What To Do With the Post-Christmas Blues

  • December 30, 2016
  • Jenna Maxwell

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house was a feeling of letdown, from the kids to the spouse. Do you have a case of the post-holiday blues? Let's face it; sometimes the best part of the Christmas season is the anticipation that leads up to it. After weeks of looking forward to the big event, it can be a bit of downer to face the morning after. Do not despair, because the week following Christmas can still be filled with tons of holiday fun. In fact, why not make this the best week of the year?

Go Shopping! The day after Christmas is a traditional time for sales; everyone knows this. Post Christmas shopping crowds can be just as bad as the masses before the holiday, but if you are brave, the deals are out there for the taking. In particular, now is the perfect time to snag a deal on those Christmas d?r items you want for next year, as well as stock up on wrapping paper and other holiday supplies.

Return the Stuff You Don't Want. It may be tempting to wait, but most retailers are prepared for an onslaught of returns the day after Christmas, so returning unwanted gifts the day after Christmas may not be as bad as you think, in fact, it may even be surprisingly easy. If you have the original sales slip or a gift receipt, by all means, bring it to speed up the process. If you just want to exchange your item for something else, make sure you understand the store's procedure for processing the swap before waiting in a long line.

Winter Vacation Fun! Most kids are out of school; some adults have a few extra days off work during the week between Christmas and New Years. Take advantage of this time off now that the Christmas stress is behind you. Whether it be enjoying a day playing in the snow or hitting the slopes, wintertime brings its own brand of fun, so take advantage.

Catch Up On Your Sleep! Maybe you are just exhausted from all the holiday fun. If that's the case, there is no time like the present to plant yourself on the couch and just stay there--for as long as possible. Binge watch that TV series you've wanted to see or check out a non-Christmas movie. (Or twoUr threeu

Blockbuster Movies! Speaking of movies, during the Christmas season, theaters are jam-packed with blockbusters that moviemakers have been timing for a purposeful holiday season release. Get out of the cold and snuggle up with a large bowl of movie theater popcorn and enjoy! Our top movie picks for this winter break:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18)
Moana (November 23)
Passengers (December 21)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Movie (December 18)
Assassin's Creed (December 21)

Visit a Holiday-Themed Attraction! Most holiday attractions and light displays stay open the entire week between Christmas and New Years. Even going to the zoo or an amusement park during the holiday season is an entirely different experience. Many venues are aglow with spectacular lights and d?r. Don't think you've missed out on the fun because Christmas has passed--make your plans and get there before New Years!

Make Your Plans for New Years! Sometimes we get so wrapped up in Christmas that we almost entirely overlook the New Year's holiday. Start planning now for what could arguably be the best party of the year!

Christmas of 2016 is now in the books, but the fun is far from over. Make the most of the special days between Christmas and New Year's and close out this fantastic year with a bang!

Christmas Traditions Explained

  • December 20, 2016
  • Jenna Maxwell

Christmas. It's the most wonderful time of the year, right? Why do you think this is? Well, the answer is quite simple. Much of what we treasure about the holidays lies in celebrating with old time honored traditions. The holiday season, in general, is loaded with all sorts of culture, folklore and annual rituals that are not only utterly awesome but also have been carried on from generation to generation. From Santa Claus and holiday cards to hanging stockings and decorating with holiday evergreens, all the things we do to celebrate the Christmas season have their beginning someplace deep in history.

Santa Claus-The idea of our modern day Santa Claus is based on a real Saint that lived during the fourth century in Myra, or modern day Turkey. The legend of Saint Nicholas tells of his great generosity and devotion to helping children. Many miracles have been associated with the old Saint as he became well known through the ages for his full beard, fabled red cape and many acts of incredible kindness. In 1822, a man named Clement C. Moore wrote the famous poem, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" (later the title changed to "The Night Before Christmas,") in which the legendary Saint Nicholas was given a new, upgraded visage. In the beloved Christmas poem the description of Santa Claus goes like this:

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot.
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke as it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly.
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

The new and improved image of Santa Claus did indeed stick. The rest, as they say, is history.

Christmas Trees-Centuries ago in Germany, fir trees decorated with apples were used during a religious reenactment of the events that took place in the Garden of Eden. These unique trees were known as Paradise Trees. As time went on, some German families put these Paradise trees in their home at Christmas time in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ. Remembering the beautifully decorated trees of his childhood, the husband of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, whose homeland was Germany, introduced Christmas trees to England in 1848. The royal family's holiday trees were frequently featured in magazines, and soon the whole idea of a Christmas tree spread widely, the practice becoming very popular amongst the masses.

Christmas Stockings-Ancient folklore tells the story of a widower who was raising three daughters in a small village in Europe. In those days, if a young lady had no dowry, she was unlikely to marry. Since this particular man had little money, he worried for his daughter's futures. As the story goes, Saint Nicholas heard about the family's plight. Knowing that the proud man would never accept outright charity, Saint Nicholas instead went down the chimney and hid pouches of gold coins in the girl's freshly laundered stockings that were conveniently hung near the fireplace to dry.

Mistletoe-The Ancient Celtic people believed that mistletoe had both magical and medicinal powers. Not only did they use this plant to heal various ailments, but they also thought mistletoe was useful in warding off evil spirits. The Scandinavian people thought that mistletoe was the plant of their love goddess, Frigga. This connection may be where the tradition of kissing under a bunch of mistletoe began.

Holly, Ivy and Christmas Wreaths-Centuries ago, in Northern Europe, local villagers believed evergreens to have magical or mystical powers. Because these plants grew and remained green even in the dead of winter, the folks thought that evergreens symbolized the strength found in life. In ancient times, it was not unusual for people to bring pine boughs, holly, ivy or other evergreens inside to decorate and bring a little bit of life and color indoors. Sometimes the evergreens were fashioned into a circular, wreath shape. To the ancient Romans, the wreath symbolized victory. To Christians, the circular shape of the wreath symbolized the eternal nature Christ with no beginning and no end.

Holiday Greeting Cards-In the year 1842, a man named Sir Henry Cole worked at a public record's office, the likely the predecessor of a Post Office. During his tenure there, Sir Henry came up with the idea of creating beautiful Christmas Cards. Sir Henry's friend, a local artist, designed some Christmas themed greeting cards that would be sent out en masse to his many friends to wish them a Merry Christmas.

Candy Canes-When Christmas trees first became popular and widely used, the most common decorations included various sweets, fruits, and nuts. Ordinary sticks of peppermint candy were amongst these tree-ready confections. As time went on, the regular peppermint stick was altered from its traditional straight shape into its current iconic Christmas Candy Cane form. This curved shape is thought to be symbolic of the shepherds crook, paying homage to the shepherds who were abiding in the fields the night of Jesus' birth.

Santas, Santas and more Santas

  • December 06, 2016
  • Jenna Maxwell

Santa Claus was in my neighborhood yesterday. Before you roll your eyes and think I've had one eggnog too many, let me explain. I was out in my yard putting up Christmas lights when a white SUV pulled up in front of the house across the street. When I saw the occupant of the vehicle, I did a double take! It was Santa. Say what you want, but to anyone who knows anything about Christmas, this guy was the real deal. He had a white beard, a rather copious amount of white hair, and was wearing wire-rimmed spectacles. On this day, Santa wore a long-sleeved red undershirt with matching suspenders, but when he opened the door to his car, I could see that his traditional red, fur-trimmed suit and matching hat was lying on the seat. Now, since Santa Claus doesn't show up my neighborhood very often (ok, basically never) this jolly ol' elf definitely had my attention. What was going on? Within moments a woman from the other end of the street came bustling down the street to have what appeared to be a rather clandestine meeting with the old guy as they went over what seemed to be a list. Within minutes it was evident what was happening, and I had to smile. A children's Christmas party was at full throttle down the street, and ol' Kris Kringle was about to pay the little ones in attendance a surprise visit. This extraordinary fella wasn't THE Santa Claus at all - even though he could have fooled me, and indeed most anyone else. Although this pudgy and jovial gentleman looked an awful lot like the real deal, clearly this man was just another imposter. This guy was one of the thousands of Santa Claus impersonators that are out adding extra joy to the holidays during the Christmas season.

Retailers have been successfully using Santa impersonators as part of Christmas marketing strategy for well over a hundred years. Many years ago, an artist named Thomas Nast came up with the whole modern day concept of Santa Claus and his image as he is widely perceived today. Thomas Nast's drawings of Santa Claus were featured in 1862 in Harper's Bazaar magazine. In Thomas Nast's legendary illustrations, for the first time Santa was depicted as rather chubby, jolly, fully bearded, and wearing a bright red fur suit. In 1890, a merchant named James Edgar decided that dressing up as the beloved Kris Kringle might bring more business to his store. A Christmas tradition was born! For many generations afterward, retailers, shopping centers, shopping malls and many venues around the country have delighted children of all ages with their own hired Santa's. There's a good chance that even you have a planned outing to visit one of these characters over the holidays. Pictures are taken to capture the moment as children whisper their most heartfelt Christmas wishes into the old guy's ear. Whether he is "real" or not doesn't seem to matter--a visit to Santa has become an annual pilgrimage for the masses.

Regardless of where the roots of the real Santa Claus lie, there is no doubt that his status as one of the most legendary characters of Christmas is undeniable. If you are interested in upping your own Christmas game, creating your own "Santa" is very easy. With a proper Santa Claus style beard and a classic red Santa suit the transformation is complete. It's time to start practicing your best "ho, ho, ho!"