Tag: holiday

A Look At The Oldest Halloween Traditions

As with many celebrations, Halloween is steeped in traditions – many of which can be traced back quite some time. Since Halloween is believed to have originated from Celtic pagan, ancient Roman and early Christian events, its traditions are varied. The following is a deep look at some old traditions associated with Halloween.

Bonfires

Historians trace many traditions of Halloween to a Celtic holiday known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in parts of what is now Northern France, Great Britain and Ireland.

During Samhain, people believed that the door between the worlds of the living and the dead was blurred. On Samhain, Celts believed the ghosts of the dead returned. Also, Druids made predictions about the future at this time of year. It was customary to build large, sacred bonfires and burn crops and other sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

While large bonfires are not typically part of Halloween celebrations today, revelers can light fire pits in their yards that are reminiscent of ancient celebrations.

Trick-or-Treating

Christianity spread throughout Celtic regions and blended with other rituals. Pope Gregory III expanded on a holiday Pope Boniface IV established to honor Christian martyrs to include all saints and martyrs. All Saints Day on November 1 commemorates the venerable saints, and All Souls Day on November 2 celebrates loved ones who went on to eternal rest. All-Hallows Eve (Halloween) was a time to pay homage to the dead. Poor children would go door to door in more affluent neighborhoods offering to say prayers for residents’ deceased loved ones in exchange for some food or money. This was known as “souling,” which became the basis for trick-or-treating. Later the tradition became known as “guising” in areas of Scotland, where children would go around in costumes.

Witches

Images of witches riding broomsticks are everywhere come Halloween, and witch costumes remain a standard. Almanac.com indicates that, during the Middle Ages, women who practiced divination were dubbed “witches,” from the Anglo-Saxon word “wicce,” or “wise one.” It was believed the witches could go into a trancelike state, and would do so in front of their fireplaces. Superstitious people believed the witches could fly out of their chimneys on broomsticks and terrorize others with magical deeds.

Bobbing For Apples

Bobbing for apples is not quite as popular as it once was, as more people have become concerned about spreading germs. During the Roman festival for Pomona, which occurred around November 1, Pomona, the goddess of fruit and orchards, was celebrated. Romans believed the first person to catch a bobbing apple with his or her teeth would be the first to marry. It also was believed apple peels contained the secrets to true love.

Carving Pumpkins

Removing the insides of pumpkins and carving them into funny or fearsome faces may be messy work, but it’s tradition on Halloween. Turnips were the material of choice in ancient Ireland, but were replaced by pumpkins when immigrants came to America. The “lanterns” were made with scary faces and lit to frighten away spirits.

Halloween is full of traditions, many of which have lengthy histories.

Tips For Traveling With Gifts in Tow

“There’s no place like home for the holidays.” The popular Christmas tune says it best, and millions of people support that notion every year by heading back to their hometowns to spend the holidays with friends and family.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics points out that the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holiday periods are some of the busiest times for long-distance travel. Around Thanksgiving, the number of trips to and from a destination 50 miles or more away increases by 54 percent. During the December holiday period, the number rises by 23 percent.

When traveling for the holidays, suitcases and other baggage tends to be filled with gifts, decorations and other items like food. Packing for travel can become a little more complicated during this time of year. But these suggestions can help ensure holiday items make it there and back relatively easily.

Wrap them there

One way to preserve the integrity of holiday gifts and ensure they look attractive rather than crushed or ripped is to wrap items when you arrive. Build extra time into holiday travel so that you arrive a day or two early. Seek out a quiet spot and get your wrapping done.

Ship there or back

Depending on your mode of travel, there may be limited cargo space in the trunk or back of the SUV. Also, if you’re taking a long road trip that involves rest stops or even staying over at a hotel, gifts left in a vehicle may attract the attention of thieves. Lugging them into the hotel may not be practical, either. In addition, many airlines charge fees for extra baggage, which can quickly add up with bulky holiday gifts. Instead, ship gifts to their destination, trying to plan accordingly so that someone will be there to receive them when they arrive. Pick a shipping rate that fits your budget.

Make a “small gift” pact

Speak with family members and agree to a set gift size (and/or dollar value). A theme, such as limiting gifts to gift cards, perfume/cologne or food, can make this more manageable. Try to avoid delicate items which can break during transit. Small gifts are easily stashed in luggage or boxes to bring home, saving everyone a little stress.

Remove packaging and wrapping

While they may not look as pristine as carefully wrapped boxes, wrap soft clothing items right in wrapping paper or tissue paper to save on space so gifts will take up less space. On the return trip home, break down clothing boxes and remove toys from their cardboard and plastic packaging to make them easier to transport.

Bring along an empty piece of luggage

Much like on vacation, you’ll probably return home with a few more items than you arrived with during the holidays. Plan ahead with an empty piece of luggage for stowing the new gifts. Nest soft or foldable items into other gifts to save on space. Shirts rolled into shoes can save significant space.

Millions of people travel for the holidays. A plan to get gifts to and fro can make trips go smoothly.

Tips to Keep Your Tree Fresh This Holiday Season

Christmas trees are often the pièce de résistance of holiday decor. Few things draw the attention of holiday guests quite like an awe-inspiring Christmas tree, especially when that tree maintains its fresh, healthy sheen throughout December.

Many families purchase fresh trees over Thanksgiving weekend or during the first weekend of December. Though the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day may seem like a long time to keep a tree looking great, there are a handful of ways for holiday celebrants to help their trees maintain that undeniable appeal for the long haul.

Pick the right tree

Choosing the right tree is one of the simplest ways to keep a tree looking good throughout the holiday season. A freshly cut tree that buyers choose and cut down themselves or have cut down can reassure them that the tree is likely to stay strong throughout December. Trees purchased from a tree lot may have been cut down long before they made it to the lot, which can make it harder to keep them looking good until Christmas Day.

Cut an inch off the base of any tree that is not freshly cut

MSU Extension at Michigan State University notes that all Christmas trees are conifers, which means they have resin canals in their trunks. Once a tree is cut, the resin can block the pores and make it harder for the tree to take in water. Cutting an inch off the base of a tree that was not freshly cut just before putting it in the stand can help ensure it gets the water it needs to stay healthy and firm. MSU Extension notes that this approach should be taken with any tree that was not cut within six to eight hours of being put in a stand.

Replenish the water supply every day

Fresh tree veterans recognize that Christmas trees can be very thirsty, especially within the first week or so of being cut and brought home. Fill the stand with water each morning and, if necessary, refill it each night before going to bed. The more water a tree gets and drinks, the more likely it is that the tree will look healthy all the way to Christmas Day. MSU Extension notes that many decorative or antique tree stands do not hold much water, so anyone with such a stand may need to replenish the water supply more than once or twice per day.

Keep the tree away from a heat source

For safety’s sake, trees should be kept away from heating vents, fireplaces and space heaters. But keeping trees away from such heat sources, and ensuring they are not spending the daytime in direct sunlight, also decreases the chances they will dry out before Christmas Day.

A handful of simple strategies can help holiday celebrants keep their Christmas trees looking good throughout the month of December.

Enjoy a Safe and Happy Independence Day

Independence Day is a celebration of the United States of America. The holiday is marked by fanfare and large parties, complete with barbecues, fireworks and parades.

As fun as July 4th festivities typically are, injuries, particularly those involving fireworks, are a concern that celebrants should not take lightly. An estimated 11,000 people visited the emergency room for fireworks-related injuries in 2016, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. However, fireworks aren’t the only danger this time of year. In order to remain safe, individuals can heed these tips.

• Do not drink and drive. Alcohol consumption may accompany Independence Day festivities. For those planning on using a car to get to and from parties, it is essential to designate a driver who will not imbibe. Otherwise, utilize any number of ridesharing services or available taxis.

• Swim smartly. Always swim with a buddy, and consider hiring a lifeguard if you’ll be hosting a pool party and cannot keep a watchful eye on guests in the pool. Adults also should not swim intoxicated, as it can impede the ability to stay afloat and may lead to risky behaviors.

• Leave fireworks to the professionals. Watch a public fireworks display instead of lighting fireworks on the street or in the backyard.

• Exercise caution with sparklers. Kids running around with sparklers in hand could be a recipe for disaster, as sparklers burn extremely hot. Make sure children do not wave them around or others can get burned. Keep a bucket of water handy to properly extinguish the sparklers.

• Review safe boating practices. If July 4th festivities find you out on the water, be sure that life jackets are worn and set boating and water safety rules for the family.

• Check in with a vet. The Fourth of July can be traumatic for pets not accustomed to fireworks and other loud noises or crowds. Behavior therapy, medication and ensuring that pets do not run away from home and get lost may be necessary.

• Watch food temperatures. Do not leave food out in the hot sun for too long; otherwise, harmful bacteria can grow and potentially cause foodborne illnesses. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says to never leave food out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 F, food should not be left out for more than one hour.

These are some of the safety strategies that can keep Independence Day celebrations both safe and enjoyable.

Must-Haves to Achieve a Holiday Wonderland

The end of the year marks a period of heightened festivity. Come the holiday season, homes and businesses are decorated and everyone seems to have an extra spring in their step.

The sight of snowflakes, candy canes, evergreen wreaths, and Christmas trees can elicit nostalgia for happy holidays of the past, as well as excitement for what is yet to come. When it comes to decorating for the holidays, there are certain items that set the scene.

• Christmas trees: Germany is credited with starting the modern Christmas tree tradition. It dates back to the 16th century when devout Christians brought trees into their homes and decorated them. German settlers brought Christmas tree traditions to America upon their arrival in Pennsylvania in the 19th century.

• Mistletoe: Mistletoe is known as the “kissing plant” and it is customary for couples to kiss while standing beneath the plant, typically hung in doorways and arches. Mistletoe was once hung to drive off evil spirts and ensure fertility. Kissing under the mistletoe was first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites.

• Lights: Lights are commonly seen during the holiday season. The custom of having holiday lights dates back to when Christmas trees were decorated with candles, which symbolized Christ being the light of the world. These traditions evolved from pagan rituals that would celebrate the return of light of the sun as the days grow longer after the winter solstice.

• Yule log: Many families burn a yule log in the fireplace and watch it burn while listening to Christmas carols. The familiar custom of burning the log dates back to solstice celebrations and the tradition of bonfires. The Christmas tradition called for burning a portion of the log each evening until Twelfth Night, also known as the Epiphany, which takes place on January 6.

• Poinsettias: Poinsettias are a tropical plant that originated in Mexico. Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first Ambassador from the United States to Mexico. He became enamored with the plants, and brought them back to his native South Carolina. An old Mexican legend suggests a poor girl had nothing to offer baby Jesus at Christmas Eve services, so she picked a handful of weeds and put them at the bottom of the nativity scene. These weeds burst into bright red flowers and became known as “Flores de Noche Buena,” or “Flowers of the Holy Night.”

Holiday decorations borrow traditions from all over the world to help establish a festive wonderland.

Holiday Hosting in Small Spaces

Gatherings of family and friends are a big part of the holiday season. Hosting such gatherings can be a great way to show loved ones how much you appreciate them, and hosting also saves hosts the trouble of traveling during one of the most hectic travel seasons of the year.

When hosting a large crowd at home, space can be a difficult hurdle to clear. However, a few helpful strategies can help space-starved hosts pull off a holiday soiree where everyone is comfortable.

Pare down the menu. Holiday feasts don’t have to resemble medieval banquets with excessive amounts of food and drink. Hosts with small kitchens and tiny dining quarters can pare down the menu, limiting offerings to just a single entree and a few simple side dishes, so everyone feels comfortable at the table and has ample room to eat. A small menu also gives hosts more time to spend with their loved ones during the festivities.

Don’t overdo it on drinks, either. When planning the drinks menu, avoid offering cocktails, which take time to prepare and often require guests to visit the kitchen for refrigerated ingredients. Limit drinks to wine, beer, water, and soft drinks, storing cold beverages in a cooler kept outside on a front or back porch or in an area outside the kitchen so cooks can work without interruption.

Move some furniture. If your main living space is small, consider moving some bulky furniture into a bedroom or office where guests won’t be spending time. Then make better use of the open living space by placing folding chairs or other accommodations to ensure there’s ample seating for everyone. A single recliner can only be enjoyed by one person, but removing it from a room may create enough space for as many as three folding chairs.

Go small on decorations. If you know you’ll be hosting in advance of the holiday season, decorate with guests in mind. That might mean skipping a six-foot Christmas tree in favor of one that takes up less space. Avoid leaving any fragile decorations out, as adults or overexcited kids may knock them over as they try to navigate a cramped space.

Holiday hosting can be fun, even in small spaces. A few simple tricks can make even the smallest spaces accommodating.

18 Ideas for Making Holiday Memories

Counting down to Christmas Day means many different things to people across the globe. Although families likely have several different traditions they anticipate each year, it can be fun to incorporate some new merrymakers into the festivities.

Here are some festive ideas to include in the days leading up to Christmas — a special family calendar of fun finds.

1. Annual memento

Have the kids or adults make one new handmade ornament each year. This way the tree is always evolving, and everyone can track milestones.

2. Cookie day

Devote one day to making Christmas cookies. Invite friends or family members over. Distribute some cookies to elderly neighbors.

3. Holiday classic

Spend a night in and watch a classic Christmas flick you’ve never seen before. Streaming movie services often put classics and obscure titles into rotation during the holiday season.

4. Christmas concert

Host a gathering of children where they can sing or perform their favorite tunes for an audience. Take it on the road to a nearby nursing home.

5. Dine out

Take a break from cooking, shopping and hosting and stop into a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. Keep it local to support nearby businesses.

6. Adopt a child/family

Volunteer with a charitable organization that provides for less fortunate families. Answer the Christmas desires of a needy child or family by purchasing an item on their wish lists.

7. See the sights

Pack the children into the family car to tour nearby areas and look at Christmas lights displays. Bring along cookies and hot chocolate.

8. Trim a tree

Get together with adult friends at a tree-trimming party. Rotate the hosting house each year.

9. Play dress-up

A gentleman can dress up as the man in red and pop into a friend’s holiday gathering.

10. Wilderness walk

Enjoy the crisp air and snow and see a local park from a winter perspective.

11. Acts of kindness

Choose any act of kindness and make it happen this Christmas. It can include feeding the hungry or helping a disabled person shop for the season.

12. Kids’ Secret Santa

Spread the joy of giving by having the kids choose a sibling or friend’s name from a hat and purchasing or making a gift for that person.

13. Hand out hot chocolate

Make a big thermos of hot chocolate and give it out to shoppers or workers who have been out in the cold.

14. Read religious stories

Understand the true meaning of the season by reading Biblical passages.

15. Camp-in

The first night the tree is decorated, allow the kids to sleep beside it under the glow of Christmas lights.

16. Scavenger hunt

Plan holiday-themed trivia questions and hide small trinkets for children to find.

17. Surprise box

Put a gender and age nonspecific gift into a box. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the person who finds a hidden gift tag under their chair at dinner gets to open the box.

18. Family portrait

Wear your holiday finery and pose for a portrait that actually will be printed and framed.

Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Tips

Holiday shopping season typically begins the day after Thanksgiving and extends all the way to Christmas Eve. While that’s a considerable amount of time for shoppers to find gifts for everyone on their shopping list, many people will still find themselves putting holiday shopping off until the last minute. In certain ways, last-minute holiday shopping is easier than ever.

Thanks to online retailers who can ship products overnight, men and women who delay their holiday shopping have more options at their disposal than they did before the arrival of the Internet. And unlike the days of yore when the best deals were largely exclusive to Black Friday, some shoppers find that competition between online retailers and traditional brick-and-mortar stores is so great that deals can be found regardless of when they begin shopping.

But while waiting until the last minute to begin holiday shopping may not be as risky as it used to be, shoppers may still benefit by sticking to certain strategies so they can find the perfect gifts without breaking the bank.

Stay within your budget.

Even last-minute shoppers have holiday shopping budgets. But it can be harder for last-minute shoppers to stick to their budgets because they have less time to comparison shop and hunt for deals. As the holiday shopping season winds down, resist the temptation to go over budget. If a gift you had in mind is available but more than you can spend, look for something else. Overspending on holiday shopping in December is a recipe for debt in January, and no shopper wants to begin the new year weighed down by consumer debt.

Shop local

National chains and big box retailers are renowned for rolling out great deals during the holiday season, but such stores may have very limited or unimpressive inventory left by the time last-minute shoppers begin shopping. Local retailers are often incapable of slashing prices as significantly as their larger competitors, and that may mean they have more extensive inventories available throughout the holiday shopping season. In addition, shoppers who stick with local retailers won’t have to pay shipping costs to ensure items arrive on time.

Shop during off-peak hours

Shopping during off-peak hours can help last-minute shoppers make efficient use of the limited time they have to buy gifts for their loved ones. Visit stores early in the morning or late at night, or schedule a midweek afternoon shopping trip so you aren’t spending what little time you have left waiting on lines or hunting for parking.

Give something less traditional

Holiday gifts need not come from stores. Rather than spending their time shopping for gifts for loved ones who seemingly have it all, last-minute shoppers can give the gift of a donation in their loved one’s name.

Last-minute shoppers who want to give something more tangible can create a homemade gift that’s both unique and heartfelt. If your DIY skills are lacking, give a loved one the gift of a night out on the town at your expense.

Shoppers who wait until the end of the holiday shopping season to begin their searches for holiday gifts can still find great gifts without going broke.

Get Gifts There On Time!

Thanks to families being more spread out than ever before, today’s holiday shoppers must figure out ways to get holiday gifts to their destination on time. The holiday season tends to be the busiest time of year for many delivery services. The following tips should help shoppers ensure their loved ones’ gifts arrive on time.

• Ship directly. Adobe Analytics reported that online shopping hit a record high of $108.2 billion in the 2017 holiday shopping season, and all indicators suggest online shopping will only increase in the years to come. Holiday shoppers who want to ensure their loved ones will receive their gifts on time can rely on online shopping. When checking out, have gifts shipped directly to loved ones’ homes. Many online retailers will even wrap gifts for a nominal fee.

• Research shipping options. In 2018, Christmas falls on a Tuesday. Shoppers who plan to rely on two-day or overnight shipping should keep that in mind. Some delivery services may be open throughout the weekend before Christmas, while others may only be open on Saturday. Last-minute shoppers, whether they’re shopping online or in-person, should confirm their shipping options well in advance of Christmas. Because Christmas is on a Tuesday this year, getting gifts to their destination on time may require shoppers to purchase and ship them earlier than they otherwise might.

• Purchase package insurance. Consumer Reports notes that UPS and FedEx shipments automatically come with declared-value coverage of up to $100. (Note: Declared value is the carrier’s maximum liability.) Purchasing additional insurance can ease shoppers’ concerns about lost or stolen packages. Just be sure to keep all invoices and receipts in case claims must be filed. Shoppers also should ask for tracking numbers on all packages so they can confirm when packages are delivered.

• Properly secure the package. Many delivery services now have off-site drop-off boxes that can make it easy to send gifts. This is a convenient service, but shoppers who use them won’t be able to have a company employee provide in-person confirmation that their packages are secured to company standards. Poorly packaged items may never be shipped. Visit the shipping company’s website for packaging guidelines, and include a business card and duplicate label inside the package just in case it is damaged after being dropped off.

Tips to Simplify Holiday Hosting

Hosting family and friends for the holidays is a tall task. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, during the Christmas/New Year holiday period, the number of long-distance trips (to and from a destination 50 miles or more away) increases by 23 percent compared to the rest of the year.

While many of those traveling will stay in hotels, many more will enjoy the hospitality of loved ones. Holiday hosting can make an already hectic time of year that much busier, as hosts must prepare their homes for guests in the midst of holiday shopping excursions, office Christmas parties and social engagements around the neighborhood and at kids’ schools. Holiday hosting does not have to run hosts ragged in the days leading up to guests’ arrival.

The following are a handful of ways to simplify holiday hosting.

Plan menus well in advance of guests’ arrival

One of the more time-consuming tasks associated with holiday hosting is cooking. Hosts who plan their holiday menus in advance can get started on prep work several weeks before guests arrive. Choose dishes that can be prepared in advance and then frozen, so dishes need only be defrosted and cooked once guests arrive.

Let guests pitch in

Some hosts may feel obligated to cater to all of their guests’ needs during the holiday season. But many guests want to pitch in any way they can. If guests offer to do some holiday baking or take the family out for dinner during their visits, allow them to do so. This takes a little responsibility away from hosts while also allowing guests to show how much they appreciate the hospitality of their hosts.

Plan a night out

Another way to make hosting friends and family for the holidays less taxing is to plan a night out for everyone. In lieu of cooking at home, dine out at an affordable, family-friendly restaurant before taking everyone to a local holiday light display or bazaar. This gets everyone out of the house and allows hosts to showcase their hometown pride.

Rotate hosting duties

The holiday season is full of traditions, and some hosts may feel beholden to tradition and offer to host each year. But family traditions are about getting together, not about getting together in a particular place each year. Families who rotate hosting duties each year can ensure one member of the family does not feel overwhelmed time and time again. And sharing hosting duties means someone new gets to avoid the hectic holiday traveling season each year.

Holiday hosting is an enjoyable yet sometimes difficult task. Fortunately, hosts can take steps to simplify holiday hosting without sacrificing tradition.