Twelve More Days of Christmas!

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

December 26th can be a huge anti-climax. A grouchy let-down because Christmas is over. Darn!

Or…is it? 🙂

No, Christmas isn’t over! It’s still here. There are 12 Days of Christmas and the first day of Christmas is today! Happy First Day of Christmas!

My son and I have celebrated the traditional 12 Days of Christmas — the first day of Christmas is December 26 and the 12th day is January 6, Epiphany. I’ve got some good reasons why you might want to consider adding this holiday tradition.

  • It eases you out of the holidays and into the new year in a more gentle and gradual way. I find this really helps me and my son seemed to enjoy it. And it is the antidote for post-Christmas let-down.
  • It has no focus on presents (except the post-Christmas card shopping for bargains and using gift cards). So, the pressure is off and you can enjoy other aspects of the season. Strip away the commercialism, and what do you have — only the best and most beautiful parts of Christmas, the good will, the coziness, the beauty of the lights and decorations, the spirtiual aspects, and the time with family and friends. You might like Christmas BETTER after December 25!
  • If you have children at home, you typically have at least a week of winter break AFTER Christmas Day. So, it gives you a chance to have Christmas-y fun during that week before they go back to school — like going ice skating, drinking cocoa with a peppermint stick in it and going out to see light displays. And also doing good works – like helping out at home, volunteering or donating.
  • Some of the Christmas attractions are still open (and still festive!) but will be significantly less crowded, including the National Tree, Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights, Bull Run Festival of Lights, Tinsel!, Christmas Town Busch Gardens and Winterfest at Kings Dominion.
  • It allows you time and space to celebrate some of the more spiritual aspects of the season after Santa returns to the North Pole. You might read some passages from the Bible or reflect on the impact of Jesus’ birth or celebrate neo-pagan Yule traditions.
  • It gives you extra mileage out of your Christmas “stuff” — fuzzy socks, pyjamas, holiday teas, candy canes,  books and decorations, movies, and music, since you have almost two more weeks of the Christmas season after Christmas Day.
  • You can legitimately still send presents and cards, in case you are really running late this year!
  • New Year’s Eve at your house looks more festive when the tree and decorations are still up.
  • It makes the un-decorating task easier. I leave my decorations up until January 6, Epiphany. But I do phase them out gradually. Pretty much everything stays up until New Year’s, except the stockings of course. And I leave some lights up deep into January to comaat the winter blahs. But the tree doesn’t come down until January 6.
  • It gives you another holiday to look forward to in the bleakest part of winter. My son and I look forward to Epiphany. I will have a special blog post on that day sharing stories and traditions.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Sunday, December 26 – The First Day of Christmas and Thank You Note Day; Candy Cane Day

Monday, December 27 – The Second Day of Christmas and Fruitcake Day; Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

Tuesday, December 28 – The Third Day of Christmas and Call a Friend Day; Card Playing Day

Wednesday, December 29 – The Fourth Day of Christmas and Still Need to Do Day

Thursday, December 30 – The Fifth Day of Christmas and Resolution Planning Day

Friday, December 31 – The Sixth Day of Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Champagne Day; World Peace Meditation Day

Saturday, January 1 – The Seventh Day of Christmas and New Year’s Day; First Hike Day (Virginia)

Sunday, January 2 – The Eighth Day of Christmas; Motivation and Inspiration Day

Monday, January 3 – The Ninth Day of Christmas and Fruitcake Toss Day

Tuesday, January 4 – The Tenth Day of Christmas and National Spaghetti Day

Wednesday, January 5 – The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Thursday, January 6 – The Twelth Day of Christmas and Epiphany. National Take Down the Christmas Tree Day.

Friday, January 7 – Orthodox Christmas Day

and also coming up…(visit my self-care blog now and through 2022)

Saturday, January 8 – National Vision Board Day

Wednesday, January 12 – Stick to Your Resolutions Day

🎀 Merry Christmas! 🎀

Best wishes for a blessed Merry Christmas from your friend, Mary, at Cool Yule!

Today will be an unseasonably warm and humid day in Northern Virginia, with a high expected of 67 degrees. It will be a great day for outdoor activities, including outdoor ice skating, walking, biking and visiting parks and playgrounds.

There is a surge of Covid infections. If gathering with friends and family outside of your household, please consider taking precautions, such as meeting outdoors and wearing masks, regardless of your vaccination status.

Christmas is a lovely time to spend at home but if you want to go out for a meal, some ice skating or to see some spectacular light displays, here are some ideas…

Last minute gifts and grocery items

  • Most grocery stores and drug stores will be open until about 5 p.m.
  • Grab some healthy snacks, like veggie and fruit trays, guacamole, veggie sushi, salsa and hummus, etc.
  • Pick up something fun to read, like Reader’s Digest, your favorite magazine or a seasonal paperback.

Staying safer at home

  • Call friends and family and wish them a Merry Christmas.
  • Take a long walk during the day.
  • Christmas services are available to view on Youtube – Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal) and The National Basilica (Catholic).
  • TubiTV has many Christmas movies free to watch online. Check out my movie recommendations.
  • Complete self-care acitivities, like guided meditation, brief workouts and yoga, reading – catch up on the self-care challenge!
  • Make one meal special today – breakfast/brunch, lunch or dinner.
  • Play card games and board games.
  • Get a head-start on your New Year’s resolutions or craft a vision board.
  • Listen to Christmas music while keeping your hands busy on a project, like coloring, crafting or a puzzle. You can listen to my playlist of 30 Christmas favorites on the home page of the Cool Yule Blog.

Coffee Runs and Dining 

  • Remember, you can always order food to go or to be delivered, if you are remaining safer at home.
  • Some restaurants that are open on Christmas Day include Denny’s, iHOP and some Starbucks, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts.
  • McCormick and Schmidts, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Morton’s, Fogo da Chao, Macaroni Grill and other similar upscale chain restaurants will be open on Christmas Day. Many of these restaurants ask that you remained masked on the premises whenever you are not actually eating or drinking. Consider getting take-out orders for additional safety.

Ice Skating

  • Cameron Run Ice and Lights in Alexandria will be open for skating and looking at lights.
  • The outdoor ice skating rink at Reston Town Center will be open from 1:30 pm to 11 pm. Even if you don’t skate, it’s fun looking at the skaters.

More Seasonal fun

  • You can visit the National Christmas Tree in back of the White House and the Capitol Tree from 10 am – 5 pm. It will be crowded, though so please consider wearing a mask and social distancing.
  • Save yourself the trip: The US Botanic Gardens will be closed (as will all DC museums) and the outdoor display with model trains will also be closed. But you could chek out the Capitol Tree!
  • In Williamsburg, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is open and I highly recommend it.
  • Save yourself the trip: Kings Dominion Winterfest in Doswell is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But it is open on New Year’s Eve!
  • In the evening, the walk-through Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights (Vienna) is open as is the drive-through Bull Run Lights and Winter Village in Manassas.
  • The new attraction, Tinsel! at Holiday Inn Dulles in Sterling is open for 2-hour visits.

The story of the birth of Christ

On Christmas Day, one year, I listened to a rector talk about the beautiful story of the birth of Christ in his sermon. Whether or not it is completely true was immaterial, he said. He referred to the meaning of the story and its timelessness.

I agreed with him, but all my life, even when I doubted the existence of God himself, I believed this story happened. It seems too wonderful to not be true. But as the rector stated, that isn’t truly the point. We don’t know the exact date Christ was born and other details are lost to history. The point is that the wrondrous story of the birth of Christ is a story of love, reverence, faith, difficulty, sacrifice and miracles. And that is a story that every person can relate to on some level.

Let’s remember the night the angels sang…

Let’s remember what happened in a little town, as related in the Gospel of Luke. Merry Christmas.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of Davdi, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: )

To be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

🎄 Merry Christmas Eve! 🎄

I hope you have the most wonderful Christmas ever!

Want to know what fun events are happening today? Here are some suggesions on how to spend today. I am emphasizing outdoor itineraries today, for Covid safety.

Some highlights today

  • 1 pm: Water skiing Santa and his friends, Alexandria waterfront
  • 8 pm: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure – ABC
  • 8 pm: A Holly Dolly Christmas (with Dolly Parton) – CBS
  • 8 pm: It’s A Wonderful Life (movie with Jimmy Stewart) – NBC
  • 8:30 pm: Shrek the Halls – ABC
  • 9 pm: Disney Prep & Landing – ABC
  • 9:30 pm: Disney Prep & Landing 2: Naughty vs. Nice – ABC
  • 11:30 pm: Christmas Eve Mass (with the Pope) – NBC

Safety Today for You and the Community

A big surge in holiday travel is expected today. In addition to the Covid surge, people tend to drink and drive during the holidays, so it’s a good idea to take precautions. Consider

  • Remembering that the greatest thing we can do for health care workers right now is not to beome another patient in an already over-stressed system.
  • Spending at least a few minutes in prayer or quiet reflection.
  • Call or Zoom with family and friends.
  • Remaining safer at home. Watch movies, listen to music, play games, cook special meals, bake cookies, make mulled cider, take walks, read and work on the December self-care challenge.
  • Instead of going to church, watching a live service online.
  • Take a virtual tour of the White House decorations.
  • Driving on secondary roads instead of major highways. It takes longer but there are fewer and less severe accidents.
  • Staying off the roads completely after dark.
  • Wearing a mask anytime you are indoors and not in your home.
  • Staying home if you feel sick at all.
  • Be a little more patient, if you are spending time with family. Take time for yourself and breathe and stretch. Manage your expectations and focus on the positive.

Visit the National Christmas Tree

Photographer: Nathan King, National Park Service

Have you seen the National Christmas Tree up close and in person yet? If no, there’s still time.

This year, the tree is a white fir tree with warm white lights and sparkling red and white ball decorations. The tree is crowned with a Christmas star.

The lights on the nation’s 99th National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC turn on around sunset each evening and turn off promptly at 10:00 pm Sunday-Thursday and 11:00 pm on Friday and Saturday. The Pathway of Peace on the Ellipse (in back of the White House) is open through January 1. Hours are 10:00 am-10:00 pm Sunday-Thursday, and 10:00 am-11:00 pm Friday and Saturday.

In addition to the National Tree, there are 58 state and territory trees to see.

Transporation and Comfort

The Farragut West Metro station is the closet metro stop. If you drive, please note the parking spaces — I got a parking ticket on Christmas Eve once! There is a Potbelly sandwich shop nearby (1701 Pennsylvania Avenue) if you are hungry or thirsty. It is the most convenient and economical food place in the area and the food is pretty good. It is open 8 a.m. – 7 pm. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and of course, it has a restroom. Another quick place to use the restroom is the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery (which is almost directly across from the White House) when it is open. There is typically a National Park Service concession stand but it’s not very good, it’s expensive and the lines are long. Another option is to bring a water bottle or cocoa thermos with you.

 

Making your poinsettia last after Christmas

 

Would you like to keep your poinsettia plant alive and well after the holidays? Watch this video to learn poinsettia preservation tips.

🎄Cool Yule Watch Party: Last Holiday🎄

The movie today is a comedy featuring Queen Latifah, LL Cool J and the initimable Gerard Depardieu. It’s a warm, funny movie that explores what we would do if we knew our time on this earth was limited. You can rent this movie on YouTube. I hope it inspires you to live fully and joyfully in the New Year! Enjoy!

 

Yuletide Greetings on the Solstice!

Long before Christmas was a celebration, there were celebrations associated with Yule, December 21st, the longest day of the year. Those traditions continue today. Here are some ideas for making today special.

  • Dedicate yourself to your self-care and healthy activities. Today would be a great day for yoga, workouts and meditation. Check off at least one activity on the self-care planner!
  • Take Vitamin D which most of us need in the winter months.
  • Here is a Yule Log to color, courtesy of Wired Magazine!
  • Make a gratitude list for the abundance in your life your health, home and family.
  • Consider making a contribution of some kind as an offering of thanks. You could put some money in the Salvation Army Kettle Very appropriate for moving into the new year – ridding yourself of things you no longer need by making a donation to Good Will. So needed right now – blood donations or donations of canned food.
  • On the longest night of the year, the sun is a focus. Take a walk in the sun today. After today, there were will be more sunlight each day. Revel in the blessing of the sunglight!
  • Air out the house, give it a good cleaning and let fresh air and good luck come into the home.
  • Bring some fresh greenery into the house — pine and cedar swags, holly bunches and mistletoe. Hang a wreath of fresh greenery on your front door to welcome in prosperity and luck.
  • Light some candles on the darkest night of the year. Visualize positive energy set alight in yourself, your home and the new year.
  • Make a warm cup of Christmas tea or mulled cider — with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and orange rind.
  • Snuggle up by a real or video fireplace for the “yule log” experience.
  • Have a special dinner or lunch with Yule log (Buche de Noel) for dessert. You can puchase Yule log cakes (sometimes available by the slice) at Whole Foods and La Madeleine, or dress up a store-bought Red Velvet or Pumpkin roll as a Yule log with frosting or powdered sugar “snow.”

 

Plan for a Day and Night of Christmas Eve Fun

Ho ho ho! Christmas Eve is right around the corner! How will you keep merry this festive day? Well, here are some options to consider.

A Morning and Early Afternoon in Our Nation’s Capital

  1. Venture into DC. Take Metro to the Federal Center SW stop in the morning and visit the outdoor train display at the U.S. Botanic Garden (next to the Capitol) in DC (open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but it is closed on Christmas Day).
  2. Walk over to the adjacent Capitol and check out the Capitol Christmas Tree.
  3. Walk down the mall in the Walk down the mall in the direction of the Washington Monument. If you need a break, lunch, coffee or gelato, enter the National Gallery of Art to the Cascades Cafe downstairs. 
  4. The National Gallery of Art Rotonda upstairs is typically decorated for the holidays and is a worthy photo stop, if it is.
  5. Resume your walk, pausing to take in the outdoor skating rink at the National Gallery of Art will be open.
  6. Across from the Washington Monument on your right will be the Ellipse. You’ll see the National Christmas Tree, surrounded by 50+ state trees.
  7. A few steps away, you’ll also see the exterior Christmas decorations of The White House.
  8. Hop back on the metro before rush hour starts. Farragust West is the closest stop.
  9. If you want to do this in reverse and start with the Tree, never a bad idea on Christmas Eve, the grounds open at 10 a.m.

A Morning and Early Afternoon in Old Town Alexandria 

  • Walk along King Street, window shopping.
  • Take a cocoa break. There is a Dunkin Donuts close to the King Street Metro (donuts and bagels) and a Starbucks (gingerbread) closer to the Waterfront.
  • There are bathrooms at the Alexandria Visitor Center and the Torpedo Factory, if you need them.
  • Santa and his friends will be waterskiing at the Alexandria Waterfront at 1 p.m.
  • Time for lunch! After exploring the waterfront, lunch options include The Charthouse (on the Waterfront), Lena’s (wood-fired pizza on KIng Street) and La Madeleine (French food franchise), also on KIng Street.

Late afternoon and evening at Reston Town Center 

  • Starting at Fountain Square, take in the sights of the splendid Christmas tree, lights and decorations outdoors.
  • Pop into the Hyatt Regency Reston hotel lobby to check out the Christmas decorations.
  • Watch the skaters at the outdoor ice skating rink at Reston Town Center  open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Even if you don’t skate, it’s fun to watch.
  • Last-minute shopping for stocking stuffers and gifts includes Francesca’s, Paper Source, Scrawl Books and Sephora. The Fed Ex store has a nice variety of 2022 planners.Walk along Market Street to Reston Town Square and window shop.
  • For a late lunch or afternoon snack, there’s a Starbuck’s coffee, Peet’s coffee, Chipotle and Potbelly for quick snacks or a lunch or splurge at Clyde’s or one of the many other upscale casual restaurants.

Holiday Light Displays

  • Meadowlark Garden’s Winter Walk of Lights in Vienna is open 5 pm – 10 pm.
  • The drive through Bull Run Festival of Lights in Manassas is open 5:30 pm – 10 pm.
  • Ice and Lights at Cameron Run in Alexandria is open 5 pm – 10 pm.
  • Tinsel! at the Holiday Inn Dulles in Sterling is open for visits in 2-hour increments starting at 5 pm, 5:30 pm, 6 pm and 6:30 pm.

…and out of town

  • Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Wiilliamsburg is open from 2 pm – 10 pm; also on Christmas Day. Colonial Williamsburg is also open. The train to Williamsburg takes you there if you want to avoid traffic.
  • The train will also take you to my hometown of Richmond, VA with its decorated houses, Carytown, the Byrd Theater, the Jeffferson Hotel and casual dining spots. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (admission is pay what you can).

Have seafood for dinner

Celebrate the Italian American customs of a Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes. Or make cioppino with seven kinds of seafood. I would use cod (not halibut or salmon) in this recipe and add calamari and bay scallops to make seven seafoods.

Have deep pockets this holiday? Visit Clyde’s Chevy Chase or Clyde’s Mark Center (Alexandria) for cocktails and oysters on the half shell, oysters rockefeller, crab and artichoke dip, whitefish pate, steamed musssels and calamari, fried oysters, baked rockfish and more. Just skip the bland jumbo shrimp cocktail.

or

order Chinese takeout! That’s what I’m going to do! My favorites: Chopsticks in Herndon for Mu Shu and Hong Kong Palace in Seven Corners (Falls Church) for Kung Pao chicken and sesame balls.

Make some home-made egg nog

Christmas Eve is also National Egg Nog Day. White the pre-made stuff is very good, here is a recipe in case you want to make your own.

Read a Christmas classic

Curl up tonight in front of ye olde TV set

Television programming on Christmas Eve includes…

  • 8 pm: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure – ABC
  • 8 pm: A Holly Dolly Christmas (with Dolly Parton) CBS
  • 8 pm: It’s A Wonderful Life (movie with Jimmy Stewart) – NBC
  • 8:30 pm: Shrek the Halls – ABC
  • 9 pm: Disney Prep & Landing – ABC
  • 9:30 pm: Disney Prep & Landing 2: Naughty vs. Nice – ABC
  • 11:30 pm: Christmas Eve Mass (with the Pope) – NBC

Learn how to decorate with fresh greenery

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Happy Holly Day!

It’s wonderful to add the natural touches of holly, pinecones and greenery to your Christmas or Yuletide home decorations. Even before the birth of Christ, greenery was an important and symbolic part of winter festivities.

  • The Christmas colors of red and green come from the ancient use of holly in December celebrations. Evergreen holly is associated with everlasting life. Its red berries symbolize vitality and in Christian times became associated with the blood of Christ. The ancient Romans brought holly into their homes for the winter festival of Saturnalia. The prickly leaves were thought to protect the inhabitants of the house. Holly also figured in pagan rituals and celebrations.
  • Evergreen pine trees and pine cones have been associated with immortality or long life since pre-Christian times, as well as strength, as they stand up to winter storms. The ancient Romans associated them with the goddess of love, Venus and ancient Celts put them under their pillows as a fertiility charm.
  • MIstletoe is another evergreen plant that has been associated with Christmas. This is another plant that was used by the Romans during Saturnalia and it was also revered by the Norse peoples, who associated it with the goddess, Frigga. Ancient Celts believed mistletoe helped bring good luck, fertility and healthy crops.

Would you like to learn how to decorate with greenery? Peg from Merrifield Gardening Center shows you how to create gorgeous table decorations, swags and bows in this new video.