Posts Tagged ‘christmas celebrations’

Christmas in Brazil

July 28, 2016

brazil_treeThose who would love to spend Christmas on Christmas Island might enjoy spending Christmas in Brazil.  Temperatures range from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  A Brazilian Christmas, a blend of Portuguese, African, and Indian customs, is a holy time of remembering the birth of Christ celebrated with close friends and family. 

Papai Noel:  Although pictured as doing so Santa Claus, or Papai Noel as Brazilians know him, does not travel by sleigh and reindeer.  Instead he travels by helicopter.  In early December thousands of children fill Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro waiting for the arrival of Papai Noel.  The helicopter lands; Papai Noel steps out, and the children flood the field.  He greets the children shaking their hands and giving them small toys, such as balloons, water pistols, whistles, and more, as gifts.  After the gift-giving Papai Noel steps to a microphone on stage and leads everyone in a sing-a-long.  Local singers and musicians accompany the throng as they sing Christmas carols and other popular songs.

Children in Brazil do not hang stockings for Papai Noel to fill on Christmas Eve.  Instead, in northern Brazil, children put their shoes by the tree, by their bed, or near a window to be filled with all sorts of small toys and goodies by Papai Noel when he arrives later that night after the children are asleep.

Papai Noel personally visits the children in the southern regions of Brazil earlier in the evening on Christmas Eve.  He takes time to talk to each child before giving presents to the child.  Often Papai Noel is a relative, a friend of the family, or a co-worker.

Presepios:  With the vast majority of Brazilians being a religious people it is not surprising that every church and nearly every home puts up a presepio or nativity scene.

Many churches display life-sized versions of the presepio including life-sized animals.  Among those animals is sure to appear a rooster to remind parishioners of the Missa do Galo (Mass of the Rooster).  Some church presepios are so elaborate that non-church-goers go to church to see them.

Home presepios may be set up in early December; others are not set up until Christmas Eve day.  Some are small fitting on a coffee table; others fill a whole room.  Some are simple; others are abundant.  Whether large or small, many include pieces that have been handed down for generations.

Most home presepios include the Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the three magi, angels, a star, cows, chickens, sheep, and a rooster.  One of the peculiarities of these home presepios is the figures may not be the same scale.  It is not uncommon for Jesus to be larger than some of the other figures.  Another peculiarity comes in the personal touches.  One may see Brazilian animals, Brazilian fruits, airplanes, trains, and other “impossible” figures included in family presepios.

Christmas cards:  Usually people try to send their Christmas cards so the recipients get them before Christmas; but in Brazil, people think nothing of sending their cards after Christmas.  Many cards arrive at their destinations between December 25 and January 6.

Most cards have the traditional wintery scenes showing lots of snow, Santa Claus and his reindeer, Christmas trees covered in snow, and children wrapped in heavy, warm winter clothing.  However, more cards are appearing showing traditional Brazilian weather and scenes of sandy beaches, palm trees, Christmas trees, and, more importantly, no snow.


Look for more about Christmas in Brazil at CustomsOfChristmas.com.

A Memorial Day “Merry Christmas” to our soldiers whereever you happen to be!

May 25, 2014

This weekend in the United States is Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day is the day we remember those who fought and died protecting us and the freedoms we enjoy today. I think we should also remember the men and women who are currently serving in our armed forces. Many times these holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, are hard on our service people because they are away from home and may be feeling a little forgotten by those at home.

This website, www.history.army.mil/html/reference/holidays/index.html, shows pictures taken of our soldiers celebrating Christmas. These pictures span the time between World War I to the present. The Spirit of Christmas truly does show up at all times in all situations.

This year while you prepare your own Christmas celebrations please remember the soldiers away from home perhaps fighting to keep you free and send them a Christmas package. Here are a couple websites that can help you do so.

www.operationwearehere.com/AdoptMilitaryFamily.html
www.militaryfamily.org/feature-articles/holiday-financial-help-for.html

Christmas in Israel

January 25, 2014

It is late.  The streets that were crowded with people, animals, and soldiers during the day are now deserted.  Suddenly the silence is broken by the cry of a newborn baby.  A new life has entered the world.  Not just any life, but one that has been promised for centuries.  This life is God’s gift to mankind.

For over 2,000 years this baby’s birth has been celebrated.  This celebration takes many forms, but there is one thing that is peculiar about this celebration.  People from all over the world celebrate this baby’s birth except the people of the baby’s home country.

Christians of all ethnicities and denominations gather each year from mid-December to mid-January to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the little town of Bethlehem in the small country of Israel.  For the most part the inhabitants of the town look on as the world celebrates selling food, nativity scenes, crucifixes, and other wares in street bazaars encouraging the Christmas tourists to leave some of their money in the little town in a little country.  Other inhabitants may participate in the celebration.  Some may participate for the fun of it.  Some join out of curiosity, and others to worship.

Most Christians visiting the Holy Land during Christmastide celebrate on December 25, but Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate on January 6.

Grotto of the Nativity

Grotto of the Nativity, Bethlehem

On December 24 the Roman Catholic Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem leads a procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, approximately 5 miles, to the Church of the Nativity.  The Church of the Nativity was built in AD. 325 by Roman Emperor Constantine and rebuilt in the 500s by Emperor Justinian.  The church houses the Grotto of the Manger.  The Grotto is about the size of a railroad car illuminated with many candles.  Incense is burned until the air is thick with it.  A fourteen-point silver star marks the place believed to be the spot of Jesus’ birth.  The grounds of the church also houses St. Catherine’s Roman Catholic Church, an Armenian Monastery, as well as churches and buildings of other faiths.

The Roman Catholic Christmas Eve service begins late in the evening with bell ringing, impressive choirs, and a solemn High Mass.  After midnight, Catholics leave mass and proceed to the Grotto of the Manger where an effigy of the Christ Child is placed on the silver star.  Then they return to St. Catherine’s to finish the service.  Other denominations and faiths holding services on December 24 also visit the Grotto.

Protestant Christians tend to meet in one the field outside Bethlehem where, according to tradition, the shepherds heard the angels proclaim the Lord’s birth.  Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians may also meet in rival shepherds fields.  At these meetings choirs lead the worshipers in singing Christmas carols filling the night sky with beautiful music reminiscent of the angelic choir that first Christmas.

While most Israelites do not celebrate Christmas (they celebrate Hanukkah instead), Christmas is celebrated in the Holy Land.  Tourists from all over the world gather each Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus born to “save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 7

October 19, 2013

The Gift of Joy

What is it that people want from Christmas? They dream of white Christmases.
They want to be home for Christmas if only in their dreams. They dream of
walking in winter wonderlands and shopping surrounded by happy shoppers
listening to silver bells. But is that really what they want? No. What
people really want is a sense of fulfillment, joy, and worth; they want the gift
of joy.

How can you get that elusive gift of joy? You must identify what you feel is
most important about Christmas. Identify what you value most about Christmas.

Doing this will involve making choices, sometimes between two equally good
things. “Should I direct the church Christmas program or bake cookies with the
kids to give away as Christmas gifts?” Both are good things to do. The values
that you’ve identified will help you make that decision.

Why do I have to identify these values? Can’t I just wing it? When you
identify your values ahead of time you are resolving the issues ahead of time.
It is easier to make your decisions because you’ve already decided what’s most
important to you. Don’t resolve the issues ahead of time and you may end up
doing nothing and regretting it later.

Identifying what’s most important to you also keeps you from spending all your
time on activities and projects that aren’t right for you. If you’re not
musically gifted you may not want to join a Christmas choir. On the other hand
if you are really good at crafts you may want to make your gifts this Christmas.

Identifying what’s most important to you and what your values are will help you
get that sense of fulfillment, joy, and worth you’re looking for this Christmas.
The following exercise will help you identify what’s most important to you at
Christmas.

Exercise: What Are You Celebrating?
In general, people ask Christmas to do too many things for them. They want it
to strengthen their family bonds, give their spirits a lift in the dark days of
winter, stimulate their compassion and generosity, help them keep tabs on
far-flung friends, confirm their deepest religious beliefs, show off their
skills as hosts and hostesses, establish their rank in the social order . . .
the list goes on and on. No one celebration can do it all.

This values-clarification exercise will help you decide which parts of Christmas
are most deserving of your efforts. Once you have decided that, you will be
able to plan a celebration that is in harmony with your deepest beliefs and
expressive of who you are as an individual.

To complete the exercise, read through the following ten value statements below,
cross off those that have no importance to you, and add any equally important
ones that we have not included. Then decide which of the remaining values is
most important to you. Put a 1 beside the sentence. Then find the one that is
next important to you and put a 2 beside it. Continue in this manner until each
statement has been assigned a different number. Even a value that has a low
priority can still be important to you. Remember: 1 is highest and 10 is
lowest.

Christmas is a time to be a peacemaker, within my family and the world at large.
Christmas is a time to enjoy being with my immediate family.
Christmas is a time to create a beautiful home environment.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Christmas is a time to exchange gifts with my family and friends.
Christmas is a time for parties, entertaining, and visits with friends.
Christmas is a time to help those who are less fortunate.
Christmas is a time to strengthen bonds with my relatives.
Christmas is a time to strengthen my church community.
Christmas is a time to take a few days off from work and have a good time.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the
following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 6

October 8, 2013

Inside The Christmas Machine

Mention gift-giving to a group of people and you’ll get a variety of responses.
While they get pleasure from giving gifts to the special people in their lives,
they have problems with the Christmas gift-giving thing. One problem they have
is they feel they have to give elaborate, expensive gifts. Commercials on the
television and radio, store ads, and store displays shout, “The more you buy and
the more you spend show how much you love the ones on your gift list.” They
just can’t afford giving these gifts. Another problem they have is that
exchanging gifts at Christmas has very little value. They’re either trying to
give something to someone who already has everything or they’re not able tailor
each gift to the needs or desires of the recipient. One of the biggest problems
people have with Christmas gift-giving, however, is the spiritual aspect of
Christmas is drowned out by the commercial aspect. Stores are saying, “Spend,
spend, spend.” Children are saying, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” Rarely outside of
churches will you hear, “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Happy birthday, Jesus!”

So, how can we simplify Christmas gift-giving? One thing we can do is break the
10 unspoken self-defeating gift-giving rules:
1. Give a gift to everyone you expect to get one from.
2. If someone gives you a gift unexpectedly, you should reciprocate that year,
even if you had no previous intention of giving that person a present.
3. When you give someone a gift, you should plan to give that person a gift
every year thereafter.
4. The amount of time and money you spend on a gift should be directly
proportional to how much you care about the recipient.
5. The gift that you give someone should be equal in monetary value and/or
personal significance to the one you receive from that person.
6. The presents you give someone should be fairly consistent over the years.
7. If you give a gift to a person in one category (for example: coworkers or
neighbors) you should give gifts to everyone in that category. And these gifts
should be similar.
8. The gifts you give your children should be equal in number and monetary
value, while at the same time suiting the unique qualities of each child.
9. Men should not give gifts to their male friends, unless the gifts are
alcoholic beverages. Women, however, are encouraged to give gifts to their
female friends, and those gifts should not be alcohol.
10. Homemade gifts are more “meaningful” than store-bought ones.

A second thing we can do is give token gifts. Either make them yourself or shop
for them at garage sales or thrift stores. Some families make a game of this by
seeing who can give the most interesting gift for the least amount of money.

Giving gifts of time and energy is a third way we can simplify our gift-giving.
Give coupon books that the recipient can redeem for various acts of kindness or
gifts of time, or offer to do a chore for a month or some other period or time.

A fourth idea is give a donation to those in need or to the recipient’s favorite
charity in lieu of a gift. Even teenagers go for these gifts.

No matter what you come up with to simplify your gift-giving, gifts given with
love and sensitivity give Christmas fresh meaning.

The following exercises will help you examine and simplify your gift-giving this
year.

Exercise 1: Gift Inventory
In the space below, list all the people you gave gifts to last year. Be sure to
include friends, neighbors, coworkers, and children of friends or neighbors.
Put a dollar sign by each person you spent more than ten dollars on.

Exercise 2: Four Gift Fantasies
1. Imagine yourself in hte following situations and check the ones that are
most appealing to you.
A. You open the mail one morning and discover that you have inherited $250
to spend on Christmas presents this year.
B. You are given two weeks of absolutely free time to devote to making
Christmas gifts.
C. Every member of your family is excited about exchanging simpler and
less expensive gifts.
D. Everyone in the nation decides to eliminate gift-giving from the
celebration. There is no holiday advertising, no gift-giving obligations.
People celebrate Christmas by joining with family and friends, by feasting, and
with family and community Christmas activities.

2. Judging by your reactions to these imaginary situations, what changes would
you ideally like to make in your family gift-giving?

Exercise 3: Gift Memories
1. Think back over past Christmases and remember a gift that you received that
gave you great pleasure. What did you especially like about that gift?

2. Now remember a gift you received that make you feel anxious, confused,
angry, or disappointed. What was it about that situation that bothered you?

3. All in all, what kind of gifts do you feel best about receiving and giving?

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the
following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 5

September 25, 2013

The Christmas Family Reunion

Picture this. The house is brightly decorated with greens and candles. There’s a fire in the fireplace. The kids are playing with their gifts in front of the tree ornamented with lights, tinsel, and all sorts of bright baubles. Christmas carols are playing in the background. Laughter is heard as the adults relax and get caught up with each other. Every room is perfumed by the wonderful food that was the Christmas feast. Sound like your Christmas family reunion? Probably not.

There is so much that has to be done before the gathering. The hostess has to clean and decorate the house, plan the menus, buy all the food, and coordinate schedules. The guests have to buy and gather gifts, make arrangements for pets, make financial and travel arrangements, pack, stop mail and other deliveries, and secure the house.

Then comes the gathering. The house is rarely big enough for everyone attending so inconveniences are sure to crop up. The hot water runs out before the showers are finished. There’s always a line for the bathroom. The children are noisy. Some people stay up too late, while others get up too early. And the kitchen seems to always need cleaning. How people react to each other during these inconveniences determine whether the celebrations goes well or not.

People expect the Christmas celebration to bring everyone closer together. They fail to realize, however, that no family reunion is perfect. Everyone brings baggage to the reunion, family squabbles, neighborhood spats, and even office politics. If this baggage isn’t checked at the door, tensions at the gathering may run high.

Non-traditional families have other issues. Singles, because of movies, television, cards, and their own ideal Christmas, see Christmas as a time for couples or families to be together. Single parents face Christmas with a missing partner; their children missing a father, or mother.

How can we survive the Christmas homecoming? Concentrate on the people and the celebration, and you’ll find your enjoyment of the celebration enhanced. You can also anticipate as many problems as possible and take steps to deal with them before they occur. The exercises below will help you prepare for this year’s Christmas family reunion.

Exercise 1: The Perfect-Family Syndrome
No family is perfect, but if you can accept your family as it really is, you’re going to have a more enjoyable celebration. This first exercise helps you take a look at your family members and explore your hidden expectations for them.

1. In the space below, write down the names of family members that you have complicated or mixed feelings about. Leave a blank space after each name.

2. After each name, write down something that troubles or disappoints you about that person. Here’s an example. Mary did this exercise and made the following comments about her family members:
Person What I don’t like
Dad Drinks too much
Mom Too uptight and busy
Louise Overly talkative
Mark Too withdrawn

3. If you have little reason to believe that people are going to change the characteristics that bother you, look again at each person’s name and tell yourself, “I accept the fact that this person will probably . . . ” filling in the way that person will most likely behave.

Mary did this part of the exercise and told herself that she would try to accept the fact that her father often drank too much at Christmas. She realized that her mother chose to be so busy and that, even though any number of people offered to help her, she was running the show. Her sister Louise had always talked too much and always would. And her brother Mark often backed away from the family, probably for the very reasons that she did. While she experienced some disappointment in realizing these things about her family, she felt clearheaded about what the visit would be like.

4. Now think of one thing that you especially like about each of the people on your list. Write those desirable qualities down by their names.

Exercise 2: Family Strengths

When people are able to focus on their family strengths and not dwell on their weaknesses throughout the holiday season, they find that Christmas is many times more enjoyable. Whether you have specific family problems or not, this exercise will make you more aware of your family’s strong points.

Read the following statements. When a statement is a great family strength, mark it with a star. If it is a lesser strength, mark it with a check. Leave it blank if it does not describe your family at all.

We have common spiritual beliefs or accept each other’s different beliefs.
We know how to have fun together.
For the most part, we communicate with each other well.
We openly express our love and affection.
We have similar life-styles and values or accept each other’s differences.
We do not have serious money problems.
We have common Christmas traditions or make a special effort to respect our differences.
We have compatible styles of child-rearing.
We don’t have serious alcohol problems.
Other.
(If you have few positive responses, make a special effort to fill in the “other” category.)

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 4

September 17, 2013

Children – What They Really Want

Christmas is for children. They add so much joy and excitement to the Christmas celebration. As we watch our children we remember forgotten childhood memories of Christmases long past. The magic of Christmas returns as we enjoy Christmas with our children. Children also give us a chance to examine our holiday activities, which ones to keep and which ones to drop, and start family traditions.

With all this joy children also bring added concerns. Children, it seems, become preoccupied at an early age with receiving gifts. This preoccupation, along with the myriad commercial pressures, make it difficult for parents to create a simple, values-centered family Christmas. We’ll attempt here to alleviate these concerns.

We agree that children really don’t need all the toys and gifts they claim to want. They don’t want them either as evidenced by their boredom hours after receiving the gifts. So what do children really want and need for Christmas?

Children need a relaxed, loving time with family. This means more to them than a tree loaded with gifts. Yet it is much more difficult to provide. With all the added work, planning the Christmas celebration, decorating the tree and the house, cleaning the house, and shopping for gifts, one of the first things to get pushed aside is spending time with the children, with the family. It is important for families to set firm priorities even if it means not participating in other activities. Each December I set aside one Saturday with my children baking cookies and making fudge for Christmas giving and eating. I found that if I didn’t decide ahead of time which Saturday was baking day, we would lose that special time together.

Children need realistic expectations about gifts. Many children go through the toy catalog as soon as it arrives in the mail marking every toy they want. “I want that,” follows each toy commercial whether the child likes the toy or not. If the focus of a child’s Christmas is gifts, they experience a sharp let down when the gift giving is done. Parents need to get their children excited about other aspects of the Christmas celebration and spread that excitement throughout the entire season. Establishing value-centered family traditions help lessen the focus on gifts.

Instead of the fast-paced holiday season, children need a slower, evenly-paced season. In the 1800’s Christmas had a much shorter buildup time. Many people didn’t start preparing for Christmas until mid-December, but their celebration lasted for a week or more. Even as short as twenty years ago the Christmas season didn’t begin until the day after Thanksgiving. Now the preparing for Christmas begins before Halloween and the celebration ends midnight Christmas day. Consider holding off your traditions until a week or so before Christmas or doing one or two traditions a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas and continuing the celebration through New Year’s Day or Epiphany, January 6. Slowdown the pace of your holiday season. Your children with thank you.

Children want to look forward to the same events happening every year. In my house, my children look forward to watching as many of our Christmas DVDs and videos as possible, baking cookies, including frosted sugar cookies, doing the advent calendars on the VeggieTales and Garfield websites (www.bigidea.com and http://www.garfield.com), tracking Santa on Norad’s Santa Tracker website (www.santatracker.com), and reading the Christmas story before opening gifts every year. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things we do, but you get the idea. With these traditions that we’ve established, my children have the chance to do something they enjoy every year. Strong traditions give children a sense of comfort and security. They know that in an ever changing world these Christmas activities will always happen. These traditions don’t have to be elaborate. Simple activities will suffice. As you can see from my list, none of the activities are exacting. They don’t cost a lot of money. Ask your children what they would like to do to celebrate Christmas. They can help you know what traditions to keep and what traditions to eliminate, or at least do less often.

Children, they can add so much to the enjoyment of the Christmas season. They can also add many concerns. The exercises that follow will help you help your children enjoy Christmas this year and every year.

Exercise: Helping Children Enjoy Christmas

1. Of all the needs of children at Christmas, enjoyable time with their families is most important. Think back to last December. Excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, did you spend (underline the correct word) more, about the same, or less happy, relaxed time with your children in December, compared to other months?

2. If your answer to the above question was “less,” look through the following list and check the suggestions on how to spend more time with your children that seem most feasible for you.
Taking extra time off from work
Simplifying our holiday preparations
Entertaining less
Attending fewer parties that are just for adults
Being more relaxed about how the house looks
Cutting back on outside commitments
Making fewer gifts
Watching less television
Traveling less
Seeing fewer friends and relatives
Other

3. Which holiday traditions do your children seem to enjoy most? (If you are uncertain, take some time in the next few days to talk with them.)

4. What holiday traditions or family activities do you children have to look forward to after December 25? (If you have none or very few [try some of the] suggestions [listed after the exercises].

5. Check the statement that most accurately completes this thought: Gift-giving plays the following role in our family celebration:
It is by far the most important tradition.
It is one of several important traditions.
It is of moderate importance.
It is of relatively minor importance.

6. On a sheet of paper, write each of your children’s names and jot down a few sentences that describe his or her attitude toward Christmas presents last year. (If one or more of your children seemed overly concerned with gifts, you may wish to review this [blog].

Suggestions to do after December 25:
Celebrate each of the twelve days of Christmas with simple activities geared for children.
Create a family calendar for the month of December showing when things will be done.
Put together a puzzle or play games.
Put a container filled with candy or some other treat on the tree not to be
eaten until the tree is taken down.
Celebrate the new year with family games and activities.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and Company, Inc.

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 3

September 7, 2013

Men – the Christmas gopher

Many men just can’t get excited about Christmas. Their women wish they would.
It’s not that they don’t enjoy the Christmas celebration, they do. They enjoy
watching the children opening and playing with their gifts. They enjoy the good
food and the atmosphere, but they still could take Christmas or leave it. On
the other hand there are other men that really enjoy the Christmas season. They
get into all the decorating, the shopping, and the planning involved in
preparing for the Christmas celebration.

Why is this? Why is it that some men have such a hard time getting excited
about Christmas? Perhaps it’s because of the limited role they play in the
Christmas preparations. Sure they provide emotional and financial support.
Sure they help run errands. They make some suggestions and take
responsibility for a few parts of the Christmas celebration, but they’re less
involved in the preparations than the women are. Except for dragging out the
decorations, getting the tree, and doing the heavy work the men do little to get
things ready for Christmas. Because of this limited involvement it’s difficult
for men to get excited about Christmas.

Another reason men have trouble getting excited about Christmas is that their
wishes are less represented in the Christmas celebration. Women tend to rely on
their own talents, tastes, and preferences instead of asking the men what they’d
like. Christmas loses the familiar, comfortable aspects that men grew up with.
It’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes. The comfort and familiarity of the
old pair is rarely recaptured.

A third reason men aren’t as excited about Christmas is they feel like they’re
attending another’s party, observing another’s celebration. Because their
decision-making power is limited men feel they are a spectator to their wives
production. Someone on the outside looking in.

The Christmas celebration is definitely not a spectator sport. The next few
exercises, taken from Unplug The Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean
Coppock Staeheli, are designed to help men move from the spectator to the
participant, from the gopher to a co-planner.

Exercise 1: Rating Your Enjoyment of Last Year’s Christmas Activities
1. Scan the list below and cross off the activities that you weren’t involved
in, adding those that we have overlooked.
Decorating the house
Decorating the tree
Shopping for gifts
Making gifts
Wrapping gifts
Entertaining
Going to parties
Going to Christmas performances
Christmas activities with your children
Christmas activities at work
Religious activities at home
Church activities
Gift-opening rituals
Charitable activities
Family Christmas gathering
Music
Other

2. Beside each of the remaining activities, assign a number from 1 to 10 that
shows how much you enjoyed doing it last year. A 10 shows the most pleasure.
Feel free to add comments.
3. Think about what, overall, gave you the greatest pleasure last Christmas.
4. Which activities or situations gave you the least pleasure?

Exercise 2: Remembering Your Childhood Christmas
1. Think back to your childhood Christmas. Which traditions, activities, or
occasions were particularly pleasurable for you?

2. Of these important childhood memories, which of them are reflected in your
current celebration?

Exercise 3: An Exercise For Married Men – Your Role in Your Current Celebration
1. Which of the following statements most accurately reflects your role in your
celebration?
A. My wife determines nearly all of the holiday events.
B. My wife determines more of the holiday events than I do.
C. We share the planning fifty-fifty.
D. My influence predominates.
2. How do you feel about this arrangement?

Exercise 4: Drawing Conclusions
1. From everything you know about yourself and Christmas, ideally, what changes
would you like to make in the coming celebration? (For the moment, don’t take
into consideration how realistic or unrealistic these changes may be.)

2. For married men: What do you most want your wife to know about how you feel
about Christmas?

When you complete these exercises, be ready to discuss the results with your
wife.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the
following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 2

August 25, 2013

Women – the Christmas logistician

In many homes across America, preparations for the Christmas celebration are
carried out by the women. They decide what decorations go up, where the
decorations go up, and when the decorations go up. And if they don’t have the
decorations they want, they buy them or, better yet, make the decorations
themselves. They plan the Christmas feast. They spend long hours shopping for
just the right gift for everyone on the Christmas list. They clean the house
and prepare the guest room for the Christmas family get together. They help
with the church Christmas program and prepare for the neighborhood Christmas
party. Sound busy yet? When you add all this extra work to the busyness of the
everyday job and housework, it’s no wonder many women feel so stressed out and
tired at Christmas. They feel tired and yet happy too. They love making
Christmas special for their loved ones and gladly make the sacrifice.

What women don’t realize is that this added stress and busyness of the Christmas
season builds up and can burn them out. Christmas becomes a chore, no longer
enjoyable. They dread each Christmas season and can’t wait until it’s over.

Women have a great capacity to love. Into each facet of the Christmas
celebration they add their special touch of love, Many pour so much love and
concern into the celebration and into their families who don’t always show
appreciation for what they do that they figure why bother. Just like
rechargeable batteries need to be recharged when they run down women need their
love batteries recharged, something many women don’t take time to have done.

Some women strive to give their families the perfect Christmas. They scour the
Christmas magazines in store checkout lanes looking for the perfect theme for
decorating their house. Or they remember childhood Christmases and try to
reproduce them. Or they come up with their own ideal Christmas and try to come
as close to that ideal as they possibly can. And each year their anxiety level
climbs as they look around and feel that all their efforts fall short of what
Christmas should be.

Following this are some exercises that each woman should complete to discover
what, if any, changes should be made to make Christmas more enjoyable for the
family and less stressful overall. These exercises are taken from the book
Unplug The Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli.

Exercise 1: Life-style Inventory
Many women overestimate the time they have available for holiday projects. Take
the following life-style inventory to get a sense of how busy you are before you
add on the responsibilities of Christmas.

1. Check all the following statements that are true for you:
I’m employed full-time.
I’m employed part-time.
I have young children who are not yet in school or daycare.
I have children in school or daycare.
I’m a student.
I’m a single parent.
I have extended-family obligations.
I am primarily responsible for managing the household.
I have the following additional commitments:
Church
School
Volunteer work (boards, charities, committees, etc.)
Children’s activities
Classes
Other

2. As a general rule I can count on _____ hours of free time a day.

3. I usually spend those unscheduled hours in the following ways:

4. To find time to prepare for Christmas I usually take time from:

Exercise 2: Examining the Work of Christmas
This exercise will help you gain a more objective view of all the holiday
responsibilities you may be adding to your everyday schedule.

1. Look at the following list of typical holiday responsibilities and place a
check by the ones that you were primarily responsible for last year.
Making up a gift list Getting the tree
Christmas shopping Decorating the tree
Making gifts Outside decorations
Wrapping gifts Hosting parties
Mailing gifts Preparing company meals
Writing cards Helping with school activities
Making cards Planning family gatherings
Helping out at church Making Christmas dinner
Holiday baking Extra grocery shopping
Home decorations Making travel arrangements
Sewing clothes Packing
Special holiday cleaning Preparing for houseguests
Advent preparations Other

2. Add any tasks that we have overlooked.

3. Spend some time remembering how you felt last Christmas as you were doing
each of the chores that you checked. Put a star by the ones that you actually
enjoyed.

4. Take a piece of paper and write down the tasks from the above list that you
did not enjoy doing last year. Beside each one, write down a few words that
describe the reason(s) for your dissatisfaction. Here are some common reasons:
Not enough time
Not enough money
Not enough family support
Not enough help
Don’t enjoy this kind of activity
Don’t value this kind of activity
My performance didn’t measure up to my expectations
Wasn’t creative enough

Completing these exercises should give you a better idea of how much time you
have available for holiday projects, how much you attempt to do each Christmas,
and how you feel about those tasks.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the
following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 1

August 17, 2013

This is the first of a nine-part series on having a truly enjoyable Christmas
celebration. Please do the exercises that accompany the posts as they will help
you determine how to make Christmas 2013 a memorable and joyous celebration.
—————————————————————————
How was Christmas 2012? Was it all that you wanted it to be, happy and fulfilled
surrounded by a loving, supporting family? Or was it a stressful chore that you
don’t look forward to repeating next Christmas? For many Christmas doesn’t live
up to the joy it promises. People spend more than they can afford, sometimes
much more, on gifts, food, and decor. They take on more responsibility than they
can handle with parties, programs, daily work, and the Christmas celebration
itself. They also spend less time relaxing with their families. Shopping for
gifts, baking, decorating, and making Christmas crafts take up all available
time. It’s no wonder that Christmas is so stressful and busy for so many.

Americans are obsessed with Christmas. News mediums report on community
Christmas celebrations. Business reports and business magazines tell how
Christmas is affecting sales. Newspapers give homemakers practical advice on
hosting the “perfect” Christmas celebration. Women’s magazines strive to have
the best Christmas issue ever with page upon page of crafts, recipes, and ideas
for decorating the house. Even talk shows get into the act inviting
psychologists to diagnose and prescribe treatment for everyone who suffers from
the “Christmas Blues.” This shallow obsession robs the Christmas holiday of much
of the joy many expect to experience at Christmas.

How can we fix this problem and make Christmas a more meaningful and joyful
celebration? To answer this question we need to consider three questions. What’s
it like, for each family member, to go through the holiday season? What’s the
root off people’s problems with Christmas? How can we restore the simplicity and
beauty to the Christmas celebration?

Christmas is very different now than it was a hundred or more years ago. In the
1800’s, preparations for the Christmas celebration didn’t start until
mid-December and the celebration lasted for several days. Now people are buying
and planning the Christmas celebration months in advance for a celebration that
lasts only one day. Family, community, and religious traditions have been
replaced with passive, money-making events where people get into the “Christmas
spirit” by enjoying the work of others. The family celebration hasn’t escaped
either. It has become an elaborate, expensive production where the crafty
decorations found in the latest Christmas issue rule and time for families to
relax and enjoy each other suffers.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring the answers to the above questions.
We’ll look at how Christmas preparations affect each member of the family. We’ll
examine the traditional Christmas homecoming. We’ll also look at what we do to
celebrate Christmas and how we can make our celebrations more meaningful and
less stressful.

The Christmas Pledge
Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the
following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

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