Tag Archives: Christmas

Nine Great Holiday Traditions

christmas tree

Everyone has a favorite holiday – mine just happens to be Christmas. The season is a great time for celebrating the birth of the Savior,  Christmas carols, and spending time with family.

Sometimes life changes — the children grow up and move away to start their own families. or maybe we find ourselves single after having been married for many years, or ??? Whatever your situation here are nine great holiday traditions!

Host a party

Hosting a party doesn’t require a tear down and reconstruction of the Hoover Dam. Parties can be as simple as a potluck dinner with a few friends and family. Themes can include a ‘Favorite Recipe‘ dinner or (one of my favorite) a ‘Decadent Desert‘ night where everyone pretends calories don’t exist and brings their favorite treat!

If you find you’re alone (maybe circumstances or the luck of the draw) — invite others from your church or community over especially those who may be single, elderly, or ?? Live in an apartment? Most apartments have community rooms available for rent for a small fee.

Carol Singing

carol singers

The Good Lord blessed me with many skills but singing isn’t one of them! But I still love to listen to Carol’ers and even have been talked into going with them.

Going Caroling seams to be fading away but still something that can be done as a family, with a small group, or with the youth of your church. Many senior citizen centers welcome the interaction with the young folk! (But do call ahead and set up an appropriate time)

Take a trip

Many families have developed a tradition of visiting Downtown Chicago, ski destinations, New York City, etc. Although this can be a tad pricy, it can be a lot of fun! …and do plan in advance — rooms fill up quickly in popular resorts. Also, the week before Christmas may have less bookings than the week after.

Christmas Brunch

Christmas morning

Invite the family over for a Christmas brunch or dinner. Make it easy and have everyone bring something as they can. Definitely top off the brunch with present openings 🙂

Baking Treats

Christmas Cookies

Most of us love treats …and Christmas is one of those special occasions where almost everyone has their favorite! I have fond memories of Mom teaching me to bake cakes and cookies from scratch (yes, it is possible) 🙂

Not too sharp on cooking skills — not to worry! Every grocery store has ample ready to bake pies, cookies, and many have baked treats.

Next step? Deliver them to neighbors (even those you may not have met), friends, family or someone who would appreciate it.Feel free to leave them on the door with a short Christmas message.

And most certainly save some for Christmas Day!

Christmas Music

The season is built around  carols and songs celebrating Christmas. A quick Google (or Bing) query will find many church, inter-denominational groups putting on performances.

Living in the Salt Lake area we are blessed with the Tabernacle Choir and many, many groups celebrating the Savior’s birth. The Assembly Hall located on Temple Square has numerous free performances during the holidays.

Decorate that tree!

Christmas car with tree
Christmas isn’t quite Christmas without decorating a tree. Although many use artificial trees they can still be decorated with home-made and purchased ornaments.

Two of my favorite ideas are to purchase (or make) a new ornament each year. Often we would buy each child an ornament to remember that year. A second idea is to make some popcorn, use a needle and thread, and create a popcorn string. Kids love it!

Holiday Lights, Nativity Scenes, and more

This one is easy – ‘google it‘ to find area nativity scenes and light shows – often sponsored by Church groups — then go out for a cheap night exploring the neighborhood.

In Salt Lake City Temple Square has a wonderful display. In Kansas City, try the Plaza!

Remember, Remember the Less Fortunate

Working at food kitchens, gathering up toys for others in your church, area can be very rewarding. Toys don’t have to be expensive and can involve the children in picking out items. Sometimes a day set aside for Christmas gift buying is a great idea.

BTW

Why nine and not ten …because too many posts use ten!

So What are your favorite Holiday Traditions?


Dr. Spruell is an author, educator, consultant, and featured/invited speaker. His speaking engagements have taken him across the globe from Kansas City to Melbourne.

His vast consulting experience provides unique insight into the real life problems faced by many. He is the author of the book, Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss, When Shall the Butter Fly Rest and numerous proceedings and articles.


© 2018 by James Spruell, All rights reserved

 

 

 

Women of Great Faith | Mary the Mother of Jesus

Christmas
Pic is from Pixabay.com

Few things give greater insight into the Savior, & who he was, than his relationship with others, especially women and children. With Christmas approaching,  we are focusing on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary is unique among all women in her divine role in giving birth to the Messiah. Her story is fascinating, regardless of whether we are Catholic, Muslim, or Later Day Saints. And yet, for the countless pages that have been written about her, we still know so little about Mary, the person, & Mary, the Mother of God.

Here are 4 videos that provide some insight into this great woman and the birth of the Savior:


Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Mary, the Mother of Christ VideoThe Video, produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, reflects the quiet devotion and strength of Mary. Worth viewing. 2:21

 


An Angel Foretells Christ’s Birth to Mary

Foretelling Christ's Birth VideoThe angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary to announce the coming of Jesus. See Luke 1:26-38
Another video well worth viewing. Video time: 4:08

 


Mary and Elisabeth Rejoice Together

Mary and Elisabeth Rejoice Together VideoMary visits her relative Elizabeth who both rejoice in the coming birth. See Luke 1:39-55

Video time: 5:07

 


Mary and Joseph Travel to Bethlehem

Mary and Joseph Traveling to Bethlehem VideoMary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem where they cannot find a place to stay at an inn. Instead they find room only in a stable…. See Luke 2:4-7  Video time: 2:06

 


Additional clips from Mormon Messages 

© 2018 by James Spruell All rights reserved

Happy Holidays

Especially for Singles (Video)

Every feel like the Grinch really did steal Christmas? Below are video versions of Finding Happiness for the Holidays — a summary of ideas for turning the holidays into wonderful traditions. Written especially for singles:

(HTML Version)
    Part One
    Part Two

YouTube

Christmas Noel

   Slide Share



James Spruell, Ph.D.

Dr. Spruell is an author, educator, consultant, and featured/invited speaker. His speaking engagements have taken him across the globe from Kansas City to Melbourne.

His vast consulting experience provides unique insight into the real life problems faced by so many. He is the author of the book, Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss and numerous proceedings and articles.


© 2017 by James Spruell All rights reserved.

Finding Happiness in the Holiday Season – Part 2

Christmas Noel

The introductory post identified 12 suggestions to turn this holiday season into an extraordinary  one.  Today we will look at a few of my favorite suggestions:

  • Creating new traditions;
  • Handling sensitive topics (read that politics) at dinner;
  • Make it reasonable, not perfect;
  • Be grateful – the joy & friends gratitude brings;
  • Resolve to forgive past hurts;
  • Give of yourself,  including random acts of kindness;

Creating New Traditions

I love the movie Lion King and the wise old Rafiki,  especially the scene where Rafiki is dislodging Simba  from the past. With a good whack of his walking stick, he reminds Simba that it doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.

Times change and our status may go from married with children to empty nester, single parent with/without children, to …sigh. And it’s time to create new holiday traditions and memories.

Holiday traditions are about coming together, maybe no longer as a big family, but in every imaginable variation. If alone, you can establish traditions of going to the movies, attending holiday events, etc. Single parents can create a smaller version of what they and the children enjoy.

Three ideas I’ve thrown in are shown below. The important thing is to create your own traditions with positive memories for all.

The Every Other Year Dilemma

Often in divorce cases in the US holiday custody or visitation may be on an every other year basis. Sometimes that works but the rules don’t prohibit talking over the issues. For example, every holiday is not the same for both parents. The 4th of July may be a biggie for one and Thanksgiving for the other. Do some tradeoffs, explore and create what works for everyone.

For myself we started off with the every other year but fairly quickly identified that while one parent always celebrated Christmas afternoon (giving in-laws time to travel) my mornings were free. So we compromised and had a Christmas brunch and present opening in the morning at my house, and a dinner later in the afternoon with the X.

For the guys who don’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen, google has almost everything you need to cook a turkey dinner. I would suggest you start with a smaller turkey  as it takes less time to cook and you won’t have to eat it for the next 7 weeks.

If your cooking has been deemed a fire hazard, you can actually buy a pre-cooked turkey with all the trimmings. And for fun, pretend you cooked it 🙂

A sure way to get a lump of coal…

Stay off the Naughty list by not speaking ill of the X and definitely don’t put the children in the middle between you in a tug of war. Although anecdotal, I can’t count the number of times that friends have related how speaking ill of the X, etc. backfired when the children grew older and realized…

A Gift Buying Day

One of my favorite traditions was to set aside a day for gift buying with the children. Helping the little ones to select a gift for the other parent left positive messages. Smaller children don’t drive, may not have money, and there as yet may be no step-parent to help out.

The children also had fun buying presents for each other. When money is tight, the dollar can buy anything store is often around the corner. Buying gifts for others turn thoughts outward and not inward, selfishly on ourselves.

Christmas (or any holiday) Dinner

One of my greatest Christmas experiences came when a friend invited singles in our congregation (ward) to come over for a Christmas dinner potluck. Christmas Eve was spent cleaning house, the morning  making final food preparations, etc. My children were scheduled to come over early Christmas morn, and that year we rescheduled their visit for late afternoon.

The dinner worked well, and I have fond memories of it. With the kindness of a friend, thoughts were again turned outward to others.

Don’t have a house but an apartment, try reserving the group room. If money is tight, split the cost between two or more. And ‘wella’, a new tradition has been formed.

Handling those Sensitive Topics at Dinner

Wow – politics have evolved into open warfare at times with many entrenched in extremes.

Some pointers for avoiding open conflict include simply seeding the conversation with ‘How ’bout them Chiefs’ …assuming all are Chief fans. Others may take a direct approach by gently reminding everyone that politics are banned from the table.

Or if the topic comes up, try a quick re-direct to safer grounds. And definitely never give into the troll, i.e., step into the ring with the troll and not good things are going to happen.

Sometimes a good approach is to just listen, and try to understand another’s viewpoint. It’s not your job to correct their insanity for in doing so, you might be revealing your own insanity 🙂

Make it Reasonable, not Perfect

Many friends and relatives have come to hate the holidays due to trying to create the perfect dinner, find the perfect gift, etc. Hours and hours can be spent looking for ‘the gift’.

It’s not a contest, and we should tone our efforts down to what’s reasonable.

Be grateful – the joy & friends gratitude brings

Gratitude is often not recognized for the contribution to happiness that it provides. Research shows a positive correlation between gratitude and measures of happiness, health, and satisfaction as well as likeability. And most importantly, it doesn’t cost a thing.

Numerous articles have been written on gratitude, and how to learn to be more grateful. One of my favorites is to keep a gratitude journal, listing every day 3 things for which you are grateful. Gratitude is an important part of the Lord’s prayer, and should be a part of our personal prayers.

Not one of us is an island, and recognizing the many things we have been given is so important!

Resolve to forgive past hurts;

Forgiving others of their trespasses is an important element of the Christian tradition. Letting go of past ill feelings, i.e., tossing out those extra rocks in our backpack,  can renew our spirits and lift the heart.

Sometimes when things have gone terribly wrong we may not be able to forgive all at once. If you’ve tried, then maybe just start with one item at a time until you work your way to charity — the pure love of Christ.

Christmas, Thanksgiving are especially good times to remember to be humble and forgive.

Give of yourself,  including random acts of kindness

Serving those less fortunate is a most appropriate round the year activity, but particularly at holiday time. By turning outward, you can bring joy to another and teach your children the same.

Return to Part One
Video presentation


James Spruell, Ph.D.

Dr. Spruell is an author, educator, consultant, and featured/invited speaker. His speaking engagements have taken him across the globe from Kansas City to Melbourne.

His vast consulting experience provides unique insight into the real life problems faced by so many. He is the author of the book, Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss and numerous proceedings and articles.


© 2017 by James Spruell All rights reserved.

 

Finding Happiness in the Holiday Season

 Especially for the Single (A two-part Series) Christmas Noel

Ever wonder if the Grinch stole Christmas? You’re not alone — the Holidays can be a tough time for singles (and others).

There can be many causes for unhappiness around holidays from SAD (basically lack of sunlight) to man over board (trying to create the perfect Christmas).

One of the Grinch’s master elves is social isolation that can creep in at Christmas. For example, many single activities are often canceled from Christmas Day until New Year’s Eve and leave a vacuum for some. Others may be facing the “it’s the ‘X’s year” leaving …another vacuum. And the multitude of pre-Christmas family activities may remind you of your ‘singleness’. And it can be tough.

Although it’s been many years, I can still remember that first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my children, i.e., it was the X’s year. And even though I was with my parents and some of my siblings, opening Christmas packages, dinner, etc. only reminded me that my children weren’t there.

But what can we do about it… beyond sitting on the porch, waiting for the Grinch with shotgun in hand? (Do Not Do This!)

Research shows us that genetics plays an important role in happiness, almost 50% is genetic (1). Another 10% is coupled to significant events that are largely beyond our control, e.g. the loss of a close friend or family member. Which leaves about 40% that is under our control.

Dr. Lyubomirsky labeled the 40% that we can manage intentional activities (2) . The question is how do we manage that 40% to increase our happiness during the Holidays? And of the many, many studies on happiness, which are truly useful?

Twelve Days of Christmas: Suggestions

In honor of the 12 Days of Christmas, I’ve listed 12 suggestions for creating a truly remarkable Holiday. My favorites:

  1. Creating new traditions;
  2. Handling sensitive topics (read that politics) at dinner;
  3. Make it reasonable, not perfect;
  4. Remembering the things that bring you joy;
  5. Building new friendships and nurturing relationships;
  6. Be grateful – the joy & friends gratitude brings;
  7. Deck ‘thy’ face with that beautiful smile;
  8. Remember to decorate;
  9. Resolve to forgive past hurts;
  10. Give of yourself,  including random acts of kindness;
  11. Gifts to go;
  12. Everything Else!

Part Two — Some of my favorite Holiday Suggestions
Video presentation


James Spruell, Ph.D.

Dr. Spruell is an author, educator, consultant, and featured/invited speaker. His speaking engagements have taken him across the globe from Kansas City to Melbourne.

His vast consulting experience provides unique insight into the real life problems faced by so many. He is the author of the book, Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss and numerous proceedings and articles.

References

(1) Bobbi Emel. (2014). 3 Scientifically Proven Ways to Boost Your Happiness. purposefairy.com. Retrieved February 26, 2014 from http://www.purposefairy.com/9482/3-scientifically-proven-ways-to-boost-your-happiness

(2) Sonja Lyubomirsky, S. & Porta, D. (in press). Boosting happiness, buttressing resilience: Results from cognitive and behavioral interventions. . In J.W. Reich, A.J. Zautra & J. Hall (Ed.), Handbook of adult resilience: Concepts, metthods, and applications. New York: Guilford Press.


© 2017 by James Spruell All rights reserved.