The Tradition of Christmas Cards

Do you send Christmas cards to your friends and loved ones?

The tradition of sending Christmas cards in America goes back to about 1875, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. That is when the first cards were published. Today, Americans mail about 1.5 billion Christmas cards, not counting the cards they deliver in person.

The first President to send an official Christmas card from the White House was President Dwight Eisenhower. If you send a card to the President, you might get one in return!

How and When to Send Your Christmas Cards

The post office is recommending that you physically bring your Christmas cards to the post office to be mailed this year, either to the retail desk or the wall drop-in slot inside the post office. Apparently, there has been a rash of thefts from the few remaining blue mailboxes on streets. Setting your cards outside of your home mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up is probably also not a good idea — I had a greeting card stolen that way.

For your friends and loved ones in the U.S., send cards between the beginning of December and December 9 (Christmas card day). For special recipients, and recipients abroad, send them soon after Thanksgiving.

Who Should Get a Card?

I think it’s really important to remember anyone in your family who may be socially isolated, first and foremost. This includes elderly people at home, people in nursing homes or hospitals, and people with disabilities. These groups tend to have reduced opportunities for socializing and a card is a thoughtful way to show you care.

In addition, you might want to send cards to close family members, friends, neighbors, your minister, your doctor, neighbors, employees, helpers, etc.

Cards teach children the value of appreciation. If you have children who are in preschool or school, it is appropriate to send cards in for the teacher, but do not forget the bus driver, aides and specials teachers. Have your child sign — or even make — the card.


Guidelines for Sending Cards to Special People

  • Unless otherwise instructed, put your full return address on the envelope.
  • Do not insert anything in your card, such as confetti or a photo.
  • No glitter! Most all organizations ask that the card you send does not have glitter on it, or is not otherwise 3-D. Embossing is okay.
  • Select a nice, conventional-sized, flat card.
  • If you include a message, be sure it is a positive one. Refrain from political statements. A Christmas card is not a vehicle for complaints!

US Troops. Please see my previous post on how to send Christmas cards to US Troops.

The Pope. Use two stamps for a card that weighs 1 oz or less and address it this way, with the lines just so:

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

The President of the United States. To send a Christmas Card to President Biden and First Lady Biden, be sure to put your name and return address on the envelope and address it to: The White House, Office of the President, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20500. If you are lucky, you might receive a Christmas card in return!

The Vice President of the United States. To send a Christmas Card to Vice-President Harris, be sure to put your name and return address on the envelope and address it to: The White House, Office of the Vice President, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20500.

The Governor of Virginia. To send a Christmas card to the Governor of Virginia, address your card to Governor Glenn Youngkin, P.O. Box 1475, Richmond, VA 23218.

How to have a natural Christmas

Minimalist tree from Michael’s Craft Store

I love Christmas and part of what I love about it is the beauty and fun of it. But I am changing some of my seasonal customs this year, because I’m learning more about materials and practices that are not healthy for the planet.

I came up with some ideas for having a more natural Christmas this year. Would you like to try it? Maybe it would be hard to make all these changes, but it wouldn’t be difficult to do a few, at least.

Here are some ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling during the holidays.

I am decorating with more natural materials.

  • What I love: I feel good about doing my part for the planet, even if it’s in small ways. And I really like the cozy, simpler vibe.
  • I am getting a real Christmas tree. 75% of Americans put up a plastic Christmas tree. My tree has a smell and an appeal you cannot replace with plastic branches and can also be recycled and composted.
  • I am not using tinsel or flocking on my tree. It’s pretty but not recyclable.
  • Following the advice of YouTuber Garrett LeChic, I am saying NO to glitter: glitter is a microplastic that is terrible for the environment, including marine wildlife. You also cannot send glitter-decorated cards to deployed troops or people in hospitals, and there is probably a reason for that.
  • For holiday sparkle, I’m using glass ornaments I already have that reflect the lights. And fewer ornaments this year, so they really stand out. Minimalist trees are trending!

I am changing the focus of this season from shopping and consumerism to exploring other kinds of activities and self-care.

  • What I love: not struggling to find parking, having lots of time for exercise, cooking and making my home a home, saving money!
  • Shopping can be addictive! I used to shop for fun and at no other time is shopping more fun than at Christmas. I decided to cut way back on the time I spend in stores. I can’t remember the last time I was in a mall! Now, I shop only for what I absolutely need and I think intentionally about whether I really need it.
  • I avoid commercials on television, radio and YouTube by using a SmartTV, playing my own content in the car, and investing in commercial-free YouTube Premium.

I am exchanging fewer gifts this Christmas. 

  • What I love – no more pressure to shop for the perfect gift.
  • Spending more time writing notes in Christmas cards.
  • Saving lots of money. I am even saving more gas!
  • I feel more in tune with the real meaning of Christmas.
  • I made an agreement to exchange only one small gift or to share a special meal or experience together (such as a concert) in lieu of presents.

I am choosing gifts that are consumable or reusable.

  • What I love: I can make some of my gifts. Colors and sizes are never an issue.
  • I give edible gifts, such as sweets, nuts, popcorn, etc.
  • I give consumable self-care gifts, such as seeds from the garden, bath salts, scrubs and balms.
  • I give gifts of books, cards and board games that can be used again and again and don’t require batteries or electricity.
  • I wrap gifts in materials that can be reused or recycled: fabric, cardboard, cotton string, white tissue, etc.

I’m making more of my baked goods and eating at home.

  • Why I love it: it’s healthier, tastier and less expensive than eating out. I have really been shocked at how bakeries and fast food restaurants are using so much plastic these days! It seems like everything comes in a plastic clamshell packaging. But that wasn’t true not so long ago. Baked goods came in paper or cardboard containers that were biodegradable. The world does not need more plastic, so…
  • I’m cooking lots more and experimenting with fresh herbs and produce. I feel a lot healthier and it’s much less costly, for example, a roast chicken: a cinch to make!
  • I am eating more vegetarian meals — beans, legumes and tofu.
  • I found and am using unbleached parchment paper. You can recycle or compost it.
  • I’m reading ingredients and not purchasing items that have high fructose syrup or artificial colors and flavors.
  • I’m baking some of my Christmas treats. I hope to make a Yule Log cake this year!

Let’s hear from you!

I am really just beginning to live in a way that is more respectful of the environment. What other ways could I have a “green” Christmas? Post your tips in the comments!

Rom Com of the Week: A Snow White Christmas

This holiday season, I’m featuring a seasonal romantic comedy every week. I tried to pick movies that were light and amusing.

Follow the link to watch this week’s movie for free on Tubi tv: A Snow White Christmas (2018). It’s a hoot. It’s produced by MarVista and you know how I love those MarVista movies! It has over-the-top characters, fun wardrobes, and tongue-in-cheek dialogue. Plus, a totally glam villain, her styling sidekick and a wicked hypnotist!

Besides, who needs another goody two-shoes Christmas movie?

Here’s the trailer, but like I told you before, watch the whole trailer at your own risk, because they tend to give away the whole movie…

Enjoy A Snow White Christmas!

Self-Care Break! Holiday Exercise plus December Meditation

Time to take care of you, so you can take care of others this holiday season. Here are some self-care reminders, a quick workout and a meditation for today. You are beautiful! You’ve got this!


Holiday Self-Care Tips from Dominee at BlessingManifesting.com


Here is a fitness routine for that is themed for the holidays from Fabulous 50s, one of my favorites on YouTube. Enjoy!


Today is the December full moon and that means it is a great day to meditate! Try this guided meditation from Alina Alive, one of my favorites on YouTube. Namaste!


What will you be doing to take care of yourself today?

Festive Fashion for Christmas and New Year’s

Just about every year, I look online for holiday dresses and separates that are fashionable yet affordable and create a little fashion show on Cool Yule Blog, just for fun.

Here are some of the things I consider when making my choices.

  • I look at plus size clothing, because, like me, nearly 70% of American women wear a size 14 or larger.
  • I think about how the clothes will wear in real-life situations. For example, if you go to the see The Nutcracker in a theater, it could be chilly, and you might want a dress with a sleeve. And, if you go to a party, a mini-dress or bodycon dress might feel awkward when rising from a low sofa or kneeling to pick up your purse. Some clothes are great for casual parties, while others are better for networking receptions.
  • I look for simple cuts and necklines that will look well with special necklaces or earrings women like to wear during the holidays.
  • I search for clothes that I think would be flattering when worn and easy to wear.

Here are some of the looks I picked out.

A Trio of Red Dresses for After Five

For the Christmas party with relatives and friends, dinner or theater, I like the look of a longer dress with sleeves, that is pretty but not overtly sexy. Here are three red dresses I really like because they aren’t frumpy but they still are comfortable to wear. The solid red dresses are from Forever 21 and are less than $50. The one with the high-lo hem would be great if your legs are your best feature or you want to show off some shoes. I have “cankles” so I’m partial to the full-length style. The patterned chiffon dress is from Macy’s and is $62.50. I like how the pattern is shot through with gold metallic accents to make it a great choice for an after-five dress.

Professional Holiday Polish in Red or Black Velvet 

I love the look of these relaxed fit velvet trousers with long-sleeved blouses from Torrid. It’s a classy but subtle look. I could see these working well for an office holiday party or other function where you’d want to look festive but not wear anything to tight, glittery or revealing.

A Classy look in Royal Purple Velvet.

Just about everyone looks well in purple. These separates are great for women who find it difficult to get a just-right fit from a one piece dress. The skirt from Avenue ($40) has the look of a dress when paired with the matching tunic (less than $20). Just add a jeweled brooch or statement necklace for the after-work holiday party or networking event.

A Young and Flirty Look in Blue

I always like a color other than black for the holidays. The pattern of these affordable velvet separates and dress from ShopCider.com appealed to me.The side ruching on that dress is gorgeous! The corset cuts, of course, are better for younger women but those pants could be appropriate for any age, maybe with a wrap or eyelash sweater.

Two Glittery Looks for New Year’s Eve, One Fancy, One Casual. 

This metallic, plisse chiffon dress from Macy’s for $97.30 is what I would pick for myself if I had a date for a big night out on New Year’s Eve… you know, a fancy dinner out or one of those big hotel parties with multiple bands, DJs, hors d’oeuvres and dancing. The thing is, with these midi dresses, you really need a maxi coat, but you might not want to spend a fortune because you wouldn’t wear it every day (probably). And a puffer coat would be too casual. So this sherpa maxi coat might work just to keep you warm from the car to coat check (Amazon, $72).

But what if your New Year’s Eve plans are more casual? For a home evening, outdoor festival or party with friends, I love the look of this wine-colored metallic tunic ($13.80 from Avenue! Also comes in black with gold thread) with wet look leggings. Flattering and easy to wear while still being really festive, and the color stands out.

So, what did you think of my choices? What will you wear this holiday season?

 

Cool Yule Newsletter: December 5 – 11

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! it is my custom to buy a fresh tree this week and I can’t wait! I also LOVE to send Christmas cards, so that is on the agenda, and I am looking forward to seeing The Nutcracker at Reston Community Center. How are you going to make this week memorable?


Coming Up This Week…
St. Nicholas’ Day

We honor this man and his works on Tuesday, December 6. St. Nicholas was known for his generosity and is the patron saint of children, sailors and pawnbrokers. He is one of the inspirations for Santa Claus. What can you do to be generous on this day? I like to make the donation of a toy. Read the legend of St. Nicholas and how Christmas stockings came to be.


Christmas Tree Day and Christmas Card Day

I am grateful for these observances because they help keep me organized. Christmas Tree Day on Thursday the 8th is a wonderful time to purchase a live tree. Remember to tip the person who helps you (about $5). If you water a live tree daily, it will be just fine through New Year’s. Wondering how many lights you need? Here are some tree decorating tips.

The next day, Friday the 9th, is Christmas Card Day. It’s fun to send cards and a kind way to let people know you are thinking of them.

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com


In the Shopping Cart
  • Friendly’s Peppermint Stick Ice Cream. It is pink with red and green pieces and has a wonderful flavor. $4.99/Giant.
  • Walgreen’s brand Yogurt Covered Holiday Pretzels. Naturally flavored white pretzels with red and green nonpareils. A good deal for $2.99/bag.
  • This sweet Maplewood House art print of a deer in a snowy wood available on Etsy. I bought the file, printed it, put it in a dollar store frame and hung it in my bathroom and I stare lovingly at it while I brush my teeth. Just $3.11.
  • In honor of Christmas Tree Day, the featured scent this week is Vanilla Bean Noel. It is available in scented candles, hand sanitizer, soap, body wash and more.This has a rich, sweet smell and festive green packaging. It comes in trial sizes, too, so I say spoil yourself or gift it to a friend for a “right now” treat. I also bought the foaming hand soap!


Peppermint Brownie Recipe

This Thursday is Brownie Day! Make these peppermint chocolate brownies for your favorite elves.


Holiday Events This Week

Thursday, December 8

  • Holiday Shop, Sip and Stroll at Fairfax Corner 6 pm – 8 pm. Check in at the welcome tent at the plaza and get a list of one-night-only deals; first 100 get a tote bag. DJ, s’mores, free gift wrapping service, photo ops and free drink voucher.
  • The Nutcracker (full-length), Conservatory Ballet, CenterStage, Reston Community Center Hunters Woods, Reston, VA, 7 pm. $30.

Friday, December 9

  • Fairfax City Holiday Market (outdoors). 5 pm – 8 pm. Vendors, live music and food for sale. Old Town Square, 10415 North St. Fairfax, VA.
  • Celebration Station at Burke Lake Park. 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, VA. Evening attraction: see holiday lights, ride the Holiday Express train and Caroler’s Carousel. 6 pm to 9 pm. $10. Register online.
  • The Nutcracker (full-length), Conservatory Ballet, CenterStage, Reston Community Center Hunters Woods, Reston, VA, 7 pm. Fee TBA.
  • Light Up McLean Holiday House Decorating Contest. McLean, VA.

Saturday, December 10

  • Old Town Alexandria Christmas Market (outdoors). 11 am – 4 pm. John Carlyle Square, 300 John Carlyle Street, Alexandria. 100+ artistans and vendors.
  • St Paul IV Catholic High School performs holiday favorites at Fairfax Corner 1 pm – 2 pm and 2 pm 3 pm. 4100 Monument Corner Drive, Fairfax, VA.
  • Fairfax City Holiday Market (outdoors). 12 pm – 6 pm. Vendors, live music and food for sale. Old Town Square, 10415 North St. Fairfax, VA.
  • The Nutcracker (shortened performance for younger audiences), Conservatory Ballet, CenterStage, Reston Community Center Hunters Woods, Reston, VA, 11 am and 2:30 pm.
  • Winter Wonderland at Burke Lake Park. 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, VA. Daytime attraction: ride the Holiday Express Train and Caroler’s Carousel, play Gingerbread Man’s Mini Golf, visit with Santa, hot chocolate and more. 11 am – 5 pm. $15 advance; $20 walk-up.
  • Holiday Musical Performances at Reston Town Center Park. 11:30 am – 4:30 pm. Reston Town Center, Reston, VA (outdoors). Free, all ages.
  • Celebration Station at Burke Lake Park. 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, VA. Evening attraction: see holiday lights, ride the Holiday Express train and Caroler’s Carousel. 6 pm to 9 pm. $10. Register online.
  • The Nutcracker (full-length performance), Conservatory Ballet, CenterStage, Reston Community Center Hunters Woods, Reston, VA, 7 pm.

Sunday, December 11

  • Winter Wonderland at Burke Lake Park. 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, VA. Daytime attraction: ride the Holiday Express Train and Caroler’s Carousel, play Gingerbread Man’s Mini Golf, visit with Santa, hot chocolate and more. 11 am – 5 pm. $15 advance; $20 walk-up. Register online.
  • Paws and Claus: Pet Photos with Santa. 11 am – 2 pm. Old Town Square, 10415 North Street, Fairfax, VA.
  • Holiday Musical Performances at Reston Town Center Park. 11:30 am – 4:30 pm. Reston Town Center, Reston, VA (outdoors). Free, all ages.
  • Fairfax City Holiday Market (outdoors). 12 pm – 5 pm. Vendors, live music and food for sale. Old Town Square, 10415 North St. Fairfax, VA.
  • The Nutcracker (shortened performance for younger audiences), Conservatory Ballet, CenterStage, Reston Community Center Hunters Woods, Reston, VA, Noon and 3:30 pm. F

The Third Sunday of Advent

Have you been observing Advent this year? I invite you to set aside some time on Sunday, December 11 to relax, meditate and light a candle for Joy, the theme of the third Candle. In the blog, I will share the story of the shepherds and the significance it may have for us today. I hope you enjoy it.


I appreciate your sharing your holidays with me! Take care, Mary

Reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent: the Story of Joseph

Today is the second Sunday in Advent. Today, let’s read the story of Joseph and how he was visited by an angel in a dream.


The Gospel of Matthew 1: 18 – 25. Joseph’s dream experience.

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.


That’s a pretty powerful story, isn’t it?

If you can, tonight, as the sun sets, find some place where you can be quiet. If you like, light a candle, or light two candles for the 2nd Sunday in Advent.

Joseph was blessed with clear and unequivocal spiritual guidance when facing a difficult decision, but we are rarely in so fortunate a position when we have to make decisions that could change our lives. Not that his path was an easy one.

It occurs to me that so much in life is showing up. Working, making sure our loved ones are fed, warm and safe. The day to day things we do for love. By themselves, they may not seem that earth-shaking. But what Joseph did enabled a miracle. Joseph showed up. He worked, paid his taxes, and made sure his loved ones had what they needed. Does that sound familiar to you?

I’d like to share another illustration from The Christmas Story, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Perhaps this image will help you meditate on the story of Joseph.

Has there been a time when the wise words of another helped you see another perspective? What role does prayer play in your life when facing tough choices? What meaning does Joseph’s story have for you?

Here is a carol for this evening.


When Joseph Was an Old Man – (Traditional)
When Joseph was an old man, and an old man was he
He wedded Virgin Mary the queen of Galilee
He wedded Virgin Mary the queen of Galilee

When Joseph was married and brought Mary home
Mary was with child and Joseph hadn’t known
Mary was with child and Joseph hadn’t known

As they went a-walking through the garden so green
There were cherries and berries hanging from a tree
There were cherries and berries hanging from a tree

Up then bespoke Mary, so meek and so mild
Saying, “Joseph, pluck some cherries, for I am with child”
Saying, “Joseph, pluck some cherries, for I am with child”

In anger spoke Joseph, in anger spoke he
“Let the father of your baby pick cherries for thee”
“Let the father of your baby pick cherries for thee”

Then out spoke baby Jesus, from his mother’s womb
“Mary shall have cherries and Joseph shall have none”
“Mary shall have cherries and Joseph shall have none”

Then down bowed the cherry tree all down to the ground
And Mary plucked cherries while Joseph stood around
And Mary plucked cherries while Joseph stood around

As Joseph was a-walking he heard angels sing
“This night shall be born our heavenly king”
“This night shall be born our heavenly king”

Manage Holiday Stress

A lot of people feel stressed about the holidays. Almost 40% of people feel more stressed during the holidays, according to the American Psychological Association. What about you? See if anything on this list applies to you — you feel stressed because…

  • You don’t have enough money to buy the presents you want to give or to travel to see your family.
  • You feel like your family judges you or makes you feel bad about your choices.
  • The holidays trigger sad memories of an unhappy childhood.
  • A loved one abuses alcohol or becomes abusive during the holidays.
  • You just went through a breakup or you lost someone around the holidays, and ever since, it just doesn’t seem the same.
  • You become overwhelmed with expectations and extra responsibilities.
  • You have a job that involves dealing with a lot of other stressed people (retail, ER, etc.)

Did you check one or more items on the list? Well, I know how you feel. I used to get stressed about the holidays. Did you ever wonder why things sometimes break down at Christmas? Especially on Christmas Day and the day after Christmas? Well, there could be several reasons.

  • Disruptions in routines can be stressful. People are used to doing things in a set way, going to school or going to work, for example. They feel effective in those settings, generally, and they know what to expect.
  • Too much togetherness with loved ones can be stressful. Parents may not be used to caring for children who are typically in school or day care, and children are high-need. Family dysfunctions can seem more acute when they are concentrated over a span of days. That can result in raw nerves, toxic family patterns, addictive behaviors and arguing.
  • Unmet expectations can result in tears, resentment and arguing. Let’s face it, real family dynamics rarely meet the standard of a Hallmark Christmas movie. When loved ones or friends don’t meet expectations, resentment and disappointment can set in. I can remember a Christmas Day being almost ruined once because someone became disappointed by a gift received from another person, and that person couldn’t move past it. It can be a little thing that upsets the cart. One or more family members may feel unappreciated or taken for granted. Or people can just try so hard that by the time Christmas rolls around, they are exhausted, depressed or even sick.
  • People just don’t know what to do with themselves. Before Christmas, there’s a lot to do. Shopping, food preparation, performances, movies, sending cards, etc. All that bustle seems to come to screeching halt on Christmas Day and the day after Christmas. After the presents are open, what do you do?

So, basically, for many families, by the time Christmas rolls around, people can be cranky (or worse). I learned that the key to feeling more in control and making the holidays be what I want is to develop a plan. Not everyone has to be on board. But for your own well-being, it may help.

Make the Plan

When you have a plan to keep busy, it can help ease the pain of the loss or disappointment you feel. If you live with family members, planning activities can keep bickering to a minimum, because for at least part of the time, your family will be occupied with activities.

Set Aside a Day to Honor the Blue Feelings

Although it is generally healthier to see the positive side of things, it is also important to feel your feelings. The trick is to manage feelings that might otherwise take over your plans. So, like others, I set aside one day to really connect to any sad feelings and mourn my losses. That day is Blue Christmas, December 21. It’s an observance that people use to remember loved ones who have passed, but you can also use this day to deal with feelings of loss of all types, loss of a job or relationship, for instance, or a goal that did not materialize for you in 2022. I do a ritual that involves meditating with a blue candle and journaling about my feelings and experiences in a blue notebook. I say a prayer, and allow myself to cry or just feel whatever feelings come up. I reflect on people who have passed, or people who are no longer in my life, as well as any setbacks or disappointments that still pain me. Since, I know I have this day set aside for those big feelings, they don’t overwhelm me anymore. But you don’t have to wait until December 21st to achieve this kind of closure. You can do it anytime you feel overwhelmed by feelings of loss or disappointment.

Christmas Day and Day After Game Plan

  1. Be realistic about what could go down. If there are members of your circle that drink too much or tend to become unpleasant (or worse) at Christmas or the day after Christmas (when people tend to get really grouchy), you probably know that pattern by now. Maybe you can think of a way to spend Christmas somewhere else, or to reduce the amount of time you spend with them.
  2. Get out of the house and outdoors. Cabin fever seems especially prevalent on Christmas Day. Going outside for a walk or a bike ride is one way to get people off screens. A big plus is that the exercise increases mood-boosting endorphins.
  3. Plan a structured activity for at least part of the day on Christmas and the day after Christmas. For example, maybe on Christmas Day, you will go a movie in the afternoon (buy tickets in advance) all together as a family. Or you might go to Busch Gardens Christmas Town in Williamsburg, or ice skating outdoors. Another idea is to go to one of the area light displays at night. Being entertained is one way to (hopefully) avoid family arguments and make memories.
  4. If you live alone, plan a variety of short, enjoyable activities that will keep you busy much of the day. Focus on the many positive aspects of being alone, #1 being absolutely free from potential family drama! Switching about every hour or two to a new activity keeps your brain active and your mood up. Alternate reading or watching TV with active activities like walking or lifting weights. Try a guided meditation, a craft and some cooking, or whatever activity interests you.
  5. Simplify the family meals. Instead of making a huge meal on Christmas Day, like a second Thanksgiving, which can be stressful and pricey, make an easier meal the whole family enjoys, such as lasagna (from frozen) and salad, or spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread. It’s less pressure than babysitting a turkey all morning and it takes the burden off the one or two people who make the meal and clean up. On the day after Christmas, the whole family might go out for breakfast or lunch at a restaurant everyone likes. If you set the plan in advance for that, then everyone has something to look forward to.
  6. Volunteer. Shelters for people and for animals always need volunteers. Volunteering on Christmas Day or the day after gives your family a sense of purpose and makes them feel good about themselves. And it keeps them busy, and busy people are too busy to bicker.
  7. Stick to routines, like meal times, and encourage children not to sleep in more than an hour later than usual. Disrupted sleep schedules turn on crankiness.
  8. If you have a family, model how to manage stress. Talk about what works for you. Show your children how to belly breathe and progressively relax their muscles. Meditate or do yoga together. Take walks outdoors.

What I do NOT recommend for Christmas Day and the day after Christmas…

  1. Going to Washington, DC (unless you live there, of course). All the attractions will be closed and there will be many drunk people, on the metro and elsewhere, and some of them will be scary. There’s nowhere to eat or use the bathroom. The one attraction that is open is in the National Christmas Tree and it will be pitifully crowded with lots of crying kids. Go see the tree on any other day but Christmas Day.  And be aware that muggings and purse snatchings go way up on Christmas Day. If you venture into the city, leave your valuables safe at home.
  2. Going to Mount Vernon on Christmas Day. It’s one of the few places that is open so a lot of people flock there, which means it is really crowded. It’s hard to find a parking space or get something to eat and everything is pricey. The attractions will look exactly the same before and after Christmas Day, so go then and save yourself a headache.
  3. Returning merchandise or using gift cards the day after Christmas. Having worked in retail for many years, I can tell you that the scene at stores is not pretty on the day after Christmas. I would volunteer to work on Christmas Eve to avoid working on the 26th. Sales people are exhausted, the stock is a mess, and the customers are very grouchy. They are grouchy because they did not come up with a plan and they just decided to make it a shopping day. If there are kids, the kids are just miserable to be dragged out shopping. And they are subconsciously bummed that Christmas is, in their mind, over. So everyone will be miserable. The parking lots will be a mess. Do yourself a favor and avoid all shopping the day after Christmas. There will still be plenty of markdowns in a day or two.
  4. Taking down your decorations right away. Did you know that most people  leave their tree up through New Year’s? And there are 12 days of Christmas, right up until January 6th. Area light displays and Christmas Town in Williamsburg are open until January 8. If you plan it right, you might be able to skip the post-Christmas blues. You and your family might feel less bummed about Christmas Day and that feeling of finality if you plan little bits of Christmas celebrating after the 25th.

Check the Calendar for ideas. Keeping busy means the blues can’t catch up with you. You got this!

How to Send Your Child Greetings from the North Pole

  • Christmas Song of the Day: Here Comes Santa Claus

How magical would it be if your child received an answer to his or her letter to Santa Claus? Can you imagine that there is a team of good hearted folks in Anchorage who take care of that for you? At least, you are going to write the letter. They are going to postmark it for you, if you can sneak it into the mail on time. Here are instructions from USPS to get a return letter postmarked from “The North Pole.”

Photo by omid mostafavi on Pexels.com

How to get a letter postmarked from the North Pole:

  1. Have the child write a letter to Santa and place it in an envelope addressed to: Santa Claus, North Pole.
  2. Write a personalized response to the child’s letter and sign it “From Santa.”
  3. Insert both letters into an envelope, and address it to the child.
  4. Add the return address: SANTA, NORTH POLE, to the envelope.
  5. Ensure a First-Class Mail stamp is affixed to the envelope.
  6. Place the complete envelope into a larger envelope, with appropriate postage, and address it to:NORTH POLE POSTMARK
    POSTMASTER
    4141 POSTMARK DR
    ANCHORAGE AK 99530-9998

USPS recommends sending your letters by December 10.

And while we are on the topic of Santa Claus, here is the Christmas song of the day, Here Comes Santa Claus.

Happy Mistletoe Day!

Happy first day of December! Today is Christmas Lights Day. It is also Mistletoe Day. Most of you know about the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. But do you know the origin of this custom?

What is Mistletoe?

Mistletoe is a parasite plant with green leaves that lives off a host tree for sustenance, such as oak, maple or fruit trees. Birds and insects eat the white berries and nest in its foliage; forest animals also eat it.

The Lore of Mistletoe

The legend of Mistletoe comes from a Norse story about the goddess Frigga. According to the story, she ordered all animals and plants not to harm her son. However, she forgot to tell mistletoe. Loki, another god, made an arrow out of mistletoe and tricked another to kill her son. Frigga wept and her tears turned into mistletoe berries. She then said that no one would ever be harmed by mistletoe again, and that anyone standing under it would receive a kiss.

Ancient pagans, such as Celtic Druids, considered trees to be sacred, and they also considered mistletoe to be sacred because it appeared to grow in the air instead of the ground. People wore mistletoe for a lucky charm or hung it in their home to protect them from evil spirits.

During Solstice feasts, Saxons hung mistletoe over the hearth as a pledge that no one would be killed in the home and that the host would defend anyone in his home.

A Poem for Mistletoe Day

Here is a poem by Walter de la Mare entitled Mistletoe

Sitting under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

One last candle burning low,

All the sleepy dancers gone,

Just one candle burning on,

Shadows lurking everywhere:

Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go

Nodding under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

No footsteps came, no voice, but only,

Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,

Stooped in the still and shadowy air

Lips unseen-and kissed me there.

Today, you’ll still see mistletoe hung in a doorway or from a kissing ball in a few homes. If you’d like to revive this custom in your own home, here are some things to know.

Etiquette

People have kissed under the mistletoe at least since the 1800s. The custom goes that a man would kiss the nearest woman under the mistletoe on the cheek (not the lips) and remove a berry from the plant. In these days, of course, the gender isn’t what matters, so much as the demonstration of affection, and of course, you can always politely decline the peck on the cheek. When all the berries are gone, the plant has lost its power. It’s a household custom, you would not hang mistletoe anywhere else but from a door frame in your own home. It’s not really meant to be worn or hung on a Christmas tree (unless it is an ornament designed to look like mistletoe, of course).

Real mistletoe is toxic

The berries should not be eaten by children or pets. You can remove the berries for safety.

Where to Buy Mistletoe

  • Mistletoe (freeze-dried) is available from Amazon for about $9 but it doesn’t have berries. The berries pop out seeds and they are toxic, maybe that’s why.
  • You can find real mistletoe on Etsy.
  • You can buy real (freeze-dried) mistletoe at most independent garden centers.
  • Mistletoe doesn’t really have a fragrance, but Bath and Body Works sells a handsoap, Holiday Mistletoe, and a candle, Merry Mistletoe, scented with balsam, peppermint and cranberry.