Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Post 2014: Traditions and manners

The holiday season is finally upon us. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Festivus, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, any other holiday, or none at all, I wish you a safe and peaceful time. This year has sure gone by fast. As we get closer to the end of the year, let's take some time and amuse ourselves with a series of holiday posts. These are posts where I share links and bits of holiday things I have found here or there. I hope you enjoy reading them as I enjoy putting the posts together. Plus, I will soon be relaxing at home with family, and the blogging may decrease a bit, so allow me to give you some entertainment while I am gone. Today we look at holiday traditions and trivia.

Celebrating the holidays

Our household is a blend of traditional and very easy going. For instance, we are not religious, but we put up a Nativity scene. This is mostly an acknowledgement of Puerto Rican tradition. We set up the stable. Joseph and Mary, earlier in the month, start their way to Bethlehem, so they "move" around the house. The Baby Jesus does not appear on the Nativity until Christmas morning, and since we celebrate Three Kings Day in our household as well, another Puerto Rican tradition, the wise men will appear on the morning of January 6. Aside from that, we do put up a Christmas tree and stockings, but otherwise our home celebration is fairly low key. We don't do church or such. For us, getting a little rest and spending time with family is what really matters. But that is us. Many people have different ways to celebrate the holidays, or maybe not at all.

Image from Equality House, found on Facebook

  • Now, for most people in the U.S., the holidays have a religious element be it Christmas or Hanukkah (well, odds are good they do). What about atheists, agnostics, and heathens like me? Yea, we celebrate too. We do our best to find some meaning in this time that often invites not just celebration but also reflection. For some, it may be "Um for the holidays." Read how some non-believers celebrate the holidays, and they do just fine. Link via The Morning News. By the way, I liked some of the questions they asked, which I might use to do a little reflective writing of my own later. 
  • Now, sadly, for many people, the holidays can be a stressful time of the year. A lot of the stress comes from dysfunctional family members, and this can range from that uncle or aunt who, once they get a few drinks on them, share the worst of their politics or that one mother-in-law or mother who knows just what guilt trip to torment you with most effectively. Barbara Pachter offers us a little help with "Avoiding Conflict: 10 Suggestions for the Holidays." Whether you are at home and hosting family, visiting other family, or at a work/office party, these tips should help you make it out with your sanity and peace of mind.
  • In some cases, the holiday gathering, be it at home or at work, can feel like you are entering a war zone. To help with this, the folks at Esquire magazine offer "a tactical guide for getting through the holidays." Yes, this is actually written with input from military professionals. Because when someone is about to drop a political bomb, for example, "mom mentions 'gun nuts' near one's red-state in-laws," you will need some preemptive action.
  • At work, the holidays may not be much better. The holiday office party (people still do those?) can be a cheerful moment, or if can become "the hell of holidays at work." Link via Library Lost & Found. As that author writes, "if you really want to reward employees, consider the only gift that is beloved by all – cash and or paid time off." That is a feeling I can definitely agree with. 
  • Now, you are all together in the house? What to do? Maybe you can gather and watch a Christmas special. Christmas movies and special episodes are all over. With luck, you could have one of the "weirdest holiday specials." Link via Esquire magazine.
  • Maybe instead of watching TV, you want to sing some Christmas songs or just listen to some music. For some, the old classics are great. Others may want some new songs. For those folks, here are some "Christmas songs for your 2014 holiday playlist." Link via Esquire magazine.
  • In the end, you may want to consider simplifying your life a bit. Lower the stress levels, ask what is truly important, and let go of anything that is not. To help with that, Zen Habits offers "5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays."
  • Oh, and don't take yourself too seriously, because in the end, "everyone poops--even Santa." This is a little humor piece, an advertisement jolly old Nick. Just click and watch. Link to video via Incredible Things.

Christmas cards and messages

From Mallard Fillmore comic strip http://mallardfillmore.com/comics/december-21-2014/

In our house, we still do send out some Christmas cards. It seems the number does get smaller year by year as people move and addresses do not get updated, or some people simply choose not to send cards. We continue to maintain the tradition, and this year we did pretty well as we managed to send them out nice and early. 

  • Some folks may struggle with sending out Christmas cards or holiday greetings because they do not know what to say or how to say it. As Dolly Garland of Kaizen Journaling tells us, "Christmas messages don’t have to be works of art, hallmark poetry, or long letters. They don’t have to be hard-work, or something you do out of duty or obligation. Christmas messages should be for people that you really want to say something to." In the end it all boils down to, "Writing Christmas Messages: Simple Words, Big Emotions.
  • Now, I enjoy a nice, simple holiday card or greeting. I do, however, have mixed feelings about those folks who send holiday letters or newsletters. You know the ones. The folks who send those massive letters with every achievement their kids did for the year (translation: they showed up and got medals for "effort") and the trips they took around the world while you were home eating Spam so as not to starve. You are not fooling anyone; "we know your life isn't all mindfulness and Sunday family cycling trips." So, you may want to consider just ditching the whole holiday letter altogether. Here are "five reasons why you should just consider shred that holiday letter" via The Week.  

Decorating the Christmas/Holiday Tree

Then again, there is more than one way to put up a tree. Image from Vintage Gal tumblr, http://vintagegal.tumblr.com/post/105213861702/two-young-women-display-their-holiday-hairdos

Because not everyone puts ordinary ornaments on the tree. . .

Then we have the stuff under the tree (aka gifts and presents). 

Today we have a few items related to gifts. Stay tuned for my holiday post just on gifts and strange things coming up soon.

  • For starters, you have to wrap the presents. Well, you don't have to, but it would be nice if you did. Some people hire someone to do it for them. Others make do with their limited wrapping skills. And some may get lazy, or as I like to say, use alternative wrapping options. Here are "27 Clever Gift Wrapping Tricks for Lazy People." Joking aside, there are some very good tips here for anyone wrapping gifts. Link via BuzzFeed.
  • If you do not want to wrap anything, maybe consider giving one of those gift subscriptions where the recipient gets some kind of box or bundle monthly or at other interval. Here are 31 ideas from the folks at BuzzFeed. In fact, there are a couple here I would not mind getting myself (hint, hint!). However, there are also one or two that make me wonder, "do people really give that as a gift?"
  • Or you could opt out of gifts and try giving other things. Zen Habits has some suggestions in their holiday gift guide.

Food and drink

 All that celebrating, opening presents, and spending time with people as well caroling, writing and sending cards, decorating the tree and the house, so on can make folks hungry and thirsty. 

  • I always say that if you are going to consume alcoholic spirits, that you should do so safely and in moderation. Please, if you feel you had a bit much, don't drive. Do not be part of the tragic holiday statistics. To help you stay safe, here are "7 Ways to Drink More Safely This Holiday Season." Link via AlterNet. In the end, do remember it is your choice. If you choose not to drink alcohol, that is a cool and valid choice as well. Don't let anyone pressure you, but don't get all preachy on those who do drink neither. It goes both ways.
  • Eggnog, and nogs in general, are a popular staple during the holidays. There are many versions, and I am sure you can search around and find one to your taste. To help you out, here is a recipe for an "all-purpose eggnog." Basically, you make this basic eggnog, and you can add any alcoholic spirit you like to make it your own. Heck, go all out and make a full eggnog bar. Links via Liquor.com.
  • For our friends who celebrate Hanukkah, a potato punch with some treats may be nice. Link via Liquor.com.
  • In our home, we do make the traditional coquito. There are many variations on this Puerto Rican classic . Feel free to look around, or ask me. It is a recipe I am willing to share.
  • Maybe you feel generous and you want to give spirits as a gift. And for this list, you really have to feel generous. We are talking some high end spirits here. Here is "Drinkhacker's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide--Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas."
  • And if you need some entertainment while you are drinking, here are some Christmas Drinking Games. Link via COED.

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