The meaning of Christmas

 

So here we are, on the eve of the year’s biggest holiday, Christmas. For some people that means frantic last minute shopping, cooking, wrapping, and baking. For some it means attending mass of some sort. And for most, it means spending time with family and friends. ‘Tis the season. Regardless of your religious beliefs, everyone can agree that Christmas tends to bring out the best in the world. From the many children’s-toy-related charities to swelling food bank donations to a spike in blood donors, the holiday spirit causes an outpouring of generosity, joy, love, and peace.

Tonight and tomorrow, we gather around the living room and tables, to eat, drink, share, and enjoy family and friends. My family has many traditions, one of which is a meatless Christmas Even dinner. There are shrimp and cookies while we await the completion of dinner. We make mushroom soup, the recipe for which has been handed down from my grandmother’s father from Slovakia, when he used to go out to the cow pastures and actually collect wild mushrooms. We have boatloads of pierogi, the potato-, onion-, or lekvar- filled doughy pillows of goodness.

After a leisurely dinner, which includes holiday ‘poppers’ with fun jokes, toys, and crowns to wear, we have an heirloom angel candle which gets passed around. Starting with the oldest person present, it is lit, and that person blows the candle out. If the smoke goes straight up, you will return next year. It’s always fun to try to make someone’s smoke go sideways, and we debate over the meaning when there is no smoke at all. Then we adjourn to the living room, where gifts are passed out, opened, exclaimed over, and photographed. Some years we open one at a time, some years everyone at once. But it is always boisterous and filled with love.
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If you’re worried about gifts, don’t be. Once the shiny newness wears off, most are discarded or forgotten soon after. The things that stick are the memories, the times and the laughs we share. A heartfelt, handwritten card is more meaningful than a $3 Hallmark card. A homemade batch of cookies or fudge is like a hug for your tastebuds. The hours of care that go into knitting a handmade scarf or afghan are appreciated more than thirty minutes at the mall. This Christmas, focus on the people and the experiences, and creating memories that will last.

Family time ideas for Christmas day

 

Start a new tradition

  • Try something like the Right/Left gift game to make gift exchanges more fun.
  • Go around the table and say what you’re most thankful for this year, or what next year’s resolution will be.
  • Go caroling around your neighborhood.
  • Make up your own words to carols and perform for your family and friends.
  • Drive around looking at Christmas lights.

Create a decoration

Make a large batch of popcorn and make it into a garland for the tree, collect pine branches and cones to create a homemade wreath, or paint a blank ornament for a yearly memento.

Bake-able ornaments:
4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cup water
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp vanilla

Mix all the ingredients, shape, and bake at 300 for 30 min. If you poke holes you can create hang-able ornaments for this year or next, or even gifts.

Volunteer

Nothing makes you feel more thankful for what you have than to serve those less fortunate. Volunteer at a local food bank, homeless shelter, battered women’s shelter, children’s school, animal shelter, bring cards/gifts/cookies to the elderly, police, or hospital, or whatever cause is near and dear to your heart. You will help make someone else’s Christmas brighter, and likely increase your own sense of joy and gratitude.

Sign up for a fun run/5K

These are great fun, and great for your health! Get out there with family members or friends and race with all the Santas and Rudolphs in the snow. You can dress up or just bundle up, and just have fun. It will help offset the huge dinner and several dozen cookies later too.

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