Traditions to bring people together 2

For this post I am again going to take from some of the religious traditions that were shared on Oprah’s Belief series and then share some of my own ideas of how you could incorporate the ideas into your world. Enjoy.

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Zen Buddhist Lotus Flower: In one part of the series you were able to catch a glimpse into the life and traditions of Zen Monks. They shared a special lantern celebration.  I did a little bit of my own research and found The Lotus Lantern Festival that celebrates Buddha’s birthday. It is traditionally called the Yeondeunghoe (Lotus Lantern Festival) and was originally more of a religious and national event, not like a festival.  Here is a link to give you an idea of what it is like. It looks amazing–lanterns take the form of fruits, animals…it looks beautiful. People can even make their own lanterns.

In Buddhism the lotus is a symbol of the true nature of beings, which remains unstained by the mud of the world and is realized through enlightenment. Traditionally the lotus (“padma’’) is a very important symbol in India and for Buddhism. The lotus has been ascribed with special meaning since the time of ancient Indian mythology.
The lotus flower grows in muddy water and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty. The flower closes and sinks underwater at night, to rise and open again at dawn. Untouched by impurity, the lotus symbolizes the purity of heart and mind.*taken from buddhachannel.tv      

My idea:   Create your own lotus lanterns with your family & then hang them somewhere special–above the dinner table, outside in a tree, etc.  Here is a Youtube with an idea of how to make them 

    This may be a great idea for a New Year celebration. You could create lanterns & even write something on them–hopes for the new year, gratitude for things from this previous year, dreams, desires, etc.

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Bringing people together through music: In the series it explained how Israel is a place torn apart by religious separation, but luckily a music group was bringing together young people from different religions and having them work together to create something beautiful–music.      Music has a power all its own–it heals, it transcends, it liberates, it inspires, it brings people together. It is a heavenly gift that swells hearts here on earth.

My idea: Step out of your usual music comfort, listen to something completely new, maybe even foreign and see how you feel. Music can have positive and negative effects, so make sure you select genres that lift and inspire the soul. Also, step out of your music comfort by attending a local concert and experience the symphonic melodies first hand. Try it out and see how you feel.

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Trust yourself: This part of the series I can honestly say, I was yelling at the television. I could not believe this guy would free climb (no ropes or anything) to such incredible heights. It was somewhat terrifying. You would definitely have to have tremendous faith in your personal belief in what you could do. One slip–you would be gone.

My idea: Do something that you have never tried or something that scares you. When you are able to accomplish a personal hurdle, you definitely feel you have reached a higher point for yourself. When you continue to trust your instincts, feelings, gut, desires, etc. you will be in a better personal place.

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Pray: Prayer was a huge message throughout the series. Whether it was the woman with cancer and was surrounded in a prayer circle to people praying in a sacred place, prayer beads to traditional dances that went on for days…prayer was shared in every culture and religion. It was a beautiful sentiment.  Prayer I believe holds a very strong gift, whether you pray alone or in a group, there are answers to what you need.

My idea: Give thanks in all you do. Hold a prayer in your heart. If you have a big decision or struggle you are facing, do not be afraid to ask others to help pray for you and your situation. Have faith and know you are not alone. I just read a great story this morning that shares some great examples of prayers being heard. Check it out—http://www.faithit.com/the-refs-said-if-he-points-at-god-again-hes-done-thats-when-his-sister-slipped-him-a-note/

Well, I hope these ideas help you to have a beautiful day.  Peace to you. -H

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Traditions to bring People Together

After watching Oprah’s BELIEF series I am filled with awe and wonder of the many different places, traditions, religions, beliefs, and the many ways people strive to connect. It was so interesting, fascinating and I walked away from the week more aware, inspired, awe struck and wanting to do more to connect with those around me.

SO, I thought I would put together a list of ideas that could bring families closer together with the upcoming holiday seasons ahead.

I am going to list out celebration ideas (primarily from Belief) and from around the world and then put my own twist on them and how you could do them with your families.

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Holi: *is a Spring festival in india, also knows as the festival of colors or the festival of love. The night before the celebrations there is a Holika bonfire where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colors, where participants play, chase and color each other with dry powder and colored water. This festival typically comes in March or February. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, the end of winter and a day to meet others, play, laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships *taken from wikpedia

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My ideas: For a winter fest you could invite friends and family over while it is light out, invite them to bring food and then have everyone share tubes of food coloring and color the snow around the yard or take it to the mountains. Have everyone write words, make hearts, just color the snow & then when everyone is done turn it into a big, colorful snow ball fight. Then make a big bonfire and have everyone warm up around the fire.

You could also do the same idea in the Spring, but use chalk dust and a picnic setting.

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Mandala: In the movie Belief there was a beautiful part of the series where a group of Monks created a gorgeous mandala out of sand. They took hours to perfect every detail and it was a beautiful work of art. But, to them the piece was not complete until it was swept into an urn and dumped into a river to complete its circle. *Both Navajo Indians and Tibetan monks create sand mandalas to demonstrate the impermanence of life.  The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community.*taken from mandalaproject

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My ideas: You could gather family or friends together and create a group mandala project—One year I had my family at a beach and we gathered up a huge number of rocks and made a giant heart on the beach. It was a very fun and unifying experience. I have also gathered family around and handed out coloring pages of various mandala drawings. We all sat for hours chatting and coloring like little children. It is very calming to the mind.  *Carl Jung said that a mandala symbolizes “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.”

You could also take fall or winter items (pine cones, leaves, needles, grasses, etc) and make your own natural pattern with the items from a forest floor.

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A Pilgrimage: In the movie Belief there were many different people from different religions who would do personal pilgrimages—some were to holy lands, others were 500 miles walks, while another was a personal 3 day quest of fast and faith.  I was moved by all the stories, but one stands out in my mind–the 65 year old man who did not love himself, was broken hearted and seeking peace on a 500 mile personal pilgrimage. I thought to myself, “could I do that? How could I do something like that closer to home?”

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My ideas: Maybe you pick a mountain near your home you could climb together as a family or alone to find some meaning. Maybe you find a walking trail that goes for miles and miles and commit to a distance that will bring you closer to…God, your family, yourself. I do think walking is one of the best types of meditation, so why not take a day, a week, a week end to get quiet, to go within or to experience with those closest to you.     I remember one of my only memories of going to the mountains with my family as a child, we arrived at the base of a small mountain. My Dad told all of us kids that we were going to climb to the top. As kids, we whined and looked at this mountain as the toughest challenge we had ever faced. We walked and walked and finally all made it up the mountain together. When we were at the top, we each found a special rock and we made our own family, rock monument. We were so proud that we made it to the top together. It will be a forever memory.

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History: There was an Aboriginal man in the Australian outback that was leaving his grandson with ancient songs and a trek that told stories about their ancestors. The stories and songs were part of the oldest religion in the world, so the grandfather felt a huge responsibility to pass these along to his grandson, so the stories will continue to live on.

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My ideas: We each have stories that we are told, lullabies that are sung, pieces that have been woven from years and years of history, people, family, places…In such a digital age, we have abundant resources to find stories from the past, to write our own stories down, to encourage our children to write their stories for those who follow.  For my daughter’s 12 year Thanksgiving gift, I have created pages for her to write her own story, to share her own feelings of where she is at, to share her future dreams, to connect with who she is and wants to become. I gave my daughter a journal when she was 8 filled with questions. I am giving my husband a journal to write down his story that is filled with prompts and questions so that his daughter and generations after will hear his stories.   I write a letter to my daughter every 6 months & will give them all to her when she is 18.  Every year at Thanksgiving I make a photo book and gift it to our daughter with a special letter and images from the previous year—Giving Thanks that she was part of our life.

Just last night my husbands mother had laid out a small shrine of items that were her fathers. She had them neatly organized with special belt buckles that were treasured, a tin of matches, old pictures, a soap dish, a coin purse, a shaving bowl, bolo tie…treasures that she had been keeping to pass on to her children. Items that reminded everyone of this man who had passed on, but seemed to bring up a treasured past of memories. My husband was like a little kid remembering his beloved grandpa. He slowly looked at each item being taken back to a different time. The things that live on are truly the memories, the stories, the songs, the little details.

Well, Stay tuned. I think I am going to continue this week with more traditions and ideas inspired from the movie, Belief. I have done previous posts on traditions, so check them out too.  I will do another post later this week with more ideas.

Have a beautiful day. -H

A Golden Pause

IMG_1604I recently found this great, brass bell from a Polynesian Island, at a garage sale. I immediately remembered something I had read from Richard Carlson about “A Golden Pause.” I knew I had to have it to remind myself to take moments and pause.

I ring it and listen to the ding and something soothing does happen. It not only makes me smile, but stopping to pause and listen to a ding, a simple ring, makes you take a moment.

Here is Richard Carlson’s take on “A Golden Pause” 

excerpt from EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Kris and I attended a life changing weekend meditation seminar a few years ago in Oakland, California. The highlight of the seminar was a series of short, unannounced breaks the organizers called “Golden Pauses.”

These pauses, which took place approximately every hour and a half or so, lasted five or ten minutes and were wonderfully received by everyone in the room. First, a pleasant little bell would ring, signaling the beginning of the break. All at once, everyone in the room — hundreds of us — became suddenly calm.  We ceased all conversation and dropped everything we were doing.  We were instructed to sit in comfortable positions and to simply relax.  It was a time to be still, quiet and calm–a time just to appreciate about the fact that we were alive.  Our only remaining instructions were to breathe and to focus on the beauty of the breath.

Whenever Kris and I go to a workshop, we try to take something with us that will hopefully stay with us forever. The idea of Golden Pauses has stuck like Velcro! We have found that Golden Pauses have the power to make the most impossible day manageable, giving us the perspective we need to get through it. Many times, I have been angry or irritated at someone on returning home from a long plane trip or just feeling beat up and tired and Kris will smile at me and say that it’s time for a Golden Pause. We “pause” for just a few minutes, but this little break invariably interrupts my negative thinking and readjusts my mental attitude. It’s such a simple, yet powerful way to change the course of a day.

A Golden Pause takes any day you feel tired or irritated day and infuses it with positive energy. For me, it’s a plane trip that can put me in a bad mood, for others I know it’s a long commute, or a hard day at the office. A five-minute Golden Pause (or even a two-minute pause if that’s all the time you have) usually reverses all of that negativity and then some.

But you don’t have to be tired or irritated to benefit. A Golden Pause can even make a day that’s already wonderful even more glorious! Often, Kris and I are having a completely peaceful day already yet one of us will suggest a Golden Pause just to “remember” and appreciate the joy we are feeling. The pause reinforces and deepens feelings we are already having.

I once mentioned the concept of Golden Pauses during a lecture on the East Coast. Several months later, I met a man at another lecture in Las Vegas who had been in the East Coast audience that day. Steve came up to say hello after my speaking engagement in Las Vegas and shared with me the following story.

Steve referred to himself as having been an “over-reactive hot head.” During a particularly stressful period of time in his business, someone took advantage of the lack of business experience on the part of one of Steve’s employees. He said that when this happened, he was about to “lose it.” I asked him what “losing it” was likely to mean for him. Steve explained that it may have meant a physical fight, a lawsuit, or a very least, a huge embarrassing scene in front of lots of people.

But in that moment of great stress, he said, some part of him suddenly remembered the notion of the “Golden Pause.” Why he chose this instant to give it a try, we’ll never know, but he did! Instead of losing it that day, Steve imagined a tiny bell ringing, signaling the beginning of a Golden Pause.

He sat down comfortably and began paying attention to all that he had to be grateful for. His mind became clear of negativity. His body relaxed and he felt calmer. He started to breathe in and out several times and to appreciate the gift of breath. According to Steve, the entire Golden Pause went on for about 5 minutes, at which time he imagined a bell ringing again to signal the end of the break.

When it was over, he said, his body language was entirely different. He was relaxed and calm. The furthest thing from his mind was to fight with or sue someone.

I often practice a Golden Pause several times a day, usually when the day seems to be speeding up too quickly or when life seems to be wired too tightly, but often when things are going just fine, too. Golden Pauses have a way of transforming my relationship to the world. Once the pause is over, I see the world and everyone in it quite differently. It’s like stepping into a temporary place of euphoria where everything is more peaceful. When you step out, much of the benefit stays with you.

A Golden Pause might take only a few minutes of your time — five to ten minutes at absolute tops — but the change in you will be substantial, quantifiable and lasting.

So give the Golden Pause technique a try. It’s easy to implement, very relaxing, and can be done virtually anywhere. They only take a few minutes, yet Golden Pauses alter your entire perspective on life, teaching you the value and wisdom of a calm, quiet mind. Golden Pauses are one of the highlights of my day. I hope they will become so for you as well. In fact, why not begin right now? Ding!

So, when you find a little golden bell–buy it & create a special space to invite “A Golden Pause” moment.

Peace to you. -H

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

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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.

THOUGHTFUL Holiday Seasons

I don’t know about you, but sometimes getting around family brings out the need to find things to talk about with family you haven’t seen in awhile. I thought today I would put together some fun ideas to do with family during the holidays, turkey talk conversation starters, etc. Here you go!!

ImageGET THE CONVERSATION ROLLING:  I have a hard time listening to my father-in-law bark out orders to his wife, it can get a little awkward, so I decided to order the Thanksgiving and Christmas version of Melissa and Doug’s conversation cards. I think this will be a good way to get people talking and not barking!! They are around $9.99, but I can’t give you any great details because I haven’t received them yet.  They have good reviews on Amazon, so they should be worth the bucks. Here is a link to a bunch of different ones they have. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_23?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=melissa+and+doug+conversation+starters&sprefix=melissa+and+doug+conver%2Caps%2C257

Here is another link to 101 conversation starters http://www.conversationstarters.com/101.htm

ImagePLAY: Many families take on the traditional turkey bowl for Thanksgiving, but you could also pull out board games, play tag with the kids or how about Charades. Everyone loves a good game of charades for any holiday. Here are a couple of links I came across with some charade word list ideas—http://www.greatgroupgames.com/thanksgiving-charades.htm   OR  http://www.purpletrail.com/partytrail/holiday_parties/thanksgiving/printable-game-thanksgiving-themed-pictionary   Other family play ideas could include a fun family game of just dance or karaoke, name that tune, relay races, pictionary, video games, etc.

ImageSHARE: Most families go around the table and share something they are grateful for, but you can even take it one step further and have people share highlights from the year—The Best thing that happened to them this year, a favorite trip memory, the funniest moments from the year, best moments of giving to someone else (Random acts of kindness), etc.  Then have the kids share one thing they love about their family or something they are grateful for. Don’t forget to get the kids involved in this!! Kids truly can say the greatest things.

ImageTALENT SHOW: Our family for the holidays does a funny talent show–We have had my sister strap on the electric guitar, a funny wig & jammed to her favorite 80’s band, one family dressed up like a crazy music video and danced the crazy moves like in the video, kids have made up dances, performed their latest recital piece…etc. have the kids share a talent or make a funny family skit. The holidays are about family, so join in the festivities & share your crazy!! —Dan in Real Life (the movie–above pic) has a cute family talent show scene.

ImageFUN FAMILY PHOTOS: We have all heard the photo booth image ideas, so that is always a possibility, but you could also put a fun family spin—whenever I have cousins over for a fun, themed party I always have them throw on a silly hat, a wig, hold a heart, pose with a pink flamingo, etc. So for the holidays you could put your own spin on the idea—have everyone where a feather headband and take individual shots or family shots, what about crazy aprons, chef hats, silly sweaters, Crazy hats, Santa hats, etc.—for Christmas my Mom always had everyone get “mug Shots” where we hold up a sign that says “Christmas year” and we pose like we are getting a mug shot.

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FAMILY GRATITUDE: JOURNAL: Begin a yearly Thanksgiving gratitude journal. When everyone gets together have them write down some things they were grateful for this past year. Don’t forget to date it! GRATITUDE JAR: Have all the family members write down 5 things they are grateful for from the year & put them into a big jar. Each year add to the jar. TREE: Have a small (or large–some people already put up their tree) and have guests to your home write down something they are grateful for on a slip of paper & then make them into a chain OR you could have pre-cut paper ornaments they can write on & you then add them to your tree.

ImagePHOTO BOOK: You could make a fun, family photo book from the previous year & gift it to your parents, so everyone at the festivities can enjoy all the fun moments. You could also make one tailored to your family & write a note about all the fun memories and moments together. I do this for my daughter Kate every year & gift it to her on Thanksgiving day & we express our gratitude for her in our life. Photos always make everything better.

ImageAdditional FUN IDEAS: DUCKIES–Over a fall weekend my family went to a cabin that had a hot tub. I purchased some plastic duckies & put a little symbol (heart, square, diamond–whtever you want) on a few of the ducks. We had all the kids in the hot tub & threw the ducks into the middle & the kids grabbed them. Those with the ducks that had a symbol got a prize. It was so fun!! & then for added entertainment the kids suctioned them all over their bodies—it was quite the picture event!! Imagine 8 little kiddos in the hot tub with little ducks stuck on their face, arms, chest—all posing crazy!! Priceless memories.  Here is a link to some Thanksgiving duckies http://www.amazon.com/Dozen-Rubber-Duckie-THANKSGIVING-favors/dp/B000V65CUQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384874892&sr=8-1&keywords=Thanksgiving+duckies  OR Christmas duckies  http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Holiday-Rubber-Ducky-Count/dp/B000E8S9WO/ref=pd_bxgy_t_text_y  OR LEAVES–If there are still leaves to rake, have all the kids pile them up & make a big bird nest & take fun family photos in the middle of it, or a leaf fight.

Whatever you do—make it memorable. Happy Holidays!!

1 Act of Random Kindness makes a difference

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Hello and hope all is well in your world!! Today I wanted to share one of my favorite weeks in the whole year…RAK (Random Acts of Kindness week). Each year the organization randomactsofkindness.org has a week that inspires people to break away from the norm and share kindness in the world. It is usually a week in February (the month of love–fitting). This year it is FEBRUARY 11th through the 17th!! So I wanted to share some ideas and getting you thinking and planning to do this with those you love. Make it a fun event—plan for it & share it with friends & family, get out and make a difference in your community, your neighborhood, your family, your world!

I was lovingly reminded that this RAK week was coming up as I was watching the sweet movie “Evan Almighty” with my little daughter. It reminded me as Morgan Freeman spelled out the words ARK…1 ACT of RANDOM KINDNESS will make a difference.

So, in the spirit of LOVE, HAPPINESS and making a DIFFERENCE, here are some thought and ideas to enjoy your RAK week…

If you have read my blog you know I have a nine-year-old daughter who is an only child and one of my greatest fears is that she is going to grow up and be selfish!! Especially after reading an article about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who was an only child and personally admitted how selfish he had been. Every red flag went up, Am I doing enough to help this little person think of others??? 

Ever since she was little we have done random acts of kindness…made brownies for the fire department, created hand made valentines for a local old folks home, handed out teddy bears to crossing guards, bought cookies for the McDonald’s employees…

I am always trying to think of ways to get our little family out of ourselves and doing something for someone else. Hopefully we are heading in the right direction, it is an ongoing, loving lesson for our lives. When we think of others, the world is better for it! Our family is better for it!

This last year (during RAK week ) was especially fun because we got others to celebrate RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) with some neighbor girls.  We made a 15 foot banner filled with kindness ideas kids could do & we hung it at their school. In the true spirit of RAK week I made a flyer and sent it to a large local email list in hopes that people would feel the giving spirit & it worked! I received a call from one of my neighbors (that I did not know very well) and she was filled with enthusiasm at the idea of RAK week!

She expressed how her 38th birthday was this particular week and that she decided she was going to take her family and do 38 random acts of kindness in celebration of her birthday!!.

Outstanding idea!

I saw her the next week at a school function and she lit up!! It was soo wonderful to see someone so excited to share in their experience. She told me how they handed out quarters to kids at a local hamburger restaurant so they could use the candy machines. They bought food for the people behind them in the drive-thru, they took a bunch of water bottles and handed them out at a local rec center…the enthusiasm was infectious. I loved it!! Then she got really quiet and she said, “but the best part of it all was that my son (who I struggle with) truly got in the spirit of giving. He is kinder today, he was writing notes to our family, he was moved more than anyone by this experience.”

That was the best part! She even said that he wanted to do the same thing for his birthday!

What a beautiful thing!!

If we can do one thing for our kids…it is to be an example of love, get out and do something random for someone else. Teach them to write thank you cards, help them each week think of some way to serve someone else. Make a dinner for someone in need, take a batch of brownies to someone you don’t know, say thank you to EVERYONE! It is truly the little things that make a big difference.

Here are some additional ideas from the RAK website and other sources:  Clean up graffiti, Donate used books to a library, Give care packs to the homeless (or a blanket), Share your talent of music with the elderly, Help someone with yard work or snow removal, Let someone go in line in front of you, Write a note of appreciation to a teacher, Mentor a child who needs a friend, Pay for a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks, Return shopping carts, Thank your police or fire department with a fun note or treat, Write a letter or email to someone who made a difference in your life, Visit an animal shelter, Take a bag of dog or cat food to your local shelter, pick up trash at the beach or nearby nature trail or neighborhood, Send a nice note thanking a soldier, Be a designated driver, Give someone flowers, Visit someone who is sick, Collect canned food and give it to your local food bank, Donate $1 to your child’s favorite charity, Start a charity day at your work & give the money to a good cause, Help someone with their groceries, Give hugs, Leave a nice note for your local mail carrier, Thank your child’s bus driver or crossing guard, Plant a tree, Give compliments, Send something inspiring to those you have on your email list, Be a nice driver on the road, Take shorter showers this week, SMILE, Start a piggy bank for a cause, Share something yummy with coworkers, Say thank you to your school principal and office help, Tell your parents (or send a letter or email) how much you appreciate them & everything they’ve done for you, Let your staff leave a little early from work & thank them for all they do, give flowers to be delivered with meal delivery programs, Make valentine hearts for the elderly home, Give someone a “heart attack” on their door (bunch of paper hearts that say nice things), Invite someone new in the neighborhood over for dinner, Have your child take a bunch of fun stickers or suckers and hand them out when the final bell rings & remind everyone that it is RAK week, genuinely thank your waitress for doing such a good job, make and share kindness bookmarks or give them to the school library to give away, Leave a $20 in an envelope and leave it for someone in need, give freely, spread LOVE everywhere you can…

-Spread Love, Heather

–not sure who to credit the picture, but thank you.

A beautiful gift to give

The holidays should not focus on the opening of the gifts, but opening our hearts to those we care about.

The process.

If you can give your child one gift…give the gift of your loving words, your prayers for their life, your belief in who they are and the beautiful potential you see in them. Writing a loving letter is a perfect way to express all these things. It is a gift they will cherish and have the rest of their lives. Write as often as you feel necessary (once a year, every six months, as a Christmas present, on their birthday, a special occasion, etc.) You choose the timeline that fits for you.

A few different style ideas:

1. You can just write a letter describing things you love about your child, special memories, their favorite toys, movies, songs, books at this particular age. Include funny things they say, activities they are participating in, how they are doing in school, events they have enjoyed attending, their friendships, their dreams, etc.

2. You can also put a scrapbook heart in the center and branch off of it specific details you love about your child and then write a letter below. Add small pictures to the page (you can have mini pictures 2×3 printed at Walgreens–probably anywhere) that would add to your letter. You can decorate the page in colorful markers, add favorite song lyrics, quotes, words, memories, etc.

Share the Love.

There is no question of the special bond that ties a child and mother, but these letters would be a beautiful gift to anyone. Write one to your spouse, a friend, mother, grandmother, Heavenly Father or to youself (you are important and need to feel loved—even by your own words)

Take the time to share feelings, life lessons, thoughts and inspiration, gratitude, gifts of this life. The people who are part of your life add the little details, the conversations, the heartache, the experiences…they are the witness to your life. Sharing with them the love you have within, makes living more valuable. It creates a full circle of love that continues to grow, sharing in love and leaving letters of remembrance. It is a beautiful gift.

Happy gift giving. Would LOVE to hear about the gift you love giving during the holiday season.