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After opening presents, and, if due to current economic conditions this time frame is smaller this year, how do you spend Christmas Day?

Simple gatherings with people and food has to be the number one favorite Christmas Day activity, so if this is how you'll spend Christmas this year,  then count your blessings amidst the many hassles, tasks, travel time, etc., it takes to make this happen.  People are the best part of this human gig.

Silent nights and silent days

Loneliness at the holidays and at other special times of the year can sting especially bad.  If you're feeling those isolated, dark sensations, call someone; the voice of others can anchor us and help keep our light lit.

Silent Unity is a sweet little group of souls who hold the space for prayer 24/7.  Anyone can call or email any time, any day or night, and be received by a friendly, caring person who will talk easily with you for a few minutes and then follow it up with a little card with more encouragement.

A quiet Christmas can still be jolly and bright

When we don't have lots of friends, family, food and events to be part of at Christmastime, through choice or circumstance, there are other festive activities that can bring us the spirited feelings of the season.  

Whether we're spending a quiet Christmas alone or with one other friend, partner or family member, look for ways to make the day special.  Magic doesn't require much of an invitation, as stated by this Queen:

"I dare say you haven't had much practice at believing impossible things...Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." White Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass

Universal First-Aid

My First-Aid kit for all pain is:  give.  During the struggles of life, if you don't know what to do next, give.  If you're struggling between two choices of what to do, give. When in doubt, give.

Edgar Cayce says the way to dissolve all fear and worry is to give to others.  Beloved and wise Shree Maa says that to be spiritual means to give.

A Course in Miracles says the only lack in any situation is what you're not giving.

Tips for accentuating the spirit of the season and de-emphasizing the Christmas gift exchange:

Tree trimming: Most families have their Christmas tree up and decorated long before Christmas morn, but in the homes of older relatives, this isn't always the case.  

And, it's not lack of seasonal joy; sometimes it's the ugly reminder that there are physical tasks that often require an effort that gets harder to exert as you get into those higher numbers and getting help isn't as simple as it sounds.

Offer to trim a tree for someone who doesn't have one (and would like one).

A great Christmas Day activity is to bring and decorate a small tree for the home of the relative you're visiting for the holiday.  Kids love to see all the treasures and ornaments that have been in the family for decades.

Develop new traditions.  Downplay the gift exchange with meaningful activities. Go sledding or make snow figures; go to the beach or go skating on the boardwalk; take a walk or a hike; on Christmas Eve, drive or walk through neighborhoods with decorated homes (appreciate that you didn't have to deal with all that); phone relatives, friends, or someone you haven't talked to for a while.  Holiday cheer is a great ice-breaker.  

Candle lighting ceremony:  Get all the candles around the house or purchase some inexpensive votive/tea candles from the dollar store and place them ceremoniously on a table or even outside, if weather permits. Make sure you place them on a flame-proof, wax-friendly surface - paper plates or folded aluminum foil will work.  

Turn off the lights and for each candle that's lit, say a prayer, an affirmation, or light a candle in honor of a loved one who may not be present this year.  Light one for each person present.  

Make this as simple or as special as you like.

Adopt from the shelter:  Make the decision to open your heart and home to a new family member from your local animal shelter and bring a blessing to you, your family, and the sweet, lonely creature looking for love, warmth and a home.  It will be a Christmas miracle!

Reach out:  If it comes to you to call someone, call them.  If it comes to you to say a quick hello to someone, do it.  If it comes to you to stop by someone's house, stop.  This is a holiday...a day of celebration!  Celebrate!  People are the best ones to celebrate with!  Listen to those inner prompts that connect you to someone.  Overcome awkwardness...it's just a person!

Love letter:  This is a great gift for lovers or kids.  Put some thought and heart into your words about all the qualities in your partner or parent that you love. This will be a gift that will never be forgotten on a shelf.  Start with, "I love you because..."  

Love coupons: Cut out credit card size pieces of paper and on each one put a love task to be redeemed at will.  Examples:  shoulder massage, foot massage, child care for an hour alone time, snuggle session, whisper sweet nothings, bathe together, body butter rub, sensual hair brushing, dinner in bed, etc. Take this opportunity to do some things you did during courtship.  

Chore coupons:  Same as above only not limited to lovers. For example: wash car, put gas in car, tend to honey do's, prepare a meal, sweep floor, feed pets, organize CD's, etc.  

Christmas Collage:  This project is explained more thoroughly in the article that's linked here, but, essentially, it's cutting out items from newspapers and magazines of things you would buy for your loved ones if money were no object!  You can make a collage of a whole bunch of stuff or just dress up a card with a few meaningful things that send this message of wishful gifting.

Caroling:  Sing Christmas carols together in your home, your neighborhood, a local assisted living facility or hospital. This tradition is not obsolete!  And, the stories within carols are rich in folklore, wisdom and truth affirming phrases.

You may feel silly at first going around your neighborhood because hardly anyone else is doing it, any more....but, imagine if we bring this beautiful tradition back as a result of economic stress and make lemonade out of lemons!  

Church: Attend services in your community.  Many churches offer services Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Go to a different church for a change in addition to your own.  Offer to take a neighbor or someone you know who regularly goes and can't due to transportation concerns, winter driving conditions or other hardships.

Story-telling:  Take turns either reading a seasonal story like A Christmas Carol, telling stories from childhood, or using your imagination and making one up.  

A fun group activity is for one person to start a story with a phrase and let each person add as you go.  Or, each next sentence has to follow the alphabet; the process doesn't matter...it's the imagination activation we're after.  Inspiration always inspires!  

Volunteer:  There are lots of volunteer opportunities, even on Christmas day.  Yes, organizations are accustomed to 'transient, holiday volunteer-ers,' (who aren't available the rest of the year, but want to do something during the holidays).  There are lots of slots that need filling, so give your time, as you have it.  When in doubt, give.

Your kids might moan, but they'll remember it in years to come and it models a great "peace on earth" message.  

Consider the classics:  Board games, cards, old and/or favorite movies - make these special with seasonal treats, music playing and your own personal flair.  

By the grace of some parenting god, my daughter stll loves hanging out with me and Monopoly, or a deck of cards...we‘re particularly fond of Black Jack!

Visit Memory Lane:  Flip through photo albums and scrap books together and tell stories about the pictures.  It's probably been a while since these stories have been shared and they keep families and groups connected through these shared events and memories.

Scavenger hunt:  Hide the gifts and let recipients play "hot or cold" to find them; my daughter is used to this one.

Or, write cryptic or encoded messages about where the gift(s) are hidden.  This will draw out the gift exchange so it’s not all done in two minutes.

Easy aromatherapy card:  Purchase one small bottle of Peppermint Oil which provides a zingy, zesty, invigorating blast to the senses and sprinkle it on some bows with several drops of oil – avoid skin contact with oil.  

Put an aromatherapy bow on the envelope of a simple holiday card and when your recipient receives the gift there will be an extra pleasant surprise to the senses!  The scent will linger for a day or so.

Wrap your bread one slice at a time:  Instead of wrapping a package of socks, wrap each pair - or even each sock;  a necklace and earring set can be wrapped separately;  wrap batteries separate from their accompanying gift;  tools can even be wrapped individually.  Kids don't appreciate this one or find it at all as amusing as adults!

Visit neighbors, shut-ins, hospital, or assisted living residences (bring socialized pets):  Devote a portion of your day on Christmas visiting someone you know is alone. Don't worry if you don't have a gift to bring.  Your presence is a present!

Healing circle:  Create a serene place in your home, garden or anywhere and sit alone or with someone/group and visualize everyone on the planet smiling; or world peace or whatever global or personal message of love you'd like to reinforce.

Meditation:  No matter any of your circumstances on Christmas day, and, as with every other day, spend a few minutes in a quiet space of meditation.  Twenty to sixty is awesome.  The precious vibration of this day is a lovely place to get quiet with.

Spend time:  The greatest gift we can give our loved ones is our presence.  It rarely matters what we do together as long as we do it together:  whether it’s sharing a cup of warm cocoa, listening to music, watching the snowflakes fall, watching nature, or just sitting and chatting.  

Opening our heart and connecting to others is one of the best perks this human gig offers so take advantage of it while it’s available!  Not for a limited time!

Happy holidays and happy 2012!

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