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Christmas & Hanukkah

Christmas & Hanukkah



Parent Tips > Holidays & Annual Events > Christmas & Hanukkah

Holiday Shopping Guide 2008

Fabulous Holiday Gift Guide

for Everyone!

Mom, Dad, Friends, Babies, Toddlers, Tweens & Teens

 

Click on this link for fabulous gift suggestions.

 

Warning!

15 Pages

of carefully researched items for families.

Christmas Trees

Christmas Trees

Purchasing a tree...

 

  • Decide on the size you want (measure your space at home).(BUILT IN) (Icons/Graphics) ChristmasTree.jpg
  • Decide on your budget. Some of the bigger businesses like grocery stores will have inexpensive trees but they will not always be as fresh.
  • Test the freshness by pulling on a branch and seeing if the needles stay on or fall off. With fresh trees, the needles should stay on and be flexible.
  • Noble Firs tend to be more durable and do better with the heat in the house. They are also great for hanging ornaments.
  • It is nice to go to lots where you can easily view the trees that are in stands and soaking in water rather than the ones lying in a bunch.
  • You want a tree that is still able to drink water! Make sure to have the bottom of your tree cut before taking it home and then put it straight into a stand with water.

After the holidays, you don't have to throw your natural tree away! Here are some tips on what to do with your tree after the holidays:

 

  • Removing the tree: The best way to avoid a mess removing your tree is to place a plastic tree bag (which are available at hardware stores) underneath the stand when you set the tree up! You can hide it with a tree skirt. Then, when the holidays are done, pull the bag up around the tree, stand and all, and carry it outside. Obviously, you will want to remove the stand before recycling the tree. If some needles do scatter inside, it is better to sweep them up; as needles can clog vacuum cleaners.
  • Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden. Mulching programs are a fast-growing trend in communities throughout the nation.
  • Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for river beds.
  • Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds, trees make excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
  • Bird feeders: Place the Christmas tree in the garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed). Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper.
  • Living, rooted trees: Of course, next year, you could get a rooted (ball and burlapped or containerized) tree and then plant it in your yard after Christmas. (It's a good idea to pre-dig the hole in the late Fall while the soil is still soft.) NOTE: Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates like ours.
  • Important: Never burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. Burning the tree may contribute to creosote buildup.

Tips for Cleaning up After christmas

Setting up for the holidays is much more fun than taking it all down. Try a few simple tips for clean up this year...

PACKING UP YOUR DECORATIONS: Rather than just putting all the ornaments in a box, the garlands in another box, etc. Try packing them up according to where they were in the house (ie: tree, mantle, bannister, table, etc.) Hopefully, this will simplify the set up process next year.

After the holidays, you don't have to throw your natural tree away! Here are some tips on what to do with your tree after the holidays:

* Removing the tree: The best way to avoid a mess removing your tree is to place a plastic tree bag (which are available at hardware stores) underneath the stand when you set the tree up! You can hide it with a tree skirt. Then, when the holidays are done, pull the bag up around the tree, stand and all, and carry it outside. Obviously, you will want to remove the stand before recycling the tree. If some needles do scatter inside, it is better to sweep them up; as needles can clog vacuum cleaners.


* Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden. Mulching programs are a fast-growing trend in communities throughout the nation.


* Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for river beds.


* Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds, trees make excellent refuge and feeding area for fish. Bird feeders: Place the Christmas tree in the garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed). Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper.


* Living, rooted trees: Of course, next year, you could get a rooted (ball and burlapped or containerized) tree and then plant it in your yard after Christmas. (It's a good idea to pre-dig the hole in the late Fall while the soil is still soft.) NOTE: Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates like ours.


* Important: Never burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. Burning the tree may contribute to creosote buildup.

 

I am a relaxed parent...but it hasn't always been that way!

Submitted By: Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

"I am a relaxed parent....but it hasn't always been that way. I used to think that the holidays meant expensive gifts and being pulled in a million directions. I ended up feeling stressed and inadequate. Then I learned a few Triple P tips that have helped me manage holiday life with kids and stay calm through it all." Triple P Parent

 

If there were a stress meter attached to parent's arms during the holiday season, we could see that parents have reached and even gone beyond the meter's maximum limit. Being a parent is busy and demanding. You have to manage and balance the demands of your children, partner, household, work, friends and family. It is normal to feel stressed as a parent, whether it is the holiday season or not. When parents often feel a high level of stress, it can be hard to deal with their children's behavior calmly and consistently.

 

Parents who are overly stressed may not have enough energy to spend time with their children or can become irritable and impatient. Sometimes parents feel so worn out that they are not able to recognize their children for positive behaviors.

 

If you are a parent feeling overly stressed, you are not alone! There are several steps that parents can take to manage stress levels so that parenting can be more natural and easy. Here are some things you can try right away.

 

Have realistic expectations of yourself. This will make it less likely that you will set yourself up for unnecessary stress. For instance, it is not reasonable to think that you can always maintain a tidy house, or that your children will always do as you ask, or that you can always say ‘yes' to people who ask for help. You may also want to lower some of the ‘holiday expectations' that you have for yourself. For example, if your list of people to buy gifts for feels overwhelming, consider alternatives that are not as expensive such as your children's art, or certificates for a fun outdoor activity like exploring the season's low tides.

 

Include your children in holiday preparation activities. Explain to them what the holidays mean to your family and describe the traditions that you grew up with. When children are included, it will make the holiday preparations fun for them. Some ways to include children are:
• Creating decorations that can be put around the house or on the Christmas tree
• Creating home-made holiday cards
• Wrapping gifts
• Making placemats or centerpieces for the holiday dinner table
• Assisting in making special holiday foods or drinks


Creating meaningful routines that allow your child to contribute means letting go of perfection but building your child's skills and sense of belonging.

 

Recognizing the warning signs of stress can help end the stress cycle before it becomes unmanageable. These include:
• Tense or stiff muscles
• Headaches
• Irritability or anger
• Disturbed sleep
• Tiredness
• Problems concentrating
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Stomach upsets
• Skin reactions
• Low immune system (repeated infections or viruses)

 

Find a relaxation technique that works for you and use it when you notice any of the above warning signs. Relaxation techniques can include breathing exercises (such as slow deep breaths), muscle relaxation techniques (tensing and relaxing muscles one by one), visualization (imagining being in a nice place), and meditation. Involving your children in some of these techniques will not only give you an opportunity to use the technique(s), but will teach your children how to relax from an early age.

 

One relaxation technique children enjoy is rubbing lotion on the hands for a few minutes. The repetition, movement and texture help create a calming effect. Try practicing whatever technique you choose with your children everyday for two weeks, even when you are not stressed. This will help you learn to relax as easily as you tense up.

 

Catching unhelpful thoughts and challenging them will help decrease your level of stress. Unhelpful thoughts usually pop up without warning when you are stressed and are believable at the time you are having them. When looking back at unhelpful thoughts, they are unrealistic and exaggerated. Some examples of unhelpful thoughts are: I can't deal with the holidays anymore I'm done with it; He did that just to make me mad; It's all my fault. When you find yourself having these thoughts, recognize that it is happening and try to challenge them. You can challenge these thoughts by debating the thought with yourself. Ask yourself, "Is what I'm saying really true? Is there any evidence of this?" Look for other explanations to the situation and come up with a more realistic way of thinking about it, such as "I've managed fine all day, it just became challenging while I was preparing dinner. Tomorrow night I will set him up with his favorite puzzle before I begin preparing." It can also be helpful to replace the unhelpful thoughts with some coping statements that work for you.

 

Some examples of coping statements are:
• I can do this, I've done it before
• It's OK to make mistakes
• It will be over soon
• It's ok to feel nervous, I can cope with this feeling
• I'll get through this

 

As we enter the frenzy of the holiday season, come up with a plan for yourself. Think of something you can simplify about the holidays, include your children in the plans, come up with a relaxation technique and a coping statement that you and your children can use together and get back to the core of what the holidays are for...enjoying time with your family!

 

If you would like to learn more about coping with stress as a parent and/or other parenting strategies for your family, contact First 5 Santa Cruz County to help you find a local Triple P practitioner. For more information on Triple P services please visit www.first5scc.org or contact Stephanie Bluford at sbluford@first5scc.org (831) 465-2217.

Chanukah in a Nutshell

Submitted By: Chabad by the Sea, Santa Cruz

from Chabad by the Sea, Santa Cruz

 

Chanukah -- the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev -- celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

 

More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.

 

When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

 

On Chanukah we also add the Hallel and Al HaNissim in our daily prayers to offer praise and thanksgiving to G-d for "delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few... the wicked into the hands of the righteous."

 

Chanukah customs include eating foods fried in oil -- latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there"); and the giving of Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children.

A Baker's Pantry

Here's What you'll need to make all your goodies

  • Unbleached, all-purpose flour contains a combination of high- and low-gluten wheat. Store flour in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place for up to six months. Keeping flour in a large glass jar makes it easy to measure. To keep flour weevils away, insert a bay leaf or two into the jar.
  • Cake flour is milled from low-gluten soft wheat. It is used in tender cakes and pastries. Be sure to use cake flour that does not contain any self-rising agents. Store cake flour in a plastic bag inside an airtight container in a dark cool place.
  • Baking powder is a baking additive that releases carbon-dioxide gas which helps bread doughs and other items rise. Over time, baking powder loses its effectiveness. While you can find large containers in stores, it's best to buy small containers. Store them tightly covered in a cool, dry place.
  • Baking soda is also a baking additive, but it works by reacting with acidic foods, such as lemon juice or molasses, to help bread doughs and other items rise.
  • Granulated sugar is the most common form of sugar produced. It is created from either refined cane or beet sugar. Store sugar in a tightly covered airtight container. Sugar can stay in a pantry for a long time, which makes it useful for using in canning and preserving.
  • Superfine sugar is granulated sugar that has been finely ground. Because it dissolves quickly, it is most often used in baked goods and icings.
  • Confectioners' sugar is granulated sugar that has been ground into powder form. It is generally used in uncooked foods and is most often an ingredient in uncooked icings. Confectioners' sugar generally has a "10x" or "3x" descriptor, referring to the number of times the sugar has been sifted before packaging.
  • Light brown and dark brown sugar are two types of white sugar that contain molasses. The lighter the sugar, the more delicate it will be in flavor. Light brown sugar contains about 8 percent molasses and 92 percent granulated sugar. This ratio of molasses to sugar enables light-brown sugar to caramelize sooner than dark-brown sugar at low temperatures. Dark-brown sugar contains a higher molasses content and tends to burn faster during cooking. Brown sugars will harden if they are exposed to air, so store both types tightly in an airtight container.
  • Dutch-process cocoa has a richer flavor and darker color than regular cocoa, resulting from the addition of an alkali that neutralizes the cocoa's natural acidity. Store cocoa in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.
  • Chocolate varieties include semisweet, bittersweet, milk chocolate and white chocolate. Have all types available for different uses.
  • Walnuts can be purchased both shelled and unshelled. When buying shelled, look for walnuts with no holes or cracks in the shells. These should be stored in a cool, dry place for up to three months. Unshelled walnuts should be kept in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container for up to six months. Discard nuts older than these dates, as they most likely will have become rancid.
  • Almonds should be stored away from direct sunlight in a tightly covered, airtight container. Almonds can also be purchased both shelled and unshelled. Shelled almonds can be stored in an airtight container up to six months, but shelled almonds should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container also up to six months.
  • Pecans that are unshelled can be stored at room temperature for up to three months. Shelled pecans tend to absorb odors when placed around other foods, so store them separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to six months.
  • Hazelnuts are perishable nuts. Since shelled hazelnuts will dry out very quickly, they should be used immediately. Unshelled hazelnuts can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three weeks. Shelled hazelnuts should be refrigerated for up to three months in an airtight container.
  • Vanilla beans are the seed pods of the orchid Vanilla planifolia, one of 20,000 varieties of orchids that bear edible seed pods. The most common types of vanilla beans originate from Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. Tahitian beans are the most flavorful.
  • Vanilla extract is a sweet liquid formed from the infusion of vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol. The resulting mixture is allowed to age for several months, intensifying in flavor. Keep vanilla extract covered in a cool, dry, dark place. Avoid using imitation vanilla extract, as it does not yield the same flavor as pure vanilla extract.
  • Cinnamon is the inner bark extracted from an evergreen tree native to the tropics. The bark is harvested from the tree and dried. Cinnamon is sold both as sticks or ground into powder.
  • Unsalted butter is the best butter to use for baking. This type of butter should be stored in the freezer for long-term storage. The American Dairy Association recommends keeping unsalted butter no longer than two weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Parchment paper is a non-stick, unwaxed paper that is excellent for lining baking sheets when baking cookies. Parchment paper not only ensures that cookies won't stick to the baking pan but also eliminates the need for greasing the pan.

2013 Holidays

 

Source: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/

10 Tips for Holiday Organization

Submitted By: Shannon McGinnis

10 Tips for Holiday Organization

How to simplify, pare down and focus on the joy of the holidays!
The holidays are here and they can be a very busy and hectic time of year. With a bit of planning, you can stay organized throughout the holidays!

 

1. List: Create a Holiday Gift List that itemizes all the people you would like to buy a gift for and list your gift ideas. Create a column to check off once the item is purchased. This list can also be used to set up a holiday budget. Store your holiday gift list in a "Holiday" file folder to be used year after year.

 

2. Sort: As you get out the holiday decorations, sort them into categories of what you will and will not use this year.

 

3. Purge: Anything you do not want or that is old, chipped, faded or no longer working should be given away or thrown away.

 

4. Un-decorate: Remove some of your everyday decorations to make room for the holiday décor. Evaluate the quality of your year-round decorations before you store them. Do you really want this to go back on the mantle after the holidays? Don't store anything you no longer want. Give it away.

 

5. Decorate: Start with the room that you will be entertaining in most frequently and then continue, room by room until your entire home is decorated for the holidays. Save the original packaging of fragile items for future storage.



6. Remove: It's time to take down the holiday decorations. Live wreaths and trees should be discarded properly; often they can be recycled into mulch. Any ornaments made of food (popcorn, dried fruit, dough, etc) should be discarded as mice and rats will chew through even the thickest plastic bins to get to the food inside. If it is a very special memento, consider storing it in an airtight metal container. Carefully inspect items for chips, stains and tears before storing decorations and serving ware.

 

7. Containerize: Get the right containers for each type of decoration you have. Strands of lights and glass beads individually sealed in plastic bags avoid tangles next year. Fragile ornaments stored in their original packaging will best protect each item. Wreaths attached to a flat piece of cardboard and wrapped in a large plastic trash bag will be protected from dust. By containers now, even Big Lots has great choices from Sterilite!

 

8. Separate most important items: Create a holiday container that stores the holiday items you use first, such as holiday cards and mailing labels. This is the container you open first, either the day after Thanksgiving or on December 1st. In this tub, store ribbon and wire for wreaths and grave blankets. Money cards and $20 bills on hand also make it easier to tip the service people in your life: news carrier, hair stylist, etc.

 

9. Store properly: When your decorations are stored in sturdy plastic tubs, rather than cardboard boxes, the items will be protected from rodents, insects, and moisture. Holiday decorations that are only used for a few weeks a year can be stored furthest away: think attics, rafters, basements and storage sheds. Store wreaths at the very top so that they don't get crushed and look just as full and vibrant next year.

 

10. Re-decorate: Consider the placement of your furniture and the use of space on your horizontal surfaces before putting the same year-round decorations back in their previous locations. Is there somewhere with more light that the beautiful ceramic piece could be displayed? Should the candles stay out so that they are used more frequently throughout the rest of the winter?
Enjoy your holiday organizational success and Happy New Year!

 

If you are overwhelmed by the holidays, consider asking for help. Hire a Professional Organizer to help you stay organized during the holidays and throughout the year. Any expenditure that increases your peace of mind usually is worth the money. Give yourself the gift of sanity! Start the New Year out with more time to enjoy life!

 

Shannon McGinnis, Santa Cruz's only Certified Professional Organizer, is the founder of Organized 4 Success! Shannon publishes the monthly "Strategies for Success Ezine" which offers free tips, articles, and advice on how to be more organized. If you are ready to be organized, get your FREE Success Strategies from Shannon now at: www.Organized4Success.com

Christmas Trees

Crest Ranch Christmas Tree Farm  -- Choose and Cut
12500 Empire Grade Road, Santa Cruz 426-1522 Open: Weekend before Thanksgiving

Daily 8:00 am to 5:00 p.m.   Douglas Fir, White Fir, Scotch Pine, Austrian pine, Arizona Cypress, and more.Picnic area, snack bar on the weekends.

 

The Johnson Farm -- Choose and Cut and Pre-cut
16385 Two Bar Road, Boulder Creek  338-0422  Open: November 25 through December 18.  Daily 9am to 5pm.   Choose and Cut: Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine.  Pre-Cut Trees: Noble Fir, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir and Grand Fir. Weekend hay rides - $2.00.

 

Patchen California  -- Choose and Cut
22217 Old Santa Cruz Hwy., Los Gatos  (408) 353-1615

Open:  Thanksgiving 'til Christmas Daily, dawn until 9:00 pm (UNDER THE LIGHTS),

Directions: From Highway 17, exit on Summit Road, cross over the overpass, then turn left on Summit Road for 50 feet, then left again on Mt. Charlie Road for 3/4 miles. Douglas Fir, Sierra Redwood, and Monterey Pine.

 

 

Coping with Grief During the Holidays

Submitted By: Hospice of SB

 

For most of us, the holidays are a special time we eagerly anticipate when family and friends come together to celebrate traditions. For those who have lost someone close to them, the holiday season can bring forth powerful and painful feelings of loss and sorrow. And for some-especially those who have suffered a recent loss-the holidays can seem unbearable. Hospice of Santa Barbara offers some helpful ideas for someone who has experienced the death of a loved one, to make it through and to even bring some joy back into the holiday season. Here are a few suggestions:

 

  • Find a way to incorporate the one you loved and lost into the holidays
  • Understand that the holidays will never be the same as they were before the loss
  • Make new traditions-for example, take the family on vacation if you usually stay at home. 
  • Help others-take a meal to a homebound person or volunteer in a shelter
  • Buy gifts online or through catalogs if the idea of going shopping is overwhelming
  • Make donations in the name of your loved one
  • Accept invitations that sound the most appealing and avoid the ones that feel more like an obligation.
  • Don't hide your feelings (especially not from children)
  • Don't accept every invitation-be selective about the activities you choose 
  • Don't isolate yourself
  • Don't conceal your emotions

Developing Traditions

Christmas Train Nostalgia by Bill Makel

 

    When I was a kid about five or six years old and Christmas came around there was only one thing I was interested in getting, Lionel electric trains. I would prowl the department store train layouts for hours and just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story I left some real obvious clues concerning what was needed to improve my little empire each year.  I would save whatever cash I could get my hands on all fall and hit the stores after the holidays when the prices would drop fifty percent or more. By the time I was twelve about sixty four square feet of the basement was taken up by my Lionels and was left up year round.

 

      At about sixteen my interest in the hobby waned but lucky for me my folks disassembled my layout and boxed it all up.

 

    I didn’t give my train set much thought for a long time and then my dad died and after flying back east for the funeral I discovered the entire collection still in the original boxes in the folk’s basement. Out they came on the plane with me and the second phase of my Lionel life began. With help from some friends I set up the whole thing in the front window of the garage I ran and took great pleasure in seeing them stare in amazement.

 

    About three years ago I sold the shop, gave some of the trains away, put the rest in storage and although I was a little nostalgic for those good times I thought I’d never have that kind of fun again during the holidays.

 

     Then about six weeks ago I got an e-mail from one of the train guys informing me that the local train club had received permission to set up some electric trains at the Museum of Art and History. The local train club is composed of a group of aging trainsters who started collecting Lionel sets before the Second World War and never stopped. We’re talking about thousands of pieces of rolling stock and operating accessories, enough to easily stock a large hobby shop. Many of the engines are valued at five, six hundred dollars or more.

 

    I couldn’t get away from work fast enough to help set the whole thing up. I went down yesterday to help run it and it is spectacular. I’m on the two to five shift and the place was filled with families the whole time. We run the trains but there is a series of buttons on the outside that the kids can push to see the various accessories load and unload barrels, logs, lumber and a half dozen other operations essential to railroading.

 

    One kid about ten was there for the entire afternoon and became so familiar with the locomotive controls that we let him run them. I expect to see him again today. Another kid about four or five looked up at me and asked if he could touch one of the engines. I took the one he was pointing to and put it in his hands. He looked at it for about a minute, handed it back and pointed to another one. He carefully held each one, very cognizant of its fragile nature and then hand it back after a close examination.

 

    I’ll be there again this year starting December 18, as I find this very exciting and a fun thing to do and expect the crowds will get larger as word gets around. I’m not sure who is having more fun here, the families or us.

 

Bill Makel                       

Make A List

Start making a list of who you need to buy gifts for early on. This way when you are out shopping and find something that would make a great gift, you can look at your list and see if it works for anyone. It also helps if you are on a budget to make a note of what you want to spend on each person.

Make a note of those that need to be shipped so that you can get everything off on time without a lot of extra trips to the post office.

Purchases

Gift certificates are great for those that live out of town. They are easy to get and you dont have to spend a fortune on shipping.

Remember to get gift receipts so that people can exchange things at the rate you paid rather than the after Christmas sale prices.

If your kids don't need more toys, why not suggest alternatives to family members: A museum membership, a series of classes such as ballet, karate or parent-child classes.

Gift Giving Alternatives

Often you hear family members or friends saying ""Please don't buy me a gift-I don't need anything."" The problem is that these are usually people you want to express your appreciaton to.

 

  • Consider donating to a special cause in their name. Purchase gifts for children in need. Take a meal to a needy family. You can send your family or friends a letter describing what it is you did. Most people will really appreciate this gesture and you will helping others that really are in need at the same time.

 

  • Adopt a Family: You can adopt a family through the Salvation Army by providing gifts and a Christmas meal to them.

 

  • Deliver meals to families in need.
  • Before you decorate for the holidays, work with your kids on cleaning out their toys. You can also clean out your food shelves. Make a box of give away toys and food and deliver them to a local charity. Talk with your kids about good deeds and how Santa watches you and that this is how you can get on the Nice side of the Naughty vs. Nice list. Very fun, Rewarding and helpful to your own cause of cleaning out before the new stuff comes piling in.
Gifts For Family & Friends:
  • If you love giving gift certificates but sometimes feel it doesn't look like you put much effort or thought into the gift, make candy, brownies, or cookies to attach to the gift certificate to give it a simple, inexpensive, and personal touch.

 

  • Inexpensive wrapping ideas: Instead of purchasing holiday bags and gift wrap, make your own. Use paper bags and brown postal wrapping paper. You can decorate these gifts with raffia, ribbon, and bows or stamp and color them by yourself or with your children. A simple way to include your child in the gift giving process and keep them occupied as you gift wrap is by having them make a simple card or name tag to attach to the gift while you are busy wrapping.Our first goal is to get the kids to think of someone other than themselves during the holidays. We work hard to make it fun for them to buy things for others. We participate in Operation Christmas Child which sends shoeboxes full of toys and practical goodies to kids in other countries. We also incorporate the kids in buying gifts for other members of the family and experiencing the joy and excitement of giving.
  •  We started buying our kids 3 gifts each. One gift is a practical gift that they would enjoy like extra fun pajamas or a jersey from one of their favortie teams. Then we get them something special and a little bigger than the usual gifts - a playset, bike, LeapPad. Our third gift is something to help them grow - an art or music set, series of classes, something for the LeapPad.
  • As for the grandparents (the real culprits for making their holidays full of stuff), we ask for something bigger so there aren't a bunch of little things. We also encourage the grandparents to buy them experiences - like gymboree or art classes, a fun trip with them, tickets to a show or swim lessons.

Fun Activities With Your Kids...

Gather large pinecones outside. Decorate them with glitter and attach yarn to the top to hang them on gifts or on the Christmas tree.

Get a caroling group together or join a caroling group and sing carols around your neighborhood or at a nursing home, etc. Most kids love to sing and it is a wonderful way for them to make others happy.

Decorate gingerbread houses. Have a decorating contest and split family/friends into small groups at Thanksgiving or around Christmas and have a contest for most unique, most traditional, etc. If you do them at Thanksgiving, they can be left on display throughout the holiday. Consider putting the houses together the day before so they are sturdy to work on.

Have a sugar cookie decorating party. Have the cookies already made and cute. Set a table with different frostings and candy to decorate with.

For Hanukkah, make latkes and Chanukah cookies with your children. Place the Menorah in the window to share the light of Hanukkah with friends and neighbors.

Work on your holiday menu early by going online or reading magazines for recipes and fun ideas. Consider asking a relative for family recipes to keep family traditions alive.

Start New Family Traditions

Have the kids put on their PJs, put hot chocolate in sippy cups and drive around town looking at Christmas lights.

Some families buy the kids a new ornament so that when they are older and get married, they will have some sentimental ones to start their tree (great gift from grandparents too).

As a present to open on Christmas Eve, buy the kids new pajamas they can open and wear. Great for photos on Christmas morning.

On Christmas eve we always mix oats and glitter in bags and we sprinkle on our lawn for santa to see and the reindeer to eat. kids of all ages can do this and love it!

Host a group of your children’s friends and decorate holiday cookies or gingerbread houses. The kids could even consider sharing them with a retirement home.

Make the tree decorating a special event: play Christmas music, drink hot chocolate, string popcorn, etc.

Take Time to Give Back

View our Families Giving Back page to see how you and your children can help others less fortunate during the holidays.

 

Winter Camps

Look under our CAMP RESOURCES for a list of Winter Camps.

local sponsors
• Look for these same great services in other cities under ParentClick •