There is no place like home for the holidays. No matter where you are, you sense that Christmas is approaching. The nostalgia and romance of Christmas is something most of us have felt as both children and adults. The pure magic of Santa Claus to a 5 year old is overwhelming. My childhood memories are filled with being good for Santa, and up to the age of 10, my parents would continue to ask me to write a letter to Saint Nick so they would know exactly what to get me. All of the Christmas traditions involve glittering lights, gifts, beautifully decorated trees, roaring fireplaces, gatherings of friends and family, delicious food and drink, singing carols, and a renewed faith in something bigger and more generous than ourselves. Christmas glorifies children, but even now as an adult, I long for December 24 to approach with a subdued childlike excitement. These feelings are never stronger than at home. Whether it’s Grandma’s house or your own little apartment, the psychological comfort of being home with your family and friends is an important part of the season.
I get teary-eyed every time I hear Bing Crosby crooning, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams”. This song was written during World War II when thousands of service men and women could not be home for the holidays. When this song was released, millions of mothers and indeed all Americans wept for our poor soldiers confined to a foreign battlefield, not knowing if they would ever see an American Christmas again.
As with most nostalgic feelings, the simpler times now past can never really be recaptured. But, your memories and the warm feelings they bring will inspire you to bring the same feelings to your own children, family and friends. It’s a season which is all about warmth and generosity.
HERE ARE MY SIMPLE HOLIDAY TIPS:
Find the focal point in the main part of your house. This is where your tree should be. Make a ritual out of selecting and buying the tree with the children and family. Children enjoy participating in the small but important rituals that surround picking out the perfect tree. Having a fabulous tree is just the beginning. Who will now spend the countless hours decorating it? Sign me up! As a child, I would spend hours decorating the tree and creating homemade ornaments although my brothers would always criticize my cheap looking efforts. Today we cherish them more than ever.
Once the tree is up, Mom or Dad should place the lights and garland, and then let the little ones place the bulbs. For every foot of tree height, you should have one hundred lights. Although white lights are classic, beautiful colored lights such as all red or all blue can make a stunning impact. Keep the tree watered daily. Make a buffet with Christmas cookies, cider, and eggnog for all to enjoy. Each year buy a special ornament that captures an important event such as a new baby, a new pet, or a graduation. As you hang your ornaments, tell the story of each one. Let each ornament take you back to that special time and place. For hardworking parents, all of this can be time consuming and exhausting. Remember to keep a happy and joyful attitude. Your children’s memories depend on your making the season special for them.
For many people having a Christmas tree is not part of their holiday celebration. Hanukah, which is also celebrated in December, is eight days of gifts and lighting of candles. Both Hanukah and Christmas evoke the same spirit of love, generosity and holiday festivities that make the year-end so wonderful. In fact, I have a Jewish friend who embraces his wife’s Christmas traditions yet also decorates his house with menorahs and smaller Christmas trees decorated with stars of David and Hanukah themed ornaments. No matter what your religion is, celebrating Christmas is all about friends, family and enjoying the time spent with each other.
Play plenty of Christmas music. It sets a wonderful mood for the season.
Let’s not forget the fireplace. Store dried pinecones in the woodbin as a fire starter and to give off their pine fragrance. Always have a fire going when guests stop by to visit. Decorate the mantle with lush holiday evergreen garlands and any other adornments you like. Create swags of greenery and drape over the windows and make a greenery centerpiece for the table. These live decorations will last for two weeks.
Candles are essential for the holiday mood. Have lots of candles placed all over the house. Nothing is more beautiful on Christmas than a roaring fire, a stunning tree and decorations, glittering candles, and with luck, snow falling in the moonlight.
Gift giving is about taking the time to select the perfect gift for that perfect someone. Choose based upon individual likes and dislikes. It’s not about the money rather more about the thought. Simple elegant thoughtfulness goes a long way and won’t break the bank. Cooking special cookies for an animal lover’s dog, a book signed by the author, something embroidered, tickets to the opera or a ball game, or a gift certificate to a friend’s favorite restaurant are all examples of how you took the time to think about what would be special to that person.
Buy holiday decorations and ornaments after the New Year for the best prices.
Wrap with style. Choose one color themed paper that extends to every gift. Don’t use cheap paper; it will spoil the elegant look of your tree. Ribbon should also have unusual contrasts with wiring for best results. Recycle small ornaments and use as accents to the bows. Refer to my article “Wrapping in Style” on this website for more ideas and suggestions. Take your time here and enjoy the creative process and the final beauty of your efforts.
For holiday parties, send hand written invitations that you can make or purchase. Keep the feel of your holiday decoration in mind when choosing or making invitations. Always mail three weeks in advance and pick a weekday or Sunday night date for the party. I always enjoy a Saturday’s party at 7pm or a Sunday brunch at noon, but Saturday nights around Christmas are usually heavily booked, so choose a time when you can expect all your guests to attend. Have an RSVP and do most of your preparation before hand. An open house from 5-8 PM with heavy hors d’oeuvres is ideal. Present a selection of champagne, wine and bottled waters.
You can’t stop Christmas from coming, so embrace it and create longtime memories with special people whom you will cherish year after year.
And there you have it!