Archive for the ‘Christmas Blog’ Category

How To Make Your Own Christmas Traditions

When we think about Christmas traditions we think about Charles Dickens. We see the cities and towns made out of the type of old-fashioned houses the replica’s of which we nowadays put in our Christmas town decorations.

3128276344_f984e04ccf We see candle light, families around the table, caroling perhaps.

And we long for a time that is… that was different. Easier? Simpler? Less cluttered?

It seems it was a time when what Christmas really was and how to celebrate it was clear.

Somehow what we do now can seem less real. Less authentic.

New Real Family Christmas Traditions

But making your own Christmas traditions, your own family Christmas traditions, isn’t about newfangled things and ideas. It isn’t about being modern and coming up with routines that aren’t rituals, rituals that aren’t traditions.

A tradition is that which we always used to do. It’s what you tell your kid when you start to say "When I was your age we always…"

Making new family Christmas traditions is about finding the most pleasant we always used to that you can.

Watching "Christmas Story" every Christmas season, all together on the couch with popcorn and cola: that can be a we always used to Christmas tradition.

Getting the first box of Christmas decorations out. Always that one and always the day after Thanksgiving. That can be what your daughter will carry over to the next generation; what she will remember from her Christmases and will show her children how to do.

Sitting together the first evening of the Christmas vacation, dad taking a moment for a short speech in which he welcomes everybody to the Christmas vacation. Or mom sitting down and telling everyone the same night story she used to tell around Christmas when we were all small.

From New to Old Christmas Traditions

What we see from back then? From Dickens? Those were new fangled modern nothings back then. Things happening but many of them not tradition yet.

Go ahead, make your own family Christmas traditions. Who knows which one of them will be what future generations long for?

What is Christmas Joy?

What is Christmas joy? Real Christmas joy?

It’s an easy to answer question if you’re not honest, a hard one if you are.

christmas tree with gifts There are things we’re supposed to say about Christmas joy. That Jesus is the reason for the season, for example. Or that real Christmas joy comes from giving, not from getting.

But honestly, those things aren’t part of my feeling of Christmas joy at all.

What Christmas Joy Is For Me

Christmas joy, for me, is a Season, a happening. An experience. It’s like a long story, a big book or a really good movie. And like the TV events of old we all used to talk about around the water cooler the next day, this is a huge shared experience.

It starts when December draws closer. The music comes, the decorations appear. It’s getting darker — and colder. Inside it’s warmer and cozier.

It’s here, inside, the Christmas joy experience takes place, mostly.

All the Christmas movies we watch, every evening another. With popcorn and diet cola because we save calories for later. Every week we take out another one of our Christmas boxes and put up some decorations; this way decorating for Christmas is relaxed and fun instead of stressful work.

On my computer’s desktop I have Christmas desktop wallpaper. Like the movies, usually another one every day. Oh, not that I have that many just for Christmas; I have some winter landscape ones too.

What thrills me is that we’re all in this together. And that isn’t about family or friends; it’s us as a country all together into Christmas.

Santa Claus Christms Music in the Mall Commercials, stores, store windows, music on the radio, people doing Christmas shopping, Christmas decorations appearing everywhere, everything Christmas themed. On TV popular series have the time in their make believe world synced to ours and we see them having Christmas. The Christmas classics appear.

For a couple of weeks we’re all one, sharing the same experience, living the same life. It’s not that I’m a dreamer but that experience, that us approaching Christmas thing … that’s what I point to when you ask me "what is Christmas joy?"

Christmas Music – Free MP3 “download”

Free MP3 Christmas songs are a big hit right now.

Well, right now — they’ve always been.

Ever since we started listing our collection of legal MP3 free Christmas downloads in 2005 it’s been the most popular page on the site, year after year.

In that time the landscape has changed a lot though. It used to be quite difficult to get some really nice legal Christmas music for free back then. And let’s face it, although we’re talking recession now, us folks have always needed to watch the penny, right? Even if you don’t have to; investing a couple of hundred dollars in a Christmas music collection you’re obviously using just once a year is… well, needed but a painful expense, right? Right.

Nowadays things are different though. You have our non-stop Christmas stations, radio stations that switch to Christmas mucis… and Internet radio.

Also, going back as far as 2005, we listed Internet “radio” stations streaming free Christmas music.

These days you can even get custom stations. For example, head on over to Last.fm’s Christmas music stream for hour upon hour of free Christmas music.

Of course these stations never play the music in the order you prefer. There’s no way to rewind and listen to a track again or simply start listening to your favorite Christmas tune right away.

Or is there?

Here’s a frugal Christmastip: switch on a streaming Christmas music station and use software to record the music stream.

A 100% free solution is Screamer Radio which plays and records MP3 stations. In-between, if you go with their paid version, is StationRipper. We prefer Audio Radio Recorder from Blaze Audio. It’s usually around 80-100 bucks (get a price on Amazon.com) but we use it not only to record Christmas MP3’s but year round.

As long as it’s for noncommercial reasons, recording streaming Christmas MP3’s is legal. They’re free MP3 Christmas download streams, unprotected against copying. As you don’t attempt to “circumvent copy protection systems” section 1008 applies: “No action may be brought […] based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings.”

Novelty Christmas Gifts on the Cheap

A “serious problem” with Christmas gifts is that even we have it all or we’ve seen it all.

Did really nice unique gift that you both for uncle Harry? Forget it, he saw it at Wal-Mart. He knows the full price and he knows when it came on discount…

The problem is even worse in small or smaller towns: everybody knows every store. In such a place even the specialty items are common goods.

Of course there is always making your own gifts. And yes, I recognize that there too a certain level of cliché arises. But there might be a twist, that might be different angle on this. The combination of novelty Christmas gift and do it yourself.

The idea is to go to thrift stores, Goodwill centers, secondhand stores. Look around for genuine articles. You want to go for that think it’s look and feel. With a little bit of luck they’ll even have Christmas items! But if not, no problem either. A wonderful, aged frame, for example, is just as good. Again, it’s that authentic look that you want to go for.

Now when you come home with it here is where you add your own personal touch. Load up that digital photo of uncle Harry, age it, of course using free tools such as Picasa (available as a free download in Google’s pack), insert it in the frame and add a handwritten message.

Now this novelty Christmas gift focuses on a frame. That so many think this items can be repurposed as novelty Christmas gifts. Christmas time is the perfect time to give those Dickian feeling vintage items.

Come on, try it! Get into one of those stores and look around with different eyes.

Does Santa Claus Exist?

One of the hardest questions yet also one of the most frequently asked here at Joy of Christmas is: does Santa Claus exist?

There is of course the “Yes, Virginia” argument as to the question of whether or not Santa Claus exists and historical, almost touristic routes along lines of folklore and figures which can be likened to Santa Claus but we here at Joy of Christmas go a simple step further and unequivocally say; does Santa Claus exist? … YES

Now of course the last thing you want to do, and this doubly so if you’re a kid looking to find a truthful answer to this question, is to take any fool’s word for it at face value. That’s what got you into this mess in the first place and is what has you doubting Santa Claus’ existence right now, isn’t it?

Well, our luxury of answering you with a loud and sound Yes, Santa Claus does exist comes from recorded, US government approved evidence.

Read that again: the question “does Santa Claus exist” can be answered with official records, admissible in court!

After extensive research Joy of Christmas has laid hands on no less than 4 US certified official documents which have recorded Santa’s existence!

US government papers showing Santa Claus exists

You can read more in our Christmas directory in the entry Santa Claus.

Angel Tree Program

Americans are, at heart, giving persons. Always strike us how that is so when the Season starts to warm up and we start to answer emails of people asking about the Angel Tree program. Singular. They want to give.

But invariably we have to answer them about the Angel Tree programs. Multiple. Because that’s who we are; we don’t have one such program, we have at least two.

The two best known are from Christian organisations: the Angel Tree prison fellowship and the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.

Christmas Angel Tree Program

Angel Tree works year-round for the 1.5 million children who have a father or mother who’s in prison. At Christmas time volunteers from participating churches buy gifts and deliver them to the kids but in the name of the parents.

The Salvation Army’s Christmas Angel Tree program, recently renamed to Holiday Christmas Angel Tree program, get children from families in need new clothes or toys. Usually a corporation sponsors a tree placement. The tree is decorated with paper angels, each of which has the first name of a child as well as the age and gender of the child. A person can take the paper angel of the tree and get a gift that’s just right for such a kid.

The Angel Tree program is centered more around churches while the Salvation Army’s program relies on sponsors such as corporations or neighborhood associations for the placement of its trees.

Every year I’m so impressed with the number of people emailing us, asking “can I give to your angel tree program”, “how to give to the angel tree” or “how can I start an angel tree”. We both feel a bit honored that people think we’re involved!

Holiday Spirit

Argh, now I did it myself! [backspace] Holiday Christmas spirit.

There. That’s better.

Sorry but I couldn’t help myself any longer. With 43 days to go until Christmas I’ve placed the first Christmas ornament in my office. OK, it’s tiny but still…

It’s a little house, snow decorated, that sits on top of my printer. No worries, it won’t fall because I don’t use my printer that often. All digital here, you know.

It was wonderful to be out today really shopping around for the perfect Christmas decoration to put up first. Because, yes, everything is still wrapped up in boxes in the basement. So I just “had” to buy something…

It comes from a dollar shop but that doesn’t change anything for me. Hey, in fact, it makes the thing feel that much more joyful to me then when it would have cost ten times more!

Christmas: it’s the cozy season.

Christmas Crackers

That’s just too cool! I was in the supermarket today to pick up some croissants when my eyes were drawn to a tower of “holiday” Crackers (hey, remember, these folks have a hard time saying “Christmas”…).

2 Packages of Christmas Ritz & Christie crackersI’m not sure these haven’t been around longer but it’s the first time I see them.

The Christie Holiday Christmas Crackers are the most fun. In the box are crackers in 4 different shapes: Christmas tree, a bell, a snowman, and Santa Claus.

The Ritz Holiday Christmas Crackers are in the shape of a snowflake.

They were on a 50% discount special here so I picked up a bunch of boxes.

Of course to be festive you don’t need commercial, pre-packaged Christmas snacks:

Downgrading Christmas

The UK Institute for Public Policy Research is recommending that Christmas, which cannot be obliterated, should be down-graded to promote multiculturalism.1

The report, not published yet, has raised so much dust in the UK that the IPPR is now responding and saying “no, no, no, that’s not what we said at all!” Sorta…. Try to follow this:

[…] this does not mean equivalent public holidays for all faiths – no one is asking for that. It does mean being sensitive to important cultural concerns, giving people consideration and respect, and taking measures to combat discrimination. In this respect our report is not arguing for significant change, except in intensifying efforts to narrow the inequalities in life chances that exist between black and minority ethnic groups and the national average.
Source: Rick Muir, IPPR

That’s funny… No equivalent holidays but narrowing the inequalities to combat discrimination.

Uhuh… Because Christmas is, after all, The New Evil Empire?