Archive for December, 2010

December 7th, 2010

Decorating the Christmas Tree

Christmas TreeWe want our homes to look the best they can over the holidays. Before the Thanksgiving turkey is even cold we are pulling out the yuletide decorations. While we spruce up the inside and outside of our homes with bells and whistles, don’t forget about the Christmas tree.

Decorating a Christmas tree is a family affair. Now, the husband and the kids may not want to go around the house hanging Christmas banners and Christmas cards with you. You may not enjoy climbing on the roof of the house to hang lights either. Everyone can, however, participate in the Christmas tree decoration. Your tree says a lot about you as a family – your choice of ornaments, tree topping, and tree skirt.

First choose your tree. Many go for artificial trees because there are no dried pine needles to pierce the bottoms of tender feet or vacuum up. Some artificial trees come pre-lit so that eliminates the need to buy strands and strands of lights. Artificial trees are available in many different colors, white, blue, pink, as well as green and are of varying heights and types.

For a real tree, some families get theirs a couple of weeks before Christmas. Tree farms and tree lots usually have a nice selection of Christmas trees with hearty branches. Be sure that you can’t see through the tree. If you can, then it will be too thin to hold heavy ornaments.  Also make sure to water real trees frequently once you’ve brought them home and placed them in their stand. This will prevent drying out of needles and possible fire hazards or a brown tree on Christmas morning. 

Here are some decorating suggestions no matter which type of tree you choose for your family this year.

  1. Start with the lights. It’s going to be hard to put strings of lights on the tree after you’ve put all of the other goodies on the tree. For kids, it’s fun to put a strand or two of running lights so that they blink instead of staying on all the time. Depending on the size of your tree you may only need a couple strands of lights. 
  2. Add a touch of garland. There are many different kinds. Most people shy away from traditional icicles because they are a fire hazard especially on a live tree. The garland that has icicle like strands are just the same. Some opt for homemade popcorn  or cranberry garland (fun for kids!), colored beaded garland, or snowflake garland made of plastic. Wrap the garland loosely so that it doesn’t strangle the tree. Let some of the length hang between the branches so it can be seen. You can also use wide ribbon instead of garland.
  3. Now for the fun – the ornaments. Some families use a color scheme of two or three colors for their ornaments. Others may purchase pre-packaged ornament sets with a certain theme. Kids can hang ornaments they created in school. You could end up with quite an eclectic looking creation. Space ornaments so they surround the tree and leave no bald spots. 
  4. The tree topper goes on last. There are angels, stars, and even bows. Some have a plug that fits into your string of lights. Just remove one light on the strand and plug in the tree topper. Others have their own plug that can be connected directly into the top strand of lights or the wall outlet. Some don’t have a light at all.

Once you’ve finished the decorating of the outside and inside of the house and your tree is dressed to its best, the house is completely ready for the holidays.

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December 6th, 2010

The Stories Behind Popular Christmas Carols

Looking for a way to get into the Christmas spirit? How about singing a few bars of some popular holiday tunes to get you in the mood. Christmas is a festive time filled with good food, good friends, family, and music to bind it all together. Here is a list of six of the more popular Christmas carols that we have all grown to love.  And they all have some very interesting history behind them. Be sure to click on the title of each song to be taken to the sheet music for it.

  1. We Wish You a Merry Christmas This song wishes good tidings to all we meet during the holiday season. It also mentions a figgy pudding, an old English dessert that is set alight and served with a sprig of holly and brandy butter at each Christmas meal. 
  2. The First Noel Noel means Christmas in French. This song speaks of the events that are chronicled in the Bible surrounding the birth of Jesus.
  3. Silent Night This song was composed by Franz Gruber in 1818. The actual story has several variations, but it involves a troupe of performers traveling to towns in the Austrian Alps. One of the churches where the troupe was to perform a play had an organ out of commission. Apparently there was a mouse problem. The troupe performed in a home instead of the church. One of the ministers was moved by the performance and wrote a carol for the church’s Christmas Eve service. He approached the organist Franz Gruber about putting the words to guitar music. Fortunately, the organ was fixed by service time and Gruber sat down and played an unforgettable melody to accompany the words. This song is one of the most popular Christmas carols in the entire world. 
  4. The Twelve Days of Christmas This is a fun song to sing and play games with at Christmas. No one knows the true origin except that it is English. The fourth day was originally Colley bird not calling birds. It is another name for a blackbird. There are many variations of this song as well. People have taken to comedy in versions such as Jeff Foxworthy’s rendition, The 12 Redneck Days of Christmas and many more.
  5. Jingle Bells While you are dashing through the snow, this song was written about sleigh races in the olden days.  It was not intended to be a Christmas song at all. They would be like drag races of today only with tricked out sleighs. The song’s composer was a rogue named James Pierpont who loved to live fast and race hard. 
  6. The Christmas Song Just the words conjure up smells of roasted chestnuts. This song was originally written by Mel Torme in the 40s but was immortalized by Nat King Cole a couple of years later. Mel wrote the song in the heat of the summer in an effort to “cool off.” Who knew? Anyway, it’s one of our favorites when we snuggle inside to watch the snow fall.

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? I bet there’s a story behind it that would surprise you. You can probably think of your own memories when you hear certain holiday songs as well, maybe a special Christmas as a child or the first Christmas you and your husband or wife were together in your new home. The power of song is amazing isn’t it? Please share your favorite Christmas music and memories with us. We would love to hear from you!

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December 1st, 2010

Christmas Party Games for Families

Christmas games for the entire family | Operation SantaWhen the family gets together at Christmas, anything is bound to happen. All in attendance get a healthy dose of food, fellowship, and fun. If your house is the site for this year’s family party, don’t forget the games.

Games are great for challenging the mind and getting a little friendly competition going between family members. Choose games that will work for kids and some for the adults. Some games will work for both. Here is a list of potential games that could liven up your family celebration this year.

  1. Dirty Santa – This game is full of fun. The object is for everyone to bring a wrapped gift and put it in a designated area like under the tree or on a table. Then each person draws a number from a hat. In turn, each person gets to pick a gift from under the tree. When it is their turn, each participant has the option to pick a gift from under the tree or take a gift from someone who has already chosen. The catch is that once a gift is chosen, the person has to unwrap it and show the group. All gifts should be in the same price range but some will be nicer than others. Also, the first person to go is the last person to get a chance to exchange their gift. They get to choose from all the gifts in the group. This game is for the adults. 
  2. Timed Guessing Games – This includes naming the gifts on each of the 12 days of Christmas, naming as many Christmas carols as you can, taking a word and making as many words as you can from it, and a Christmas word scramble. You can have little stocking stuffers for the winners. Kids and adults are good for this one. 
  3. Family Trivia – Who knows the most about their relatives? Let each relative write down something that happened to them and give them to the person in charge of the game. Everyone else gets a piece of paper. After each question is read, all players write down whom in the room each is referring to. The one with the most correct answers at the end of the list wins. 
  4. Charades – This is a tried and true party game. All of the puzzles have to relate to Christmas. Some examples include a cartoon, movie, book, song, or event. The team with the most correct answers wins. 
  5. Name that Christmas Carol – This is just like “Name that Tune.” Sing or play a CD with the first line or two of a Christmas carol. The family contestant has to come up with the next line correctly. Start off with easy carols and progress to harder ones as you go up the ladder. 

These are but a few of the great games you can come up with to keep the family in stitches this holiday season. Enjoy the fun, laughter and memories that will be made!

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