Happy Holidays!

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I am all for people wishing others whatever season greeting they choose. But I’m starting to feel slightly attacked because I use “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” most of the time. It hasn’t been anything direct, but it seems like people are starting to swing the other way, severely. No one should be called out for whatever they decide to say to others, as long as the intention is a positive one.

It’s like what George Carlin said, “It’s the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad. The words are completely neutral.” It’s why you are saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Holidays”, not the words themselves. I say “Happy Holidays” because I have friends who celebrate holidays other than Christmas.

But, on Christmas I will say “Merry Christmas” to anyone. It’s the day! Just like today I’ll say “Happy Yule” or “Happy Solstice”! I wish we could stop making a big deal out of what we say this time of year and just focus on the intention behind why we say it.

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Time flies when you’re not busy

I’m home. I’m home for winter break. Three weeks of having nothing that I have to do. Just things that I want to do. Yesterday I spent most of the day figuring out knitting patterns, one stitch at a time. Today I put my stuff away so I wouldn’t be living out of luggage at home for the next three weeks. It feels so good to be home!

Granted I still have four bags of various sizes with books and notebooks and binders sitting in the living room with nowhere else to put them. That’s why part of my list for break is to get things organized and cleaned up in my room so I can actually get work done in there again!

But that has to wait. We need to get our Christmas tree up so we have somewhere to put the presents. A topic that I’m going to have a post about soon.

It’s so good to be home!

Happy holidays to everyone!

Yule Greetings!

Happy Yule to all of you who celebrate this amazing day in the year!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but my husband and some of our closest friends are Wiccan/Pagan and celebrate Yule. Something about this year is making me wish we did something special for Yule. We celebrate Christmas with my family and his, but Yule is a separate time that we could really make our own.

This year we exchanged gifts. But it feels like it’s not enough. I think I’m going to have to do some more looking at the meaning of this day and the way others celebrate it and talk with the hubby. I’d love to have something to do to celebrate next year. Something that we can turn into a wonderful tradition for the two of us.

I just felt like sharing that. Happy Yule!

Holidays: Easter

Easter is one of those holidays that is a combination of pagan and Christian. And businesses have taken advantage of the pagan side and run with it.

The spring equinox was celebrated for centuries. It was the beginning of life returning to the earth after the freezing cold and snows of winter. Germanic tribes celebrated the day praising the goddess Ostara or Ēostre, the goddess of birth and fertility. It was a day to celebrated life.

When Christianity began to spread, with it’s roots in Judaism and the death and resurrection of Jesus taking place at the time of Passover, they came across the Germanic pagan tribes and began to try to convert them to Christianity. One way that they were able to do that is by adopting traditions of their holidays. So Easter celebrations began to mean coloring eggs and hiding them for children to find, since eggs are a symbol of fertility. Another symbol of fertility was hares, or rabbits. Slowly over time the Easter Bunny came to be.

Today Wiccans still celebrate Ostara on the spring equinox. They color eggs, eat way too much candy, and celebrate the fertility of the earth. Pretty much the same things that Christians do on Easter. It’s really interesting to realize that the secular side of Easter celebrations came from ancient pagans.

Honestly, it has helped me a lot. Being able to better separate the secular from the religious has allowed me to better focus my attention on the religious side of things. It’s amazing what you notice when you are able to remove the pastel filter and understand what is the point of the holiday.

Happy Holidays! (part 2)

Must. Concentrate. On opening. Present.

Once Christmas with our families was over, our next holiday celebration was with our friends the day after Yule. We would have celebrated on Yule, but work got in the way. But that just meant that we had time to finally get our tree up! This year I decided that we would only put our ornaments on the tree. My mom had saved every single ornament I had made ever and all the ornaments she got us over the years. Usually we put them all up, but I felt that we had enough ornaments of ours that the tree would look wonderful. I was right.

I love celebrating Yule with them. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate winter: friends, their kids, and lots of food. He cooked up a small feast for us this year with gianormous bone-in pork chops smothered in onions and apples, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and country-style green beans. She had baked up a bunch of cookies and made a huge batch of “horrible, inedible” buckeyes. To top it off, I brought a batch of bacon-wrapped tater tots. We did not want for food that night.

But the best part of the night was watching the boys open their presents. And giving our friends’ theirs.

It says Can I Put Poison On It? with Poison in pink rhinestones. There’s a reason she’s my best friend. 🙂

“Here mommy, you can have this. Candy Land is for girls.” I love that child.

Enjoying one of his sons’ presents from us: Darth Vader and Son.

Once everything had been opened, they were wading through the wrapping paper checking to make sure there wasn’t anything left to open. *Sigh* Oh the memories.

We then split a bit by gender, hubby and our one friend stayed in the living room with the boys while us girls went off to the kitchen where I watched my extremely talented friend decorate cookies. Eventually her oldest decided he wanted to decorate one too!

Mother and son working on holiday cookies.

Almost done with his Iron Man/Power Ranger.

It was a wonderful evening and a great way to start enjoying more light again. Up next: Christmas!

Happy Holidays! (part 1)

I used to think that that phrase was just another in the growing ranks of pc-isms. But now I’ve come to realized and totally embrace the holiday season.

There are just too many people to see on Christmas Day. Also, not everyone celebrates Christmas, so I’ve learned to expand my holiday to pretty much cover all of December.

This year it started off with family. Back on the 14th my mom’s family got together for our annual Christmas gathering. As many of us that can make it gather in one place, bring a bunch of food, eat too much, exchange gifts, and hang out. This year it was my mom’s turn to host.

Three of my guys: my godfather, my dad, my hubby. They’re part of why I enjoy the holidays.
My mom holding the latest of my cousin’s children. Isn’t she cute?

Once that was done, we packed up and headed to my parents house so the four of us could have Christmas. Exchanging presents, taking naps, watching the dog bounce off things, and giving the poor cat lots of love. It was great. But there was a lot of snow coming down still and we had to get over to my father-in-law’s place. Normally it takes an hour to go from one set of parents to the other. That day it took at least 2.

Once we got there, we hauled everything inside and got settled in. There was exchanging of gifts and watching season 2 of Person of Interest. It was a great night. The next day we made our way back home and started prepping for the next holiday celebration.

I was going to put all of this into one post, but I think I’ll break it up. Tomorrow: celebrating Yule!

Green Holiday: Everything else

Since everyone’s been given their gifts, I can go into detail about how much fun I had giving gifts this year.
First off there were the Feed 100 bags. Whole Foods had them for $10 each before the holidays. I decided to get them instead of using wrapping paper or gift bags. Why not make the wrapping to the present part of the present?! So the bag itself had multiple positives, not the least of which is each bag provides 100 meals to kids in Rwanda! There’s also the fact that it’s an awesome reusable bag made from organic cotton and folds up into the base. My family and hubby’s mom (his dad doesn’t really do much shopping and thus doesn’t need the bag) love them. Mom was really exicted about it because her reusable bag that folds up into a little pouch has developed a slight issue. The snap’s broken. I’m pretty sure she’s still using it, but it doesn’t stay in the pouch all that well. So they’re all happy to have reusable bags that are store neutral (there’s only a small Whole Foods logo on it) and are very portable.

Second there were media bought from Half-Price Books and the Blockbuster that was closing. Both our dads got a book we found at HPB by an author they both love. My parents each got movies that were “already viewed”, former rentals, that they both have wanted. It’s so wonderful to be able to buy used movies and books and music instead of going out to buy it brand new and pay a lot more.

Third there were the candles! Everyone loves their candles. On top of that, they all were impressed that I made them. Luckily no one’s disappointed that they’re soy wax and beeswax. My wonderful mother-in-law even said that she loves soy wax candles. It’s always a good feeling to have people love things that you took the time and effort to make for them. There’s something special about giving someone something that you make rather than just going out to buy. I just hope I can come up with something for next year. I think this might be a new tradition, making one part of their holiday gift. I like that idea. 🙂

Green for the holidays!

It’s that time of year again. We’re all madly going out and shopping for our friends and family to give them gifts for one holiday or another. Here are some eco-friendly tips to think about this holiday season.

Be a green shopper
When you’re out running around, try to do as much shopping as you can in one day and with as little driving as possible. This is one of the few times I’m going to say this, but malls are great for this. All those stores in one place! And don’t forget to take your reusable bags!

Give the gift of second-hand
If you haven’t already found out, second-hand stores like Goodwill and thrift stores are a great place to go clothes shopping. You do have to make sure the clothes are in good shape, but most places make sure of that before putting it out. You can buy a lot more for a lot less. They also have other items that are good for around the house like furniture, appliances, and even books.
Speaking of books, they are another great second-hand find! My favorite place to go is Half-Price Books. They have books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, even video tapes! All at half the price or less. Like with clothes, you want to make sure they’re in good condition. In going to these stores, you’ll find things that may not have been in stores for a while and really make someone’s day.

Get creative!
Don’t have much money? I understand that feeling! No one says you have to go out and buy things! Homemade gifts have more meaning since you took the time to make it for them. Candles are a great, versitile, and easy gift. Just make sure to use soy or beeswax and lead-free wicks. Baked goods are another great gift. Or you can put together jars with all the dry ingredients ready to go and the recipe attached. I’ve mainly seen recipes for ‘cookies in a jar’, but it would work with bread, brownies, maybe even pie crust.

Wrapping up those goodies
Using gift bags is something I picked up from my mom. She would always take care of the ones she was given and then reuse them for gifts later. She actually has one specifically for family birthdays that gets used for every birthday.
I’m sure there’s lots of eco-friendly and recycleable wrapping paper out there. Check with your local recycling center to see if they recycle wrapping paper.
Another way to go is wrapping it in another part of the gift. Wrapping things in shirts, scarves, and handkerchiefs are a great way to cut down on trash and add to the present.
Or you could do what I’m doing, get reusable bags. I went to Whole Foods and picked up 5 Feed 100 bags to use as presents and wrapping this year. There’s also the added bonus of the fact that profits from each bag are used to feed 100 kids. I have helped 500 kids get fed with just one purchase. So everyone’s getting 3 parts to their gifts from me. The really nice reusable bag, the fact that it’s feeding 100 kids, and whatever I get for them.

Whatever you do, make sure to enjoy the holidays with your friends and family and be safe in all your traveling around!