Friday, December 19, 2008

Zooming Thru Life:
Make the Most of Your Holiday Season – Part Two

by Paul M. Carhart

Last time, we took a look at five ideas to help spread the holiday cheer in your life. Now, let’s cap off the list with the final five.

Let your tree reflect you
A Christmas tree can be decorated in an infinite number of ways. Indeed, I can do an entire tree with Disney characters. When we got married, Lori introduced musical ornaments into the mix. When we had Melody, we started a yearly picture ornament. Together, these ornaments will trace her through the years. We know people who travel and pick up a new ornament wherever they go. Others get the kids into the act too, decorating to the kid’s tastes as well with Spongebob and Dora ornaments. The point is, adorn your tree with ornaments that reflect you and your interests. It could be sports, the Victorian era or Star Wars. It doesn’t matter. But when someone looks at your tree, they should be able to tell whose hand was involved. After all, most trees look the same when you buy them. It’s how you decorate it afterwards that makes each one unique. And put every present under it whether you’re giving or receiving. As you exchange presents with your friends and family members, the mix of presents under the tree will change. What a great way to decorate under the tree too!

Hearth and home
The tree is only the first step in decorating your house. There’s stockings, candles, placemats, wreathes, bells, lights, holly, etc. Again, you’ll want to tailor these decorations to your own tastes. Usually, we have a cardholder to hold all of the cards we get. We have stocking holders that go on the mantle and Lori will change out the placemats on the kitchen table (and probably the towels in the downstairs bathroom too). Lori even hangs an advent calendar she used to use in her classroom. Everything gets the festive touch.

Decorate the outside
A lot of people will go overboard this year with their exterior decorations. That’s okay. You don’t have to spend a fortune to tastefully spread some holiday cheer with the rest of the world. We’ve moved a lot over the past few years but we usually manage to pull out a few of the basics no matter where we are. Usually a Christmas wreath will replace our Thanksgiving harvest wreath on the front door. And we almost always put up lights, at least around the windows, to remind us of the season. Whatever the case, put something outside. After all, Christmas isn’t just for us. It’s for our neighbors too.

Cheer up your office space
And in the same vein as the previous tip, share the season with your co-workers too. Of course, make sure you don’t offend your colleagues with your own brand of seasonal cheer. Usually a “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” will suffice. You can give cards, cookies, gifts or simply hang one red glass ball ornament over your desk. Participate in the office Secret Santa if they have one. Attend the holiday party. Whatever strikes your fancy!

Share it with those you love
The giving of gifts is a given. Do so liberally. But make sure you share the joy of the season with those who are closest to you. Christmas can be one of the most romantic times of the year, which is another great reason for the fireplace. Snuggling up to watch classic seasonal films is a great time to remind your spouse of your love and just isn’t the same by yourself. Caroling is another great holiday activity that’s better with two. And don’t forget the mistletoe! Use your creativity to secretly hang it and ensnare your lover. It’s your holiday. So make the most of it!

As that Dickens classic touts, the world is indeed a better place thanks to the Christmas season. So no matter what holidays you celebrate, just make sure you’re not a Scrooge.

Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Zooming Thru Life:
Make the Most of Your Holiday Season

by Paul M. Carhart

Lots of people revere the holiday season as their favorite time of year. And I’m right there with them. So here are a few ideas to help spread further the holiday cheer.

Understand the reason for the season
There are many holidays celebrated during this time (Chanukah, Kwanzaa, etc.). Whatever your beliefs, you should always take a moment with your family to acknowledge why we celebrate. Christmas, for example, celebrates the birth of Jesus the Messiah. For Christians, this is an important time in history when everything in Christianity started. There’s nothing wrong with also partaking of secular Christmas traditions as long as you keep it in perspective and acknowledge the real reason for the season.

Start early
For the die-hards, the holiday season can’t come soon enough and it always ends too early. My family celebrates a wide array of holidays at the end of the year. We start in October with harvest-type decorations. We celebrate Halloween in our own way, allowing Melody to dress up without over-emphasizing the darker aspects. Later on, Lori and I sometimes cuddle up on the couch and watch a spooky movie. Once November starts, it’s popular nowadays to put up the Christmas decorations. However, Thanksgiving is important too and we don’t want it to get lost in the Christmas hype. So, although the jack-o-lanterns are retired, Lori usually continues with the harvest-style d├ęcor right on through Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving is a great time to go all out for Christmas. It’s always a Friday and usually a paid holiday. If you don’t mind the crowds, you can cash in on the sales by getting a head start on your gift buying. It’s also the perfect time to break out all of the Christmas stuff and a good day to go pick out and bring home your Christmas tree. By the end of the day, your home can be transformed into a Winter Wonderland that’ll last through the New Year.

Let the music play
Decorating the house is also the perfect time to break out all of the Christmas CDs that you’ve had in storage. If you don’t have any, it’s easy to spot the Christmas section in any department store. We put them in a CD changer and hit the “random” button. It’s a great way to jump-start the season while you’re doing your decorating duties and throughout the season whenever you need a burst of Yuletide cheer.

Soak up the classics
Every year we put on classic Christmas films. It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street are two of Lori’s favorites. I can’t get enough of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Melody loves Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas. Of course there’s Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, Bill Murray’s Scrooged and Will Ferrell’s Elf to contend with as well. Love Actually is a modern favorite for later at night. Don’t forget all of the great Christmas TV specials from the 70s starring Rudolph, Frosty, Heat Miser and Charlie Brown that are now freshly available on DVD. No matter who you are, there are great holiday films to remind you why it’s such a special time of year.

Feed the fireplace… and your face
It’s cold during the holiday season, so it’s only natural to introduce some warmth into the fray. In our family, we like to put a log in the fireplace and let it glow, let it glow, let it glow. Fireplace or not, ‘tis also the season for baking. Cookies, cakes and pies are welcome treats in addition to the usual candy canes, fudge and all other things chocolate. Keep up that workout though or when you get too cold, you won’t need a fireplace. You’ll have your extra girth to keep you warm.

So enjoy the season. Own it and bring it to all you come in contact with.
Next time, we’ll look at five more things you can do to extend your holiday reach.

Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date: