celebrating the gift of each other as individuals and as friends, family and community. Stay close with the person YOU are and the people who have and will continue to positively influence your life’s joy this season, and you will have a very happy holiday and an even happier New Year!!!