I remember just a handful of the Christmas presents I received as a child: My first Barbie doll with her skinny black sequined gown. My soft, pink Pat-a-Burp doll. The microscope I got in second grade.
But I have many, many memories of our holiday traditions. The lovely aromas of holiday ethnic food. Riding the South Shore train into Chicago to visit the "real" Santa. Using a paintbrush to decorate sugar cookies with colored frosting. Setting up our manger scene.
Traditions add so much joy to the holidays. Traditions give a child a sense of belonging and identity. They strengthen bonds across generations and live long in memory.
A family rich in traditions has a powerful antidote to commercialism. The more focused you are on pleasures that cost little or nothing, the more all the gifts tend to stay in their appropriate place.
Best of all, many traditions are perfectly suited to today's busy families. Here are a few favorites:
Light candles at dinnertime. If December mornings are dark where you live, light candles at breakfast, too.
Take an evening stroll or car ride to look at Christmas lights.
Serve warm chocolate with candy canes for stirring.
THE JOY OF GIVING
Let your kids in on the excitement of finding and wrapping gifts for those they love. Compliment them for being big enough to keep the surprise a secret.
As a family, decide on a charity and make a donation. Our favorite is Heifer International (www.heifer.org).
Take a plate of cookies or other holiday treats to a homeless shelter or to a police or fire station.
Give family members strips of paper in holiday colors. Let everyone write or draw something they're thankful for on each strip. Link the strips into a chain and hang as a decoration.
Write thank-you cards to each other. Decide together when to open them.
Interview grandparents, aunts, and uncles about holiday traditions they remember from their childhood. Adopt any traditions that fit your family.
Ask relatives for holiday recipes that have been handed down in your family. Or, search the Internet for holiday recipes related to your ethnic origins.
NEW YEAR'S EVE
If your kids are little, it works fine to celebrate the new year at 9 PM instead of midnight!
Pull out photos and videos from the past year and share your memories.
Keep a box of inexpensive noisemakers and party hats that you can re-use each year. The kids will enjoy pulling out their old favorites.
NEW YEAR'S DAY
Decorate a box in which you'll put photos, ticket stubs and other souveniers of the coming year. Talk about your hopes and wishes.
Let each family member put New Year's resolutions into their own envelope. Author Mimi Doe ("Busy But Balanced") has a tradition of sealing the envelopes with wax -- a nice, magical touch.
By Norma Schmidt
I remember just a handful of the Christmas presents I received as a child: My first Barbie doll with her skinny black sequined gown. My soft, pink Pat-a-Burp doll. The microscope I got in second grade.
Lifestyle is style over amount. And style is an art - the art of living. You can't buy style with money. You can't buy good taste with money. You can only buy more with money. Lifestyle is culture - the appreciation of good music, dance, art, sculpture, literature, plays and the art of living well. It's a taste for the fine, the unique, the beautiful.
Lifestyle also means rewarding excellence wherever you find it by not taking the small things of life for granted. With Valentine's Day approaching I wanted to illustrate this with a personal anecdote:
Many years ago my lady friend and I were on a trip to Carmel, California for some shopping and exploring. On the way we stopped at a service station. As soon as we parked our car in front of the pumps, a young man, about eighteen or nineteen, came bouncing out to the car and with a big smile said, "Can I help you?"
"Yes," I answered. "A full tank of gas, please." I wasn't prepared for what followed. In this day and age of self-service and deteriorating customer treatment, this young man checked every tire, washed every window - even the sunroof - singing and whistling the whole time. We couldn't believe both the quality of service and his upbeat attitude about his work.
When he brought the bill I said to the young man, "Hey, you really have taken good care of us. I appreciate it."
He replied, "I really enjoy working. It's fun for me and I get to meet nice people like you."
This kid was really something!
I said, "We're on our way to Carmel and we want to get some milkshakes. Can you tell us where we can find the nearest Baskin-Robbins?"
"Baskin-Robbins is just a few blocks away," he said as he gave us exact directions. Then he added, "Don't park out front - park around to the side so your car won't get sideswiped."
What a kid!
As we got to the ice cream store we ordered milkshakes, except that instead of two, we ordered three. Then we drove back to the station. Our young friend dashed out to greet us. "Hey, I see you got your milkshakes."
"Yes, and this one is for you!"
His mouth fell open. "For me?"
"Sure. With all the fantastic service you gave us, I couldn't leave you out of the milkshake deal."
"Wow!" was his astonished reply.
As we drove off I could see him in my rear-view mirror just standing there, grinning from ear to ear.
Now, what did this little act of generosity cost me? Only about two dollars - you see, it's not the money, it's the style.
Well, I must have been feeling especially creative that day, so on our arrival in Carmel I drove directly to a flower shop. As we walked inside I said to the florist, "I need a long-stemmed rose for my lady to carry while we go shopping in Carmel."
The florist, a rather unromantic type, replied, "We sell them by the dozen."
"I don't need a dozen," I said, "just one."
"Well," he replied haughtily, "it will cost you two dollars."
"Wonderful," I exclaimed. "There's nothing worse than a cheap rose."
Selecting the rose with some deliberation, I handed it to my friend. She was so impressed! And the cost? Two dollars. Just two dollars. A bit later she looked up and said, "Jim, I must be the only woman in Carmel today carrying a rose." And I believe she probably was.
Can you imagine the opportunity to create magic with those around you, and all for the cost of a few dollars, some imagination and care.
Remember, it is not the amount that matters but the thought and care that often has the greatest impact upon those you love.
By Jim Rohn
One thing you can count on during the holiday season is the obligatory office party. No matter what the size of the organization, there is always an effort to bring coworkers together for one more moment of merriment. Some people look forward to the chance to mix and mingle outside the confines of business and others would rather give up the annual bonus than have to spend precious personal time with the gang from work.
No matter which side of the issue you fall on, there are certain rules of behavior to follow at the office party if you want to have an office to go to when the party is over. When the invitation arrives for the holiday happening, make sure that you know the answers to these key questions:
1. Do I have to go? Don't even consider NOT going unless you have a justifiable conflict. The office party is part of your job. Its purpose is to bring together coworkers and colleagues for a bit of camaraderie and some well-deserved recognition. If this is not your idea of a great time, then consider it work, put on your best attitude and go.
2. Do I need to know who will be there? Find out who else has been invited. If you assume that it is just your department or your work team, you may not be prepared to interact with everyone else. Any sort of mixing and mingling event requires advance preparation. Knowing who will be there and having an idea what to talk about is critical to a successful venture.
3. How long should I stay? Stay long enough to speak to everyone there - assuming there is not a cast of thousands. With a large crowd, interact with as many people as possible, especially the key people like your boss. You need to remain at the event for at least an hour or you will give the impression that your appearance was merely obligatory.
If you are having a good time check your watch. Leave before the party time has elapsed. If your invitation was from 5-7, don't stay one minute past 7 o'clock. You don't want to be thought of as part of the clean-up crew unless that is the next job you want to have.
4. What should I wear? Remember that this is the office party, and keep your guard up when deciding how to dress. If the event is immediately after work, your business attire is appropriate.
If the party is later in the evening or on the weekend your choices will vary depending on the type of event. If you aren't certain what to wear, check directly with your host or with coworkers whose taste and judgment you trust. Make sure that what you wear reflects well on you professionally. This is not the time to show up in your most revealing outfit.
5. Is my family invited? Not unless it says so on the invitation. Take your children only if the invitation reads "and family". Otherwise leave them at home with the babysitter. Unless your spouse is mentioned or the envelope is addressed to you "and guest" you and only you should show up.
6. What will I talk about? It's not what you have to say; it's about what other people have to say. The trick is allowing other people to talk. If you plan ahead with some good open-ended questions, you won't have any trouble with conversations. The best conversation starter begins with "tell me about..." You can then continue with "That's interesting. Tell me more."
7. How much should I eat and drink? Whether the event is a reception with light hors d'oeuvres or a full buffet, keep moderation in mind. You are not there for the food. You are there for the fellowship so resist the urge to fill your plate to overflowing. The person who goes through the line first and takes all the food will not be remembered fondly or invited back.
Drink in moderation. Alcohol and business rarely mix well so limit how much you consume. This is an opportunity to build business relationships and to promote yourself. You will want to keep your wits about you because your after-hours conduct will have a direct bearing on your business future.
8. Should I take a gift? Unless you are asked to bring something to exchange with your coworkers, the only appropriate gift is one for your host. While flowers and wine are popular items, approach both with caution. Take wine or liquor only if you are certain that your host drinks alcoholic beverages. If wine is being served with a meal, ask ahead of time what kind of wine would be appropriate. Otherwise make it clear that you expect your host to save the wine for a later occasion.
With flowers, take cut flowers already arranged in a vase that does not have to be returned. The host should not have to scurry about to locate a vase and arrange flowers while there are guests to be entertained. Gift baskets with jams, jellies, or gourmet food items that can be stored and served later are the best choices.
9. Is it all right to dance on the table with a lampshade on my head? Not at the office party, no matter how well it fits or what a great little dancer you are. Enjoy yourself, but keep in mind that it is still about business and make sure that you don't have TOO much fun.
The holiday party is not the time to let down your hair or throw caution to the wind. What you say and do on Saturday night will live on for a long time in the minds of your associates. If your behavior is inappropriate, your career may be shorter than everyone else's memory. If you conduct yourself with charm and savvy, your rise up the ladder of success could pick up speed.
By Lydia Ramsey
When it comes to holiday greeting cards, to send or not to send is often the question. Once you have decided in the affirmative, you then have to determine who to include on your list, what kind of card to choose and how to address the envelope.
There are lots of reasons for sending those holiday cards. You might want to enhance your current business relationships, attract new customers, remind old clients that you exist or show appreciation to those who have faithfully supported you during the year. What is obviously a well-meaning gesture can actually offend the people you want to impress when it is not done properly.
The first place to start is with a good quality card to show that you value your clients and colleagues. Skimping on your selection can be interpreted in a number of ways. Your recipients might take it as a sign that business has not been good or that they aren't worth a little extra investment on your part.
Make sure your list is up-to-date with correct names and current addresses. If you do this on a regular basis, it does not become a dreaded holiday chore. As you gain new clients and contacts throughout the year, take a few minutes to add them to your database and mark them for your greeting card group. This way you won't overlook anyone or embarrass yourself by sending the card to the old address.
Sign each card personally. Even if you have preprinted information on the card such as your name - which is an impressive detail - you need to add your handwritten signature. The most elegant cards should still have your personal signature and a short handwritten message or greeting. Sound like a lot of trouble? If the business or the relationship is worth it, so is the extra effort. This is your chance to connect on a personal level with your clients and colleagues.
Take the time to handwrite the address as well. If you are ready to throw up your hands at this point and forget the whole project, then have someone else address the envelopes for you. Whatever you do, don't use computer-generated labels. They are impersonal and make your holiday wishes look like a mass mailing. You may save time and even money, but lose a client or a business associate in the process.
You may mail your greeting to the home if you know the business person socially. Be sure to include the spouse's name in this instance. The card is not sent to both husband and wife at the business address unless they both work there.
Whether you are addressing the envelope to an individual or a couple, titles should always be used. It's "Mr. John Doe," not "John Doe," or "Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, rather that "John and Mary Doe."
Be sensitive to the religious and cultural traditions of the people to whom you are sending your cards. Find out whether they observe Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa and make sure your message is appropriate for each individual. If you decide to go with one card and a single message for all, choose a generic one that will not offend. "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" are both safe bets.
Mail your greetings in time to arrive for the designated holiday. If you find yourself addressing the envelopes on Super Bowl Sunday, keep the cards until next year and send out a high-quality note thanking people for their business during the previous year instead. The best way to avoid the last minute greeting rush is to have all your envelopes addressed before Thanksgiving. Then during December you can leisurely write a short message - one or two lines are all that is necessary on each card, sign your name and have them in the mail with a minimum of hassle.
You now have all the time in the world for the shopping, baking, decorating and celebrating that accompany the holiday season.
Additional Tips for Addressing Envelopes
If you are about to address your holiday greeting cards or the invitations to the company party and you are confused about the correct way to do it, you are not alone. There are situations that we have not had to consider before. There are more women with professional titles, increased numbers of women who retain their maiden name after marriage, and couples choosing alternative living arrangements. The simple act of addressing an envelope has become quite complicated. Here are a few tips to cover the majority of those demanding dilemmas.
Always write titles on the envelope. The card or invitation goes to "Mr. John Smith," not "John Smith." It is addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith," instead of "John and Mary Smith."
When you address a couple, use titles, rather than professional initials. It's "Dr. and Mrs. John Smith," not "John Smith, M.D. and Mrs. Smith."
If both the husband and the wife are doctors, you write, "The Doctors Smith." However, if they use different last names, you address the envelope to "Dr. John Smith and Dr. Mary Brown." The husband's name is placed first.
If the wife is a doctor and the husband is not, you send your invitation to "Mr. John Smith and Dr. Mary Smith."
Try to get it all on one line. When the husband has an unusually long name, the wife's title and name are indented and written on the second line:
The Honorable Jonathon Richardson Staniskowsky and Mrs. Staniskowsky
When a couple is not married and share a mutual address, their names are written on separate lines alphabetically and not connected by the word "and."
Ms. Mary Brown
Mr. John Smith
When the woman outranks her husband, her name is written first. It's "Major Mary Smith and Lieutenant John Smith."
Note: The man's name is always written first unless the wife outranks him or if the couple is unmarried and her last name precedes his alphabetically. So much for "Ladies first."
By Lydia Ramsey
Today Mother's Day or Mothering Sunday is celebrated all over the world. For florists and card shops the event is one of the highlights of the year, but the roots of Mother's Day are not commercial.
Motherhood has been celebrated since ancient times. The ancient Greeks paid homage to Rhea, the Mother of Gods; and there are records of the ancient Romans worshiping a mother Goddess known as Cybele as early as 260 BC. Festivals took place in the spring which was the most fertile time of the year.
The more modern way of honouring mothers began in England in the 1600s where Mothering Sunday was observed on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This day is also known as 'Refreshment Sunday', the only day when you are allowed to eat or do whatever you have given up for Lent. Not surprisingly, families came together and took the opportunity to party with a big meal at which mother was treated as the guest of honour. Traditionally, mothers were given posies of flowers and a cake.
The term 'Mothering Sunday' is now falling into disuse and has mostly been replaced by 'Mother's Day', which is used the world over.
In the USA there were several attempts to introduce a Mother's Day as a way to celebrate peace and heal the scars of war. Julia Ward, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, suggested the idea in 1872. But the idea didn't really take off until Anna Jarvis campaigned for the establishment of a Mother's Day to commemorate her own mother who died in 1905. Ward's mother herself had tried to establish a similar holiday, Mother's Friendship Day, to heal the pain of the Civil War.
The first Mother's Day in the USA was held in 1907 when Julia Ward held a ceremony to honour her mother. She then successfully campaigned for a formal holiday to honour mothers and by 1911 most states had taken up the idea. This was followed in 1914 by a declaration by President Woodrow Wilson that Mother's Day should be celebrated as a national holiday on the second Sunday in May. The idea quickly spread to Canada and Mexico and many more countries throughout the world.
The commercialisation of Mother's Day quickly followed, much to the disgust of Anna Jarvis who was arrested in 1923 at a Mother's Day festival for trying to stop women selling flowers. Jarvis said "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment not profit".
By Anna Jarvis
What does your holiday season usually look like -- a lot of rushing around at the last minute? The holidays really don't have to require so much effort -- if you plan ahead and spread the work out throughout the year. Here are ten tips for making your next holiday season a snap:
PACK YOUR DECORATIONS THE RIGHT WAY
I know you will be in a rush to get the house back in order after the holidays are over -- but don't just throw everything in a box. Take time to wrap your lights so they won't get tangled, to pack fragile items carefully, and to store like items together (ornaments, snowmen, candles, whatever). And be sure to label all of your boxes!
UPDATE YOUR HOLIDAY ADDRESS LIST
If you have access to a computer, make it a priority to computerize your address list -- preferably in a program which will allow you to print labels. Whether you keep your list on the computer or by hand, double check your addresses against the envelopes from the cards you received this year. If you see any mistakes or people you forgot, add them in while it's still fresh in your mind.
TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR HOUSE DECORATED
Do you have a hard time remembering how you had everything laid out from year to year? Or did you do a particularly spectacular job of decorating this year and want to replicate it again in the future? Take a photo and stash it away with your decorations -- you'll have a built-in reference the next time you set up for the holidays.
KEEP TRACK OF ANY RECIPES YOU ESPECIALLY ENJOYED
If you just adored Aunt Martha's cranberry cobbler or your next door neighbor's cheese ball -- ask for the recipe. You can keep a special notebook of holiday recipes that you would like to make again year after year. This will save you a lot of time searching through cookbooks saying, "Now where was that recipe?" You can store your holiday notebook with your other recipes (if you might want to use it at other times during the year) or in with your decorations.
KEEP A LIST OF GIFT IDEAS
During the holiday season, people pay close attention when loved ones mention an item they might like to have. But we seem to turn our radar off after that point. Keep a wish list of gifts you may give this year -- but don't throw it out after the holidays are over. Cross off any items you know were already given, and continue to add to your list throughout the year. When Christmas comes around next year, you don't have to wonder what gifts you should buy.
START A CHRISTMAS CLUB ACCOUNT
There is nothing uglier than coming up on the holidays knowing that you are going to go into serious debt. We can certainly debate the merit of spending huge amounts of money on gifts -- but the easiest way to deal with holiday bills is to plan ahead. Banks used to (and still may) offer "Christmas Clubs" -- savings accounts that you add to throughout the year and can't touch until December. If your bank doesn't have such a creature, set up a separate account that you treat as a Christmas club. Put aside a small amount each month, and swear not to spend it on anything except the holidays. Then promise yourself that you won't spend any more than you have in your account.
STOCK UP AT AFTER-CHRISTMAS SALES
Some things -- like greeting cards and wrapping paper -- can only be purchased during the holiday season. But if you buy them right at the start of the holidays, you will end up paying an arm and a leg. I always head out to the day after Christmas sales to stock up on wrappings, lights, cards, and other goodies -- all at least half off. I can even find potential gifts for the next year at huge savings. Then I store all of my bargains away with my decorations, ready for action next holiday season.
SHOP FOR GIFTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
Armed with your gift list and Christmas club account, you are in an excellent position to take advantage of sales and specials throughout the year. Keep an eye open for items that you think would make good holiday gifts -- and pick them up while the price is reduced. Then designate a spot in a closet or cabinet as your gift center -- a place to stash your goodies until next year.
SET UP A GIFT WRAPPING STATION
Of course, another great way to cut down on holiday chores is to do your wrapping ahead of time. Since you are buying gifts throughout the year, consider setting up a wrapping station along with your gift center. Then, when you bring home a present, you can wrap it and tag it right then, instead of waiting until the last minute. And this will also keep prying eyes from sneaking a peak at their gifts!
MAKE A LIST OF THINGS THAT WORKED AND DIDN'T WORK
It always happens during the holidays -- some things go smoothly and others do not. Maybe you tried to have a huge family buffet and all of the food got cold before everyone could eat it. Or you thought fresh greenery would be nice -- but all the needles fell off a week after you set out the garlands. On the other hand, you may have found a great pattern for a gingerbread house, or discovered a fabulous community event that you would like to attend again next year. Make a note of these pluses and minuses and stash your list with your decorations. Then review your list next year and plan your holiday accordingly.
By Ramona Creel
The oldest Valentine card still in existence was sent in 1415 by Charles Duke of Orleans, at the time a prisoner in the Tower of London, to his wife. The Duke's Valentine's card is now preserved and displayed in the British Museum.
However, the origins of Valentine's Day lie in ancient Rome. Over the years the ever expanding Roman empire became more difficult to police and there was an increasing shortage of soldiers. Believing that married men were too attached to their families and unlikely to sign up for active service, Emperor Claudius II banned marriage, thinking this would increase the number of quality recruits.
The story goes that a Christian priest by the name of Valentine, seeing the unhappiness and trauma that resulted, secretly married couples in defiance of the new law.
It wasn't long before Emperor Claudius found out about Valentine's actions and the priest was imprisoned and eventually executed on February 14, 270.
Whilst in prison, Valentine was befriended by his jailer, a character called Asterius. Asterius had a blind daughter and the jailer asked Valentine to cure her, which he supposedly did. Shortly before his execution, Valentine asked for writing implements and signed a farewell message to the jailer's daughter "From your Valentine", a phrase that has lived on, much to the delight of modern day florists, rose growers and card companies!
By Tony Luck