Category Archives: Holiday

08032014 Xmas Wish

Personally, I’ve never been a true believer in how we celebrate Xmas. I’m referring to the secular aspect of it in this short post, not the religious aspect. It’s difficult to get into the “true” spirit of Xmas when you don’t think of Jesus in the way that religion wants you to – which I don’t.

I wish that we could find a way to get away from the mad rush of consumerism. Everyone says it and I’m sure I’m not much different for repeating this trite-but-true cliché. Trying to get away from it would evidently cause our economy to collapse, too, if you listen to the news.

I can easily imagine a world where, instead of waiting until a designated approved day, each of us was encouraged to surprise our friends and loved ones with heart-felt gifts, anytime, throughout the year. This would not only allow us to get away from yuletide consumerism, it would also allow us to individually get gifts without pressure, when we can afford to do so, and to anticipate and plan surprising each of our friends and family as people.

No one would then know when they might be surprised and treated. It would truly be a better way of acknowledging people as people
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It would kill the growing trend to ruin everyone’s holidays with insane shopping, stress, and pocketbook madness.

I much prefer the ‘surprise’ method of gifting. I periodically do it to remind myself that I’ve always wanted it to be that way.

Maybe this coming year will be the year I finally just do it without concern for how everyone decides to follow the herd?

After all, the person I love the most, my wife, has a xmas eve birthday, so I can easily get by with my alternate plan and still make her happy around xmas.

A thought to consider…

Thanksgiving Meal Is Dinner?

This year, I read several more articles and blogs from writers insisting that the meal served on Thanksgiving day is “Thanksgiving Dinner.” I don’t call it that. Many people do, but I don’t, and nor do quite a lot of other people. Perhaps I’m out of the loop with most Americans, but almost no one I know serves the Thanksgiving meal late in the afternoon and anything after 6 p.m. would seem barbaric to most of my world.

If I’m inviting someone to eat the meal with me, I would say “Would you like to come over for Thanksgiving?” After the initial question, there might be follow ups to nail down the exact time frame. I don’t need to add the word “dinner” to my invitation to make it understandable. Regardless, there is too much confusion resulting from the words “dinner” and “supper” being used interchangeably, when they shouldn’t be.

(“Dinner” is earlier in the day and “supper” is always later, regardless of time frame.)

In times past, ‘dinner’ was served around 1 and 2 p.m. As technology and industrialization progressed, dinner crept up into the afternoon. With commercialization and sports becoming intertwined with the eating traditions on Thanksgiving, the reality is that most people wouldn’t dream of waiting late into the afternoon to have the holiday meal. But, there are purists, East Coast residents, and wealthy people who would eat later, even though they are going to be snacking nonstop up until the holiday meal commences.

If someone were to offer for me to eat Thanksgiving with them at 6 p.m. I would certainly think it to be a joke when first uttered. I might accept the offer but there is no way I would wait until that late to celebrate the holiday meal. You would catch me 5-6 hours earlier, eating cranberry sauce from a can if necessary.

But while I’m writing this lazy post about eating, I’ve never enjoyed the labor-intensive part of this holiday. Sure, turkey breast is great. But to have 19 sides items, 7 desserts and 3 types of bread? Someone is working too hard. Invariably, the person doing too much work will be very irritated after the fact.

Despite tradition, the meal should be about companionship and company, not so much about  the food. People today use the holiday as a reason to watch football, socialize and be around other people. And that’s a good thing. Trying to force a ritual of “gratitude” on top of the day is just foolish. Let family and friends get together and enjoy themselves. (And maybe even the in-laws.)

Personally, I would rather eat spaghetti, pizza or even finger foods all day than concern myself with a traditional meal. For those who insist on tradition, that is certainly their right. I’ve just found that the traditionalists many times steal the ‘fun’ and spontaneity that is possible with holidays. I get tired trying to get people to do it differently, even once, to see that it’s not necessary to kill a large bird and cook 22 other dishes to accompany its sacrifice.

01012012 One Less Gift – a Xmas Alternative!

I ran across this again recently while catching up on missminimalist.com.
Missminimalist Post

Everything about it is awesome.

It speaks to the heart of what makes the holiday season so difficult for many people.

Can we keep it simple? Can it really be about the spirit and not the stuff? Probably not, but it is a noble inspiration and reminder.

For people who know me well, my minimalist side should be self-evident. To be contradictory, I love wrapping presents creatively. I don’t like the obligatory nature of gift exchanges, though. I’m not free to be weird and make it spontaneous and off-the-cuff.

And I enjoy the clutter aspect of it even less. I don’t need anything to remind me that you like or love me. Surprise me during the year or do something unexpected.  Get me a book that you know will tickle my fancy.  I have more or less everything I need.

But for many people, we need a way to let people know that we don’t expect or even want more stuff. It should be okay to be honest with people without your honest desire being turned into a character flaw, or worse- an accusation.

Who wouldn’t prefer time over trinkets? Shared laughter over obligation? I know that I am simplifying the issue too much so you over there with the scowl on your face can forget about pointing that out to me.
Maybe you could meet someone you cherish and go buy a gift together for someone who needs a gift or someone who needs a visit, a surprise or a word of encouragement? Wouldn’t this be a great memory to share with your friends and loved ones?
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I’m still not expressing well enough that it isn’t the idea of gifts that I’m not too fond of – what fool doesn’t like gifts? I dislike the reciprocity and etiquette of it all. It fatigues me.
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(Note: seeing someone truly in need, lonely and without one bit of anything to call his own or anyone to love him back in this life, this post almost equates to a stupid waste of time.)

Having a Birthday on or Near Xmas?

Don’t you feel badly for those unfortunate souls whose birthdays are around the holiday?

Especially when they are younger and don’t understand why they don’t get the extra parties, gifts, and hoopla about their birth like the other kids?

Lucky for me, my wife’s birthday is on Xmas Eve. Unlike most people, she doesn’t stress over her birthday. She’s like me in that regard – birthdays are mostly for children. A celebration every once and a while is great for adults, but the obligatory celebration/cake/big to-do over it every year is a little…. unnecessary might be the word I’m looking for.

Her birthday falling on Xmas also gives me an out. If we don’t want to make a big deal out of Xmas, I can disguise any of my gifts as a birthday gift and she’s left with no possible complaint.

I wouldn’t respect her less if she was like so many other people in regards to birthdays. But I do love her more because she says it’s no big deal – and means it when she says it. That’s not true for a lot of people.

An Alternate Xmas Decor 2

Sometimes I am accused of going overboard when decorating for Xmas. It’s not the typical way most people decorate. I’m not one of those people who string up 12,333,435 lights, nor do I put up nine trees in my house.

I like to decorate manually, mostly making all the decorations and putting it together myself. It’s very non-traditional and startling the first few times you see it. It has a better effect in person.

Much of what I assemble requires an inordinate number of boxes, hollow cardboard tubes, clear tape, several HUNDRED personal pictures, xmas lights, ribbon, etc. The trick is to use anything and everything in the house.

I stopped counting after using 600 pictures in 2011.

This type of decorating is ideal for having children help. The more creative and involved they are, the more interesting the display turns out to be. At least, for me that’s true.

I usually make several columns of boxes reaching floor to ceiling. I then paper them with different wrapping paper, affix about a hundred pictures to each, wrap them with lights, ornaments and ribbons. A couple of years I made them all intertwined. There’s no reason you can choreograph them to synch too, if you wanted.

Some of it is funny, such as the picture of Zach Galifianakis as Jesus, the zombies, and pictures of the grinch and Colin Firth.

I then also wrap dozens of “fake” gifts and sit them around the room. These “fake” boxes also make great places to hide real gifts, undetected. I also wrap stuff that we store, such as scrabble boxes, puzzles, etc. These then feel like real gifts, further confusing anyone looking for presents mixed in with the madness.

 

I don’t have video of the year from which most of these pictures were from. It’s shame, because the house would light up like a runway when all the lights were turned on.

 

In the above picture, you can see that there are boxes attached to the ceiling, too. There is some safe and strong tape and adhesive to attach this sort of thing so that it won’t cause a lot of damage. I love putting boxes on the ceiling, walls, floor, anywhere you can add color.

Another trick is to take down your pictures in frames, wrap them, and put them back on the wall. It adds another level of color and decoration to your room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see the hundreds of pictures I used in these decorations. The above picture also have the Jesus-Zach Galifianakis picture that tickles me. When people come over, they usually spend a lot of time looking at every display, seeking out the pictures and identifying people, places, and times featured in them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xmas Wrapping For Kids and Xmas Present ID (2012)

 

If you look on the presents to the right, you can see that each is decorated with pictures, especially of the intended recipient.

Everyone who knows me has seen that I can take anything and make it an interesting wrapping material for Xmas. Anything – with enough creativity.

For those of you lucky enough to have kids…

To get kids into the Xmas spirit, have them color or draw something they like. Or raid their coloring books and desks. Scan the image to a file. If you don’t have a camera, take the drawings to an office/copy store. They’ll scan it for a small fee.

Print the drawings in various sizes, colors, black and white, etc. Use these to wrap presents. They’ll be using paper they made and feel more connected to the process. They won’t be so stuck on how the packaging will look after they’ve wrapped it, either.

(Haven’t you noticed that people spend too much time focusing on how the wrapping looks? That’s just plain stupid in my opinion.)

Likewise, you can also scan stuff they’ve drawn or colored and give copies or paper to your friends and family. They can wrap your children’s presents with their drawings. The kids will be at least interested.

As for the other idea I often use… Print off pictures of the gift recipient. Use these pictures instead of name tags for all the gifts. This alleviates the need for a tag or emblem on the present.

Even small children who can’t read can recognize faces. It also allows for someone very young to be distracted on Xmas with the gift “hand-out” duties. They’ll have fun with it. To add an element to the process, use pictures of people from earlier ages.

If you don’t have a good printer, you can get 4 x 6 pictures for 9 cents each almost anywhere.

If you are feeling very adventurous, wrap presents using nothing EXCEPT pictures. These make some of the most memorable and best Xmas presents. Sometimes, people don’t want to open the presents because it will damage the pictures. Sometimes, presents wrapped totally in pictures are the ones that people remember, regardless of the range of price for everyone else’s presents.

You don’t have to use photo paper to do this. You can easily print off pictures on standard size paper and use it to wrap. Try printing on materials never intended to be printed on – it can be very interesting.

Final note: You can also do a ‘theme’ wrap for everyone’s presents. I personally love the crazy “Pitchforkkreeper” picture for gift wrapping. Nothing says “Christmas Spirit” like a crazy picture repeated constantly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

06052012 Better Way to Give Gift Cards

Gift cards can be great presents for friends or family. They can be bought specifically to cater to the tastes of the recipient.

One aspect that everybody overlooks is how simple they are to wrap. Most people do the most boring option possible: they use the included little envelope or put the gift card in another simple envelope.

How about a more interesting and creative option?

One of my favorite ways to wrap a gift card involves pictures. Whether I use colored paper or black and white photos, I print off anywhere from 10 to 50 pictures, ranging in size from very small all the way through 5X7 and 8X10. Printing on colored paper but yet using black and white images is the easiest method. I place the gift card flat and create “layers” by wrapping the card with one of the smaller images. I carefully tape the first picture around the card and then flip it. I then put the second picture over the card. To add stability, sometimes I use increasingly larger envelopes. It makes unwrapping the gift card even more interesting. I continue to layer pictures one at a time, flipping the card/envelope stack as I go.

There have been times when I have layered 50+ images to the gift card! I’ve never had someone getting a gift wrapped like this not be totally excited by the process. Yes, they will often joke and laugh, but as each picture comes off the stack, they will look at the picture and talk about the memory of the image on it. Many times, my “ordinary” gift card becomes the one gift people will remember years later, even if they don’t remember any of the other gifts given, or the amount of the gift card.

Warning: this method I’m describing is VERY time consuming. But if it true that it’s the thought that counts, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to spend some time wrapping a card like this, as it shows a commitment to the surprise. (Either that, or that you are crazy for spending so much time wrapping something.)

Above is an example of the resulting mess, about 10 minutes and 50 pictures later, she finally got to the center of the gift. 🙂

The left half of the picture above is someone holding one these “layered gift card” surprises before opening it. The right half is a picture of it after I finished it. The finished picture shows another detail that I sometimes do: I take little contact pictures and affix them to colored slivers of paper, which I attach to the main envelope with the gift card. Again, this takes a while, but it is fun watching a person get one of these gifts, especially a kid. Sometimes, they get frustrated at having to peel their present like an onion, but it always pays off for them at the end. (I’ve had kids almost refuse to tear into the gift cards wrapped this way because they are fascinated by how it looks when it’s not opened.)

12122012 An Easy Xmas Ornament Idea

People needlessly spend a fortune on getting a yearly Xmas ornament for their tree. There are some very beautiful ones out there – and many which aren’t terribly expensive, either.

But if you are looking for a yearly ornament that is both cheap, easy, and will look almost exactly the same, year in and year out, look no further.

As strange as it sounds, you should use a dollar. Seriously. Each member of the family should sign his or her name on it in colors, then label the bill with the year in larger letters. You can then hang, roll, or place the bills year to year on your tree.

My wife and I now have 5 on our decorations. We even have one that is labelled as a “proxy dollar,” as my stepson thought it would be cute to “liberate” one the first year. It’s now part of the story of our ornaments, rather than detracting from it.

Since we didn’t do a tree this year, you can look on the very far right of the picture I attached to see the dollars in the lighting of my alternate Xmas decorations.

It’s fun, cheap, and different. What’s not to like?

Mothers Day / Fathers Day And Commentary

Mother’s Day was started by a woman named Anna Jarvis, one of 13 children in her family. (For grammarians, Anna was insistent on the singular possessive form of the holiday, indicating that the celebration should be specific to each family – and not a celebration of all mothers in general.) Anna’s mother had founded an effort during the Civil War to get mothers on both sides of the conflict to foster peace, a movement she called the Mothers Friendship Day. After Anna’s mother died, to get Mother’s Day celebrated, Anna incorporated a business, as well as trademarked certain words and phrases to keep others from using it. Anna became increasingly agitated over the crass commercialization of the holiday. When the candy, card, and flower industry appropriated and then changed her traditional emblems, she fought against it. Unlike everyone else, she didn’t profit from the holiday and was relatively poor when she died. (No one told her that her stay at the place she died at was paid for by a group of florists.)

Anna wanted Mother’s Day to “to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” She fought to get people to stop buying flowers, cards, and candy. She referred to these industries as “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.” Anna thought that you should go see your mother and spend time with or write her a sentimental letter. As she said:  “A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.” And “Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card.” Anna worked as hard to abolish the holiday as she had to get it started and celebrated, so angry and reviled by the commercialization of the holiday.

Fathers Day is widely credited to a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, an Arkansas living in Spokane, Washington. (Her own mother died when she 16, giving birth to her 6th child.) She initially got the idea after hearing about Mothers Day. Sonora originally wanted the holiday to be celebrated on her dad’s birthday, but local ministers didn’t have time to prepare their sermons and thus agreed on the 3rd Sunday of June. When Sonora moved to Chicago to attend art school, the holiday faded. She returned to Spokane and then revived the holiday. From several sources, I’ve learned that the holiday was very much resisted by most people, as it was considered to be a crass ‘cash-in’ on the Mothers Day holiday. There are a lot of satirical words and pictures on the internet about it, if you are interested. Even Congress feared it would become nothing more than a commercialized observance. (For the grammarians among us, Sonora wanted the day to be titled “Fathers’ Day,” but due to previous bills, the apostrophe was placed before the ‘s’ in the name.)

If you are interested, please google and read some of the links. Like most history, what lies beneath, behind, and sometimes out in the open is much more interesting than what we commonly know.

Since this blog is supposed to be about my opinion, you probably can guess my general attitude about such holidays. I’m in agreement with those who scoffed at the ‘necessity’ of a Mother’s Day. Again, though, I’m not preaching to those who feel the emotions that the day was supposed to have elicited. As the creator of the day learned, nothing is sacred and commerce trumps what lies in the heart. While not everyone who honors their mothers succumbs to the superficial meaninglessness, many do, and we all suffer from the relentless commercial obligation of it all. It creates a societal pull of guilt and artificial inclination to do and say things that aren’t spontaneous, true, and authentic. I’ve never understood the need to adhere to a nationally-agreed upon day of honor for any person or group in my life. Those who love me and those whom I love and value know that this is the case. If it were my decision, all such holidays would fall to the wayside, with the emphasis being placed on interpersonal appreciation during our daily lives. Everyone would be encouraged to express their respect and acknowledgement of those in their lives – without the expectation that such expression could be warehoused and shared on a pre-arranged day.Collective observance would be a relic of the past.

If I were to have had children, instead of encouraging them to participate in Mother’s Day, I would have instead talked to them about the importance of not waiting to surprise someone with words of love, shared time together, or a heartfelt gift, one given at the time the urge to express overcame them. It is too easy to be molded by incessant commercialization or to put off expressing what you should express often and at your own prompting. I would also encourage my children to ignore the precepts of Father’s Day and instead surprise me some other time. We would make a game of rebellion. (On the hand, I had mercy on my imaginary children by not having them at all. Not everyone should have them and genetics and/or environment have proven this to be all too true with my family tree and genetic lottery.)

In general, I have the same attitude about almost all modern holidays. The things I find meaningful in these holidays are not the same as what most people find worthwhile. There are few days that pass me wherein I am not thankful, not only because time and circumstance have chosen to allow me to continue walking the earth, but also because I have a good life with some great people in it. I am always more welcoming of shared time and eating, even if the turkey is disguised as pizza and the wine is cheap stuff from the bargain bin at the store. We too often focus on the pomp and pageantry, when the spirit of the occasion lies within each person smiling, laughing and celebrating. We sometimes salute the flag without taking the necessary time to learn of our shared culture and history, for it is a more honorable thing to learn about the circumstances of our country and its reasons for sending people to fight for it than it is to salute in general to idea of patriotism. We sometimes take too much time to go to church and sing our hymns, instead of stopping to help someone who needs it.

Holidays need their spontaneity and meaning in every regard.