Ideas For Celebrating a Chicago Christmas

Yes, it’s that delightful time of year again, the time of shopping, decorating, baking, counting down the days, carols, entertaining, and making merry with friends and family. It’s a time of hustle and bustle–with so much to do in so little time! And so…it must also be time for some Christmas tips and time-savers to help you enjoy the holiday just a bit more–and to give you an excuse to sit down for a minute or two while you read this message! In an attempt to make life a little easier, I’ve organized my hints and suggestions into general categories. Unfortunately, this is the only thing I seem to be able to organize, as my own house is strewn with unwrapped gifts, un-hung decorations, and recipes for unbaked goodies! Maybe tomorrow…

SHOPPING AND GIFTS:

santaLittle known trivia:  7/10 of all dogs in Britain receive gifts from their owners.

Who doesn’t like to save money? Sites for valuable coupons, codes, deals, and rebates for hundreds of stores.

Out of ideas? Need something unique like a ‘I Love You’ stones, a wine chiller, a deluxe valet or birthstone ornaments? RedEnvelope.com will surprise you with its offerings. Prefer something whimsical, geeky, or spiritual? Then go to Gifts.com.

There are ideas for those who are budget conscious and those with champagne taste. Many online shopping sites offer free shipping, and some will even gift-wrap for you!

Remember, you can rarely go wrong with a book and Amazon.com is a great source of seasonal favorites, new releases, or the perfect book for just about anyone, young or old.

Little known trivia: There are two Christmas Islands in the world–one in the Pacific and one in the Indian Ocean.

DECORATIONS:

Little known trivia: The first tree tinsel was real silver cut into thin strips.

Looking for new ideas to freshen up the holiday decorations in your Chicago home? Think about displaying seasonally dressed teddy bears, hanging small ornaments on house plants, using cookie cutter or foil-wrapped walnuts as tree ornaments, and tying ribbons and bows to the stems of wine glasses and around the handles of cutlery . These ideas and 95 more can be found at http://www.allthingschristmas.com.

Get suggestions for suggestions on both indoor and outdoor decorating, making wreaths, and creating themed trees. The site also includes some unusual centerpieces, such as a child’s pop-up book, an arrangement of green apples, cinnamon, and greenery, and colorful balls made from Christmas light bulbs. Ever thought about a sugar plum tree?

Little known trivia: 77 million Christmas trees are planted each year.

And speaking of trees, did you know that 5 miles of lights are used to light up Rockefeller Center?

You can also have a virtual visit to the White House tree in the Blue Room. And you just can’t miss the singing tree!

Singing! How could I omit the MUSIC category?

MUSIC:

Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself around you like a shawl. – Bess Street Aldrich

The sounds of this holiday are like no other with pealing bells, children’s shrieks of delight and excitement, rustling gift wrap, whispered secrets and wonderings, and ever the Christmas songs inviting us to sing along in joy and celebration. In addition to the singing tree, you can join in, listen to, or hum with seasonal tunes. Think to about joining or forming a group to go out caroling some evening.

Perhaps it’s time for a lighthearted Christmas poem before we continue on our holiday journey.

Fall of the Snowman by Paul Curtis

Here is a thought of little worth
Snowmen start their fall to earth
From Heaven above unassembled
And like the snow globe it resembled
But if a snowman were then desired
Some assembly would be required.

Okay, back to the subject at hand. Now for…

FOOD:

Little known trivia: Many parts of Christmas trees (pine, spruce, and fir) are both edible and nutritious!!

The traditional Christmas dinner in 17th century England was a boar’s head served with mustard.

Ah, breathe in deeply and savor the smells and tastes of the holidays! In addition to gingerbread men, sugar cookies, and baked ham or turkey, what about trying eggnog bread or Christmas soup?

Whatever is served at a traditional Christmas dinner, meat is probably the main attraction, and what good is that to the vegetarians.  Here are some ideas to mix and match for a vegetarian Christmas menu.

Decorating cookies, making colorful Rice Krispy treats, and enjoying a holiday meal together are all great family activities–and all are delicious!

Feeling challenged in the baking department? These how-to videos will make you a pro!!

Christmas good luck superstitions around the world include: finding a pickle or spider web ornament on the tree, kissing under a sprig of mistletoe, and eating an apple or sprinkling bird seed outside your door on Christmas Eve.

And yet another poem–

THE SANTA CLAUSE by Paul Curtis

When I was a child
I believed in Santa Claus
When I got older
I didn’t believe in Santa Claus
When I became a parent
I was Santa Claus
Now I have grandchildren
I look like Santa Claus

What a perfect segue to the next category!

FOR THE CHILDREN:

The web is overflowing with activities, crafts, games, puzzles, stories, coloring pages, and the like for the younger set, all designed to entertain the kiddies and help them wait for Santa to arrive.

To that end they can keep an up-to -the-second countdown, check the ‘naughty and nice’ list, read Santa’s blog, send your pet’s email to Santa.

The little ones will also enjoy playing Rudolph’s Christmas Quiz Game, getting Santa’s autograph, coloring Christmas pages, watching the Rudolph cam, and playing ‘YuleSearch’.

And don’t forget to track Santa’s Christmas Eve journey!!!!

As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is. Eric Sevareid

Christmas is the time to let your heart do the thinking. Patricia Clafford

Yes, this is indeed the time for…

REACHING OUT TO OTHERS:

No time to write out Christmas cards? To send holiday e-card greetings to friends and family

And speaking of greetings–and gratitude–Xerox has a web site that lets you send a message of thanks to soldiers currently serving in Iraq. This is a FREE service and only takes a minute to choose a design (3 of which are Christmas themed) to send. What a great way to spread the spirit of the season!

Look to your community to extend the spirit of giving. Donations of money, food, clothing, and time will always be welcomed by the Salvation Army, local charities and relief groups, and church outreach programs. Modeling generosity, commitment, and caring is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give your children, and your own Christmas will be enhanced by doing so.

And with that thought, dear readers, I will close with warm wishes for peace and good will to all–for I, too, still have gifts to wrap, decorations to hang, and goodies to bake.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

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