Holiday Spirit & Giving Ideas

Wow!! The Holidays are upon us and it is a wonderful time of spreading cheer, goodwill and heartfelt gifts.

I thought it would be fun to share a few ideas, a couple great stories, gift giving ideas and more. Enjoy! Enjoy the season of giving. It’s all good.

christmas-gifts-christmas-gift-decorations-christmas-gift-ideas-2014-christmas-gift-ideas-pinterest-christmas-gift-ideas-to-make-christmas-gift-ideas-for-mom-christmas-gift-ideas-for-gir“The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.”  -Pierre Corneille

GREAT GIFT IDEAS:

‘Twelve Days’ or in this case ‘Twelve Dates’: Every year I try to do a ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ for my parents and my husbands parents. Each year I try to come up with little things they could do each day or every other. I include stories, links, recipes, activities, etc. This year I did ‘Twelve days of Picnics” because life should be a picnic!! Right?  Each ‘picnic’ was a date night of asking each other questions, recipes for a meal together, a gift or activity. Little things to bring two people together. I think when you can make a gift for someone it tells them that you care & took the time.

A Good Read: One of my favorite books this year was Squire Rushnell’s ‘When God Winks at You.’ It is a compilation of stories that illustrate how God speaks directly to us through the power of coincidence. It is a great read. I am going to put one of the stories down below, so don’t miss it.

A way to calm: My daughter has found out how powerful the art of coloring can be. This would be a good gift for anyone, but especially students or people who work in high stress situations. Coloring seems to calm the mind. My daughter started coloring before taking a test & has noticed how well it calms her mind and prepares her to focus. There are many types of adult coloring books, so it is NOT just a kid gift. Get coloring.

Something personal: I think you can put meaning to anything. I bought a bunch of tiny, silver pine cone charms & added them to some ribbon & put a quote that says ” Since the Pine Tree remains green all year, it is a symbol of Eternal Friendship.” I made it to be a book mark for a couple of my friends who like to read.  Write a love note to someone you care about or make a special card that you leave on your loved ones pillow each morning or night for twelve days before Christmas. You could also do something similar for your kids & leave one in their stocking each day & they can read them before bed. You could also make a little photo book of highlights from the year & give them to family or friends. There are so many ideas you can get personal with. Just put some heart into your ideas & the love will shine through.

You can also ‘search’ my blog & find other Christmas traditions and holiday ideas. I have posted MANY over the years. Hope there are some ideas that get you excited. Yay!

 

045c0bf22bcff82025d1dc18d9cda104MAKE IT FUN! Every year I try and get the little cousins together & gift them with a fun party for the holiday season. This year I am hosting a ‘Grinch Party’. I am having all the kids come dressed like Whoville characters (crazy hair, crazy hats, stripes, etc) & bring a crazy gift for a fun exchange. I am going to gather them in a circle & make them sing the silly Whoville song while passing gifts. It will be funny!! We are going to play some fun games & watch the movie. It should be super fun!!

I couldn’t help add this cute chalk idea. Get creative. Make a fun family card. Make a special gingerbread house. This year we bought a gingerbread trailer to decorate because my husband is living in a trailer for a few months while he is away. Make your own ornaments, build ice castles with balloons. Check out this link http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-ice-sculpture-for-kids-of-all-ages/

Make things fun & memorable.

 

pond-town-christmas-lights_f3d882cd-5056-a36a-0ba8bf7ba2cedcb8MAKE MEMORIES: My husband is still living in another state and we only get to see him once a month, so our time is very cherished. He just came home for a few days & we knew we needed to pack in some holiday cheer, so late one night (around 9pm) we jumped in the car & drove 40 minutes to one of our favorite places to see holiday lights. It is a pond that lights up about 30+ floating, light trees that mirror & reflect such beauty. We all held hands & walked around the pond. Cherished memories are priceless. Even though it was late we were sure happy we went.

 

Solutions--1020x200--More-Ways-to-Give_1GIVE: Every year my daughter and I love fixing up ‘groovy girl’ dolls that are in great shape & may just be missing a dress, skirt or scarf. We find them at thrift stores, add some holiday flare, add a note of Christmas cheer & send them to a holiday toy drive. My daughter literally knits scarfs, skirts, dresses, hats, etc for the dolls & they turn out so cute. Use your talents to do something for someone else this holiday.  Here is my other post on good places to make items to give, service ideas’ etc. https://yourhappyplaceblog.com/2015/11/10/give-because-we-have-been-given-much/

 

how-to-revive-your-lovelifeLIFE IS TOO SHORT: Enjoy each day. My husband had an employee come in for work and never leave. She had been employed there for ten years, so she had some great friends. She went in to work & had a brain aneurysm that took her from this life. It can happen that quickly, so cherish each day, kiss those you love, and offer kindness to all those you meet. Make each day count. You never know. This holiday season embrace the chance to be with those you care about.

 

A COUPLE GREAT STORIES to share with your family this holiday season: taken from Squire Rushnell’s book (noted above) Here is a story to help us remember that we are always surrounded by a divine LOVE.

450872979When God Winks at You is the story of Ken Gaub. Ken was going through a period of uncertainty with his ministry. In the 1980’s is family did an entertainment ministry that they would take to churches, schools, and the back roads of America traveling fifty-thousand miles a year. On one trip, a couple of his sons were driving. They kept in touch between the cars with a CB radio. One son told the other to stop at an exit. While his family went to a diner, Ken decided to take a walk. He walked by a gas station and an empty phone booth. The phone began to ring. Ken stopped and looked around, but the phone kept ringing. He thought it might be for the attendant or an emergency. Because he thought it may be an emergency, he picked up the phone. An operator on the line said it was a person to person call for him, Ken Gaub! He thought it was a joke, but continued. The operator repeated that the call was for him. Ken went ahead with the call. On the other end of the phone was a woman named Millie who had seen him on The 700 Club. She remembered his name and wrote it in the suicide note she was writing. When Ken asked her how she got the number, she said it just came to mind while she was writing her suicide note. Ken explained where he was, but then explained how God was watching over her, that her worries were temporary, and God was the only answer and she would find peace thru Jesus. After a few years, Ken met Millie face to face performing on the road. Today, Ken is still on the road.

*****

il_fullxfull.1092511228_su6kANGELS IN THE BARN by Joan Wester Anderson (She has many wonderful Angel stories that are in numerous books by her)

The after-Christmas snowstorm had blanketed a wide patch of rural eastern Pennsylvania, and Chris Clark Davidson probably should have waited until the roads were plowed before she, her mother and her two small sons attempted a drive. But Chris’ grandmother lived alone more than 100 miles away and couldn’t get out to the store to buy groceries. “We’ll be fine,” Chris assured her mother. “We’ll take that shortcut that we use all summer.”

However, Chris had forgotten how narrow the short-cut road was, especially with drifts piled high and wind blowing snow across the fields. When another vehicle roared around a curve. Chris swerved and skidded into a snow bank. The other car kept going.

The wheels spun uselessly as she tried to pull out. “Mommy, are we stuck?” toddler Philip asked from under his blanket in the back seat.

“Looks that way, honey,” Chris admitted. They had only seen that one car since they’d turned onto the shortcut. How long would it be before someone came along? How long before the freezing temperature invaded the car’s interior? And why, oh why, had she worn stylish open shoes instead of warm boots?

Chris got out, her almost-bare feet plunging into a high drift, and looked around. Lord please send us some help, she prayed. Then she saw it—a silo and barn roof about a quarter-mile away. “Mom,” Chris leaned in the car, “I’ll walk down to that barn and see if anyone’s there. Keep the kids warm.” Her mother nodded, her face worried.

The journey was incredibly cold and by the time Chris pushed open the barn door, her feet were icy. A welcome blast of heat greeted her, along with the mooing of heifers in their stalls. It was a working dairy, clean and well organized, with a shiny window fan circulating the air. Although she had passed it during previous times on the short cut, she had never really taken a good look. Now, she realized with joy, there were young male voices coming from behind a stall.

Maneuvering around the livestock, Chris followed the sound and came upon two farmhands in overalls and flannel shirts, kidding and teasing each other as they pitched hay. They stopped and smiled when they saw her, and quickly she explained the situation.

“Stay here!” one said, tramping past the cows, grabbing his jacket and going out the door. A moment later, Chris heard a horn honking in front of the barn. There he was, driving a blue pickup truck. “Get in!” he shouted.

Chris hesitated. She didn’t know these men, and her family, down the road, was vulnerable. Yet, there was something so merry about the men that she couldn’t feel afraid. She and the other farmhand scrambled into the pickup and bounced down the road. There was the car, her toddlers bundled up and Mom waving. The driver roared across the field, spun in a wide circle and screeched into position behind it. “Way to go!” his buddy yelled.

Chris gripped the seat. “Do you always drive like this?” she asked, only half-joking.

The driver shrugged. “Well, it ain’t our truck.”

Within minutes the men had freed Chris’ car, and she opened her purse to reward them. But both backed away. “It was our pleasure, Ma’am. Just drive safely.”

Not like you, Chris grinned as she pulled away. But their happiness was infectious, and they were wonderful guys.

Chris didn’t realize just how wonderful until several weeks later when she and her mother decided to make a return visit to her grandmother. Since the snow was almost gone by then, the shortcut was safer. “When we get to the barn, I’d like to stop and let the guys know we made it to Grandma’s that day,” Chris told her mother. But when they pulled up in front to where Chris had climbed into the blue truck, she could hardly believe her eyes.

The barn was vacant, shabby, with paint peeling and door hinges hanging loose. Bewildered, Chris wiped away a heavy film of dirt and cobwebs on the milk house window and peered inside. Where were the heifers, the floor littered with fresh manure? Even the fan was rusty.

“You couldn’t have seen any farmhands or cattle there,” the woman at the next house told Chris. “No one’s worked that property for years.”

Chris got in the car. “Am I crazy, Mom?” she asked, bewildered.

“No.” Her mother was firm. “This is definitely the place.”

Then how….?  Suddenly Chris understood, and like the shepherds at that first Christmas, she was filled with awe. Her angels had worn blue jeans and flannel shirts instead of white robes. But they had delivered the same timeless message to her and to anyone willing to listen. Fear not! The Savior is here! Alleluia!

See more of Joan’s stories at http://joanwanderson.com

Have a beautiful holiday season. Best wishes sent to you & your family.  -H

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Holiday Ads to Inspire

 

A Personal Favorite

Another darling one from John Lewis

Another cute one from John Lewis…”Gifts that everyone will love”

 

GAP has a great holiday motto.  “Share your Gifts”

 

Love this Macey’s ad: What would you do with wishes to make others dreams come true?

Macey’s also put together a magical dance performance on Dancing with the Stars. It is a fun performance to watch. enjoy.

 

The point to these holiday ads…enjoy the holiday season and find ways to “share your gifts” or make other’s feel happy and loved this holiday season. It is the season of giving of yourself, believing in the magic and finding the true reasons for the season. Be a gift to others this holiday season.

Peace and Love -H

Make the holidays Merry & Bright

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The holidays are a time where we have moments of stress and joy!! Like the darling apron I gave my mother-in-law, “Desserts” is “Stressed” backwards. Funny, right!!  For a fun-filled holiday we have to enjoy the good and the bad, so I am going to do my best to give you some great ideas to make your holidays a little more Merry and Bright. EnJOY!

Breakout of the USUAL: During the holidays try something new–if your family has never gone tubing, ice skating or caroling, a bonfire on the beach, fed the homeless or made homemade cards–maybe try it! Shake it up & do the unusual.  Last year we tried snowshoeing and made a great memory.

Keep a stash on hand: I know I am always looking for movies, stocking stuffers, or little gifts last minute to give to a neighbor or friend I forgot. If you have a stash on hand, you will have less worry.

Keep it casual and cozy: Many people would tell you to overdress for any occasion during the holiday, but I would say keep it casually nice and cozy. Where we live it is cold!! Recently we went with my extended family to a performance that was a dressy occasion & everyone kept reminding me, “dress up,” but I used my common sense & went warm. All night everyone was wishing they had dressed warmer.  Tips: Make Nice scarves and hats your new best friends–they dress up any outfit and keep you warm during the holidays. Also, keep it simple–black with a little sparkle fits any occasion.

Set the mood: I think candles and fresh scents stir the senses and make the holidays even better. Where we live it now gets dark around 5pm. Yikes. I begin to get tired even earlier and the darkness seems to zap energy. With twinkling lights, candles and fresh aroma’s of citrus and cinnamon simmering on the stove, the holidays are a little more cozy and relaxed.  Here is a link to some stove top recipes  http://www.spendwithpennies.com/homemade-air-fresheners/

Stop, drop and stretch: Even a little exercise is better than nothing. Doing simple stretches moves your body and keeps the healthy endorphins pumping through your body. This will help with any holiday stress. Here are some simple stretches from Real Simple http://www.realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/stretching-yoga/stretching-exercises

A little more activity: While you are out and about, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little farther from the stores and enjoy a good snow shovel for a friend or family member.

Prepare and avoid the last minute low-down: If you wait till last minute you will begin to feel more pressure, stress and it will leave you feeling low. If you begin to prepare now for gift giving, card creating and overall holiday cheer—everything will be brighter. Make a list of friends and family that you want to send cards or gifts–check it twice. Decide how much you want to spend this holiday season & don’t overspend [this will leave you down after the holidays]. Remember: giving a gift from the heart (homemade cards, knit gift bags, personal photos, etc) are treasured and won’t cost you as much.

You can say NO: There will be many work parties, family, friend, neighborhood parties and events to attend. If you sit down with your family before the hustle and bustle of the season & make a list of the things you want to do for the holidays, you will see the things most important to those you love. So, when invites come, you know what you can and cannot do with the time you have during the holiday season. Remember,  “Holidays” means “Holy days”–so keep each day special with those you love. Cherish each moment.

Embrace the holiday spirit: Have a focus on the meaning of the season–giving, being like Jesus, spending time with family. Create special traditions to truly embrace the holiday season—see my other posts on traditions. Go out and pick an angel off an angel tree & wrap up the spirit of giving. Purchase a special book on the nativity or have a special night where you watch it with your family. Make the season memorable.

Remember this key thing—what do your children really want for Christmas? This will eliminate many of the $$ stress. According to child experts, what children really want more than anything else during the holidays are: 1. Relaxed and loving time with family  2. Realistic expectations about gifts  3. An evenly paced holiday season  4. Family traditions   taken from http://counseling.eku.edu/dealing-holiday-stress-0

Just Breathe: Take a moment and take a breath. When you are feeling overwhelmed by the foods you need to bake or the presents you need to make—take a breath.

Give the gift of gratitude: Give people what they truly need–praise, appreciation and the gift of a grateful heart. Call, Email, Write cards to those you love and include something you love about them.

Hope these ideas help you make your holidays a little more Merry & Bright

Love and Peace to you  -H

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.

Traditions & Rituals for the Holidays

With the holiday season in the air  I thought I would do a special post to address the holidays. This is a time of hurry, mixed feelings of commercial vs meaning, creating memories and making it a special time of year for everyone.

Taking the time to create meaningful traditions at this special time of year will help ensure happiness for all!

Cheers to the holidays…

Holidays…means ”Holy Days”

Thanksgiving is filled with football games, turkey dinners and pumpkin pie, but you could also take pictures of all the guests and have them write down ‘five things they are grateful for’ and share them with the family around the dinner table—OR have a fabric tablecloth & have everyone write what they are thankful for & keep it for the next Thanksgiving feast. Another fun idea—make a hostess gift for the person who hosted the dinner & have a special apron that everyone signs in thanks. You could also pack a special dinner for a local fire/police department (or someone who doesn’t have family nearby) & have the family deliver it

Gratitude book of love to each child…go to Walmart, Snapfish…and create a 20 page picture book…include pictures from the year and some of your favorite artwork from the year…write a special note & give for Thanksgiving.

I AM GRATEFUL for you…love you…xoxo You can also give for birthday or Christmas or any holiday.

 Another idea I began last year, our ‘giving tree.’ My husband travels a lot during the month of November & December, so we put our Christmas tree up around the week of Thanksgiving. Since the tree is up I started to have every guest (for thanksgiving or any visit) write down something they are grateful for on a paper link. I then link them all together to create a chain that I hang on the Christmas tree.

Christmas

Birthday Cake Story: every christmas eve we go to grandmas house and she reads this story with a basket full of goat cheese, a candle and a birthday cake. It is a favorite tradition that we have done since I was young.

Christmas eve pajamas: have special pajamas that can be opened christmas eve

So many things to do…Read or watch Luke 2, make gifts to give to neighbors and friends, go to the salem pond lights and enjoy the carriage ride while singing Christmas tunes, participate in some sort of giving tree, make a turkey dinner for someone in need, download and share some of your favorite holiday tunes, putting out birdseed and bread crumbs & reading the book “Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect” is a nice touch… Make a list of all the things you would like to include this holiday season. Is it making gingerbread houses, visiting a local old folks home to sing carols, visiting temple square, going to see a production of the Nutcracker, seeing holiday lights, drinking eggnogg by candlelight after a winter walk in the snow, making homemade gifts for family and friends, celebrating the advent, lighting luminaries and making wishes, sharing the story of the nativity on the eve of Christmas, watching the nativity, visiting a live nativity, visiting family Christmas day, making snow angels, making ornaments and garland for the tree, having a special tree for Jesus with adornments made with love, ice-skating at the park with homemade hot cocoa, playing games on Christmas day, a special story read the night before Christmas,talking about the history of Christmas and learning about the real St. Nicholas, cutting down your own tree, buying a a live tree and then planting it after the holidays, planting herbs to share as gifts, going to church services, lighting a special candle every day for the month of December, having the 12 days of Christmas, or giving the 12 days of Christmas, making homemade soup and bread bowls, serving dinner at a local shelter, go on a winter sleigh ride, make christmas birdseed balls for our feathered friends, etc. Choose activities that will be memorable for everyone. Have a good balance of personal family time with holiday activities.

12 days of Christmas books, stories or Movies: Pick your 12 favorite holiday books and put the titles on pieces of paper & place in a jar—draw one each evening. (Polar Express, Twas the Night before Christmas, God gave us Christmas, Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect, The Grinch who stole Christmas, Who is coming to our house?…create your own or check out Amazon.com and buy your first book and each year add to the collection)

Christmas guest: a little magic comes to visit to remind little children that they need to be on their best behavior—have a special elf, christmas bear…come with a special note, holiday book, holiday yummy… and have the little visitor watch over the family. If someone is not listening…the visitor leaves to report to the north pole. This little guest does help keep the peace & is something every child looks forward to.

Christmas games: Christmas morning have santa leave a special game created just for this special morning…dice game with stickers (make a giant dice out of cardboard or use a larger toy dice & have stickers on every side–the stickers match the presents), price is right, scavenger hunt, Christmas to do drawing (have someone choose a special thing to do before opening a present–yell ‘Merry Christmas’ out the front door, sing a christmas tune, say something you are grateful for, etc), Christmas around the world—(Its a small world song, bought a little wood globe with people from all over & shared a little trivia & info. before opening a present). Have a string run throughout the house that everyone has to follow to find the family gift.

Break up your day: Have a special holiday breakfast, open a few presents, then break at a specific time to make holiday treats to share with lonely neighbors or someone who needs some holiday cheer, then come back and open another present, have a nice lunch together…spread the fun and festivities throughout your day.

From Family Fun:

Inspired by Eve Bunting’s book Night Tree, the Watermans get together each year with friends and family and trek into the woods to decorate a tree for the animals. The evening begins at home, with the preparation of appropriate goodies: pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed, popcorn and cranberry garlands, orange and apple slices suspended from pipe cleaners. Once the feast is complete, the assembled throng bundles up and heads out into the night. Tree-decking is followed by sharing hot chocolate, holiday cookies and Christmas carols.

Recycle Toy Shop: have your kids pick a day to go through their old toys and fix them up to give away. There are many charities that need items, so clean-up old trucks, brush the dolls hair and spread some cheer.

Light a candle & share the joy to those not near: For family that is not close to home, send invites and have a special day and time where everyone across the country lights a candle, shares a poem, hot cocoa, special chrisstmas tunes and sends out special holiday wishes and cheer.

Surprise someone local: Firefighters, police officers and many other public servants give up their holidays to make sure that ours are safe and happy. Do something nice for someone local–take cookies, dinner…

Putting Christ back in to Christmas

Having a hard time balancing Santa Claus and Jesus?? Turn the holiday season into a season of giving.

Explain the reason for the Season (Jesus), but also include the story of Saint Nicholas and his giving heart.

Talk to your family about having a balance of holiday gifts (to represent the gifts Jesus was given)

and being ‘present’ with the giving heart and true meaning of the season.

Ask What Would Jesus like us to do to celebrate his birth?

Would he like us to have a ‘gimme.gimme. I want attitude’ or would he want us to be more like

Saint Nicholas and create an intentional giving holiday full of family, love, giving and gratitude.

Have a special tree for Jesus. Adorned with ornaments that symbolize Him and his birth.

Have a special manger that you fill with kind and loving deeds

Have a little stocking for the baby Jesus and each year write something you were grateful for or

something you would like to work on to be more Christ like for the coming year.

Celebrate daily with a advent (which means ‘coming’) calendar that is filled with a scripture

or a kind deed for the day, a spiritual activity or service idea for the family.

Candles (originally go with the advent wreath) to be lit every Sunday of the month of December

4 purple candles that symbolize HOPE we have in Christ LOVE God showed in sending His son PEACE that comes through knowing Jesus as our Savior JOY (pink candle) reminds us of the Joy of Jesus’ coming

Then one last white candle that is to be lit Christmas Eve and represents Jesus and His purity

You light a candle every Sunday.

All candles lit=the fulfillment of Jesus’ coming to be the light of the world.

You could light special luminaries as a family and create a special tradition that revolves

around His Light, the Light of the world, ways to be a light within your own life, etc.

30 Day Challenge (between Thanksgiving and Christmas)

Do 1 thing that sets your day with Spirit

(music, prayer, daily pages, quiet time, sweets for your fam,etc)

Give Sweets to your Family

(morning hot cocoa, dryer wamed blankets or coats, sweet notes of love)

Daily or Weekly act of love and kindness

(pass along something inspirational, story, music, affirmation)

Express your Love

(notes, hugs, Quality time, simple I love you, date night with each child, etc)

Notice the Ordinary Miracles within your life

(the warmth of a fire, the winter walks, making snow angels, the touch of those you love, candle glow, cozy sweaters, warm kisses, falling snow, your breath on a cold morning, making breakfast together…etc)

Create ‘Christ’mas meaning within your day

(embrace beautiful stories/songs of the Beloved, bring Christ into your Christmas season)

Share meaningful gifts during this beautiful time of giving

(give gifts that will be remembered and cherished: special photo/story, cd of music, special ornaments they can hang every year, personalized notecards, no matter what a personal card that says something you love and cherish about them)

I would LOVE  everyone to add additional traditions that you do for the holiday season.
Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays! 
Heather