Show THANKS in GIVING

The beautiful week that is often over shadowed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads is upon us and my gift I hope to bestow upon you is this…to do one simple thing to show your thanks. How? Here you go…

thanksgiving-gratitude

For your FAMILY:  A simple gesture of LOVE. Write a note, a line, a blurb of something you LOVE about them. This morning I have been creating two flip books for two of my siblings. I have two siblings that were born between this giving holiday, so we decided to create a bday book to celebrate them. It was humbling to see my parents notes and my other five siblings write memories, send pictures, send funny thoughts, feelings, etc. about two great people. I think you always appreciate family, but you definitely take them for granted. It was beautiful to read the memories and see these people through other lenses. What a gift. I don’t think we can open our hearts enough, even though sometimes it is harder than you think. So go beyond yourself this week, share a thought, a love note, a fun pic, something that connects you to those closest in your giving circle.

 

For your CHILDREN: Help them get in the habit of finding things to be grateful for. Each night we either write in a journal or share them out loud, at least three things we are grateful for from the day. Children are never too young to learn gratitude.

Toddlers are by definition completely egocentric. Still, children as young as 15 to 18 months can begin to grasp concepts that lead to gratitude, says Lewis. “They start to understand that they are dependent; that Mom and Dad do things for them,” she says. In other words, toddlers comprehend that they are separate human beings from their parents, and that Mom and Dad often perform actions to make them happy (from playing peekaboo to handing out cookies) — even if kids that age can’t articulate their appreciation. By age 2 or 3, children can talk about being thankful for specific objects, pets, and people, says Ryan. By age 4, children can understand being thankful not only for material things like toys but for acts of kindness, love, and caring.

How to Teach it? Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Lately, we’ve been trying to weave appreciation for mundane things into our everyday talk — When you reinforce an idea frequently, it’s more likely to stick. One way to turn up the gratitude in your house is to pick a “thanking” part of the day. Two old-fashioned, tried-and-true ideas: Make saying what good things happened today part of the dinnertime conversation or make bedtime prayers part of your nightly routine.

By learning gratitude, they become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills along the way, says Barbara Lewis, author of What Do You Stand For? For Kids ”On the flip side, kids who aren’t taught to be grateful end up feeling entitled and perpetually disappointed,” says Lewis.     -Parents.com article

Jeffrey Froh, PsyD research shows there are plenty of good reasons to try to teach gratitude  He recently asked one group of middle school students to list up to five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks, while a second group recorded daily hassles and a third only completed a survey. “The gratitude group experienced a jump in optimism and overall well-being,” reports Froh. “Furthermore, they were more satisfied with school even three weeks later.” Likewise, a Harris Interactive survey of more than 1,200 kids between the ages of 8 and 18 found that those who were grateful for what they had were also more generous, even if they were fairly materialistic.  -Familycircle article

Be a Role Model of Gratitude: As parents we need to understand that we can’t expect our children to be grateful, if we are not examples of this ourselves. Find gratitude in the little things and you will also find it in the bigger things.

Say Thank you: Just the simple act of helping your children learn to say thank you will make a big difference in the energy they carry and the people they touch with their smile.

Explain to children why gratitude is important: The strategy: Explain why it’s important to be grateful when someone helps you out. “Kids sometimes have the belief that people ‘should’ do things for them,” says Froh, “so it’s helpful to point out that people’s kind deeds are often done out of the goodness of their hearts.” -Familycircle

Gratitude tree: I have seen this done with a simple tree made to hang on the fridge & paper leaves were then attached, an entire wall created into a tree in your home, something to add to the dinner table, etc. You could buy silk leaves, use paper tags, stickers…the ideas are endless. Just google, “gratitude tree” and look at the many images and ideas you could create. Have fun with this. When family comes to visit, have them write something for the tree. Have your children create a special leaf each day

Write Thank you notes: The strategy: Write appreciative letters to the important people in our lives. “Acknowledging your feelings on paper makes them more conscious and concrete,” says Robert Emmons, PhD, author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin)   -Familycircle

Find a goodwill project: Whether it is volunteering at a local charity, collecting old toys for a toy drive, sending post cards to soldiers or making blankets for someone in need–find something that your whole family can get excited about.

Here is another idea I found: “We put our change in a ‘Pennies from Heaven’ jar,” says Barbara Owens, mother of four, ages 10, 12, 16, and 20, in Manalapan, New Jersey. “Every time something devastating happens in the world, we sit down and talk about how blessed we are, then send a contribution.”

 

Hope this helps you find one simple thing you can ‘GIVE’ to those you LOVE.

-Peace & blessings to you this holiday.  -H

 

 

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Let it Snow Traditions

Over the weekend I watched the hallmark movie, Let it Snow. It was a sweet show about a family resort that celebrated Advent and had various traditions from around the world. I thought it would be fun to do a post about traditions around the world, ideas to make your holidays even more special and memorable.

joyAROUND THE WORLD: Here are some ideas from around the world.

Eastern Orient: In this part of the world children make paper lanterns for their tree, which is called ‘the tree of light and Santa is known as ‘Dun Che Lao Ren’ which means ‘Christmas Old Ma’ They do fireworks as part of the celebrations. Fun Tradition for your family: have a fun lantern you light and send up into the sky or if permitting, light off a few fireworks. Here is a great link to 10 ideas to make your own lanterns http://ingspirations.com/2013/09/07/10-lantern-making-ideas/

Norway: In this part of the world the people celebrate this time of Solstice. Everyone bathes, puts on new clothes for a special dinner of rice pudding that has a hidden lucky almond. They put a large sheaf of grain that they hang out for the birds. Norway is where the Yule Log originated. Fun tradition for your family: Make special pine cones or throw bird seed out for the birds. Here is a link to a recipe to make your own bird feeder with pine cones http://www.mykidsadventures.com/pinecone-bird-feeder/

Swiss: In this part of the world gifts are brought by the ‘ChristKind’ or St. Nicholas or even Father Christmas. THe week before Christmas, children dress up and visit homes with small gifts. Bell ringing and mass is followed by family gatherings where huge homemade doughnuts, called ringli and hot cocoa are shared. Here is a fun tradition you could invite your family to join in…Saint Lucia’s Day, December 13, in the first light of dawn the oldest daughter dresses in a white robe and wakes the rest of the family to serve them breakfast. 

Russia: In this part of the world St. Nicholas is especially popular. The Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important part of the meal is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheat berries, which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success and untroubled rest. Fun Tradition: Try a meatless dinner that you make together as a family OR do something special with poppy seeds in your breads.

Scotland: In this part of the world the people celebrate this time of year with big bonfires and dance around them while playing bagpipes. Bannock cakes made of oatmeal are traditionally eaten at Christmas. They decorate their homes with holy wreathes, candles and tinsel and the tree is decorated with baubles. Fun Tradition: Decorate with baubles. Here is a idea link http://www.workingberlinmum.com/2013/11/handmade-christmas-make-your-own.html

Australia: In this part of the world the holiday is in the middle of the summer, so it is usually enjoyed going to the beach and having a family picnic. They decorate Christmas bushes, hang wreaths and have contests for the best light displays. When Santa arrives to Australia he gives the reindeer a rest and uses six white ‘boomers’ (kangaroos) and changes his clothes so he is not so hot!! The main Christmas meal is eaten at lunch time and is usually a bbq or fish. Fun Tradition: Have a fun Christmas bbq during the holidays.

France: Santa is known as Pere Noel. They have a special dinner at midnight on December 24th called Le Reveillon. Fun Tradition: having a special dinner on Christmas Eve, but I also like the idea that there is a special place (shoes/stocking) where a special gift can be left to remind us of the baby Jesus.

gift-wrap-4OTHER FUN TRADITIONS you could include in your holiday season this year:  

From Germany: Put out wooden shoes (or you can put shoes or boots near the fireplace) out on December 6th. Have everyone in the family buy a tiny present to put in the shoes for one another OR you could have each person write something nice about the other members of your family. A few years ago I found some wooden clogs on a local classified post & we cut strips of paper & write kind things & then we share them over dinner.

From England: English Crackers, colorful paper tubes with small toys and candy inside. When pulled apart, the traditional crackers make a loud snapping noise, giving the crackers their name.

Make these at home from toilet paper tubes. Stick tiny story books, hard candy, chocolates and small toys inside each tube and stuff some tissue paper in after them to keep them from falling out. Wrap each tube in wrapping paper, gathering the ends of the wrapping paper and tying them closed with ribbon. The next day, your children can each grip the end of a cracker and pull them apart. They won’t make noise, but you can sprinkle glitter or confetti on the inside of the wrapping paper for an extra surprise.

From China: Include a paper chain on your Christmas tree. At our home we invite all our guests to write something they are grateful for on a strip of wrapping paper and then we chain them together.

From Denmark: make homemade tree decorations and then gather around the tree and sing hymns.

From Mexico: Celebrate with a pinnate or luminaries. Make your own paper luminaries. They also enjoy Lilies and evergreens. Maybe share a christmas lilly with those you love. Here is a sweet luminary jar you could make http://diyandcrafts.com/pin/2139/

 

UnknownFrom the Movie Let it Snow

St. Thomas Night: (This was in the movie Let it Snow) In Austria, legend says that unmarried girls can see their future on St. Thomas Night, if they climb into bed over a stool and throw their shoes toward the door, the toes of the shoes pointing downward. If they sleep with their heads at the foot of the bead, the dreams will reveal visions of their future husbands. Also, if a single woman on St. Thomas Day can pick out a young rooster from among a brood of sleeping chicks, she will soon obtain a husband, or see him in her dreams. Celebrated December 21st

Feast of the Seven Fishes: The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration. Today, it is a feast that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. It originates, however, from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). However, some Italian-American families have been known to celebrate with nine, eleven or thirteen different seafood dishes. This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.

Building Gingerbread houses: It is widely known that monasteries were one of the first places to sell gingerbread. It wasn’t until gingerbread found its way to Britain that it started being painted. It was displayed in shop windows and became the popular holiday treat we now know today.

Special Ornaments for the Tree: It is often a favorite tradition for families to purchase a new ornament to symbolize the new year or the previous memories from the year. Many ornaments are also purchased to symbolize firsts.

Lighting of the Christmas tree: This is a great and in-depth article of the origins of lighting of the christmas trees. http://gizmodo.com/5425395/christmas-lights-the-brief-and-strangely-interesting-history-of    This is a beautiful tradition that lights up the holiday season, during one of the darkest periods of the year. Thank heavens for light!

ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS:

ornament_gorgeousHistory of the Christmas Ornament:  

Christmas wasn’t widely celebrated in the United States until the 1800s, however, because of the Puritans’ influence. As a result, decorated trees did not become widely popular until people saw the ornaments brought to America by families emigrating from Germany and England in the 1840s.

Ornaments became a big hit. F.W. Woolworth of five-and-dime fame had reluctantly stocked his stores with German-made ornaments in 1880. By 1890, he was selling $25 million worth of ornaments at nickel and dime prices.

The ornaments available at that time primarily were German hand-cast lead and hand-blown glass decorations. As time passed, the ornaments became more elaborate – and expensive. Silk and wool thread, chenille and tinsel embellished many of them. Stiff spun glass appeared as angel and butterfly wings; tinsel was used on fancy flower baskets, vases, air balloons and egg zeppelins.

Germany faced virtually no competition until 1925. Then Japan began producing ornaments in large quantities for export to this country. Czechoslovakia also entered the field with many fancy ornaments. By 1935, more then 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to the United States.  (Hallmark.com)

Beautiful glass ball ornament that you create yourselfhttp://ayellowbicycle.blogspot.com/2011/11/pinterest-challenge-painted-ornaments.html

candycane

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Many years ago, a candymaker wanted to make a candy at Christmas time that would serve as a witness to his Christian faith. He wanted to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus.
He began with a stick of pure white hard candy. The white symbolized the virgin birth and the sinless life of Jesus.
He made the candy hard to symbolize the that Jesus is the solid rock and the foundation of the church. The firmness also represents the promises of God.
The candy maker made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. He thought it could also represent the staff of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
The candy maker then added red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received, by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could be forgiven and have the promise of eternal life.
The flavor of mint is similar to hyssop. In Old Testament times, hyssop was associated with purification and sacrifice.

nikolaus-St-Nicholas-christmas-32966025-406-639St. Nicholas

Saint Nicholas also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek[5] Bishop of Myra(Demre, part of modern-day Turkey)[6] in Lycia. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker . He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series ofelisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints. (wikpedia)

According to biography.com
St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who provided for the poor and sick, and is the basis for the popular character of Santa Claus.
Born in Patara, a land that is part of present-day Turkey, circa 280, St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who helped the needy. After his death, the legend of his gift-giving grew. St. Nicholas transformed into the legendary character called Santa Claus, who brings Christmas presents to children around the world.Early Life: St. Nicholas was born sometime circa 280 in Patara, Lycia, an area that is part of present-day Turkey. He lost both of his parents as a young man and reportedly used his inheritance to help the poor and sick. A devout Christian, he later served as bishop of Myra, a city that is now called Demre.

Reputation: There are many legends about St. Nicholas of Myra. One story tells how he helped three poor sisters. Their father did not have enough money to pay their dowries and thought of selling them into servitude. Three times, St. Nicholas secretly went to their house at night and put a bag of money inside. The man used the money so that one of his daughters could marry. On the third visit, the man saw St. Nicholas and thanked him for his kindness. He also reportedly saved three men who were falsely imprisoned and sentenced to death.
Death and Legacy: Several sources state St. Nicholas is believed to have died on December 6, 343. Over the years, stories of his miracles and work for the poor spread to other parts of the world. He became known as the protector of children and sailors and was associated with gift-giving. He was a popular saint in Europe until the time of the Reformation in the 1500s, a religious movement that led to the creation of Protestantism, which turned away from the practice of honoring saints. St. Nicholas, however, remained an important figure in Holland.
The Dutch continued to celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas, December 6. It was a common practice for children to put out their shoes the night before. In the morning, they would discover the gifts that St. Nicholas had left there for them. Dutch immigrants brought St. Nicholas, known to them as Sint Nikolaas or by his nickname Sinter Klaas, and his gift-giving ways to America in the 1700s.In America, St. Nicholas went through many transformations and eventually Sinter Klaas became Santa Claus. Instead of giving gifts on December 6, he became a part of the Christmas holiday. In the 1820 poem “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, he is described as a jolly, heavy man who comes down the chimney to leave presents for deserving children and drives a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. The cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the St. Nicholas legend with an 1881 drawing of Santa as wearing a red suit with white fur trim. Once a kind, charitable bishop, St. Nicholas had become the Santa Claus we know today.

I hope these ideas have got you thinking of your holiday season and making them even more memorable. Traditions make memories. The holidays are a wonderful time to bring everyone together. Remember the word HOLIDAY is derived from HOLY DAY. Begin today to make each of the upcoming holidays HOLY. Best wishes to you in all you do.

Follow your heart

If you ask yourself, “Do you follow your heart” what do you feel? Do you feel good about the direction your life is going? Do you feel lit up by the work you are doing? Do you feel a strong connection with those you love? Are you doing things that make you feel congruent with where you want your life to be? Are you following the compass of your heart, your values? I think if we could each ask ourself that one question, we would be surprised with the answers.

Here are some great stories of people following their heart and doing things they believe in. Follow your heart and see what happens.

A girl creates a solution that creates an even better solution for the homeless

A headphone company making a difference

Toms Shoes doing great things

Guy feeding the homeless with some magic

I searched “follow your heart” on youtube and came across this song by a Christian group. The song made me see and truly understand that people who are usually trying to “follow their heart” are successful when they follow something greater, which then creates a place of doing something greater. All of these stories are perfect examples of people getting outside of themselves and doing something for the greater good. It is truly following their hearts to a higher place.

Peace to you. Begin to follow your heart & that will lead you to greater places doing even better things with your life.

Here is the song if you would like to hear it.