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christmas tradition origins Ever wonder why we decorate fir trees or hang mistletoe during the Christmas season? Households, regions and families have a variety of traditions to celebrate Christmas, ranging from ugly sweaters to drinking eggnog to a Christmas goose, while others, like decorating an evergreen tree, are common across the world. Mental Floss talks about the history of these common, and a few less common, traditions.

evergreen trees Before Christianity, people used branches from pine trees to decorate their homes during winter as a reminder that plants would return in abundance during the spring. As Christianity grew, people incorporated the tradition of evergreen trees into their celebrations, particularly in Germany, decorating trees with apples. The tradition increased in popularity when Queen Victoria decorated a tree in honor of her German husband.

christmas colors Red and green don’t have an official origin story, but historians believe green may come from the evergreen tree tradition, and the red is from holly berries, which also have a religious implication; the berries have been associated with the blood of Jesus Christ.

advent calendars These calendars help you count down the days until Christmas. You can buy them at the grocery store — typically these come with little chocolates or other candies inside — or get a reusable one at a craft or Christmas store. These could include candy, reading the Christmas story or something else. Advent itself is a religious advent that has been celebrated since the fourth century; it starts on the Sunday closest to Nov. 30 and is a period of preparation for Christmas.

mistletoe This plant, which is actually a parasite, has long been associated with fertility; according to the Celtic Druids, it blossomed in the coldest times of winter. How the jump from fertility to kissing is unknown, though the tradition grew in popularity with English servants in the 1700s and spread upward.

milk and cookies Leaving a sweet treat for Santa dates back to ancient Norse mythology. Legend has it that the Norse god Odin had an eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. Children left treats for Sleipnir with the hope that Odin would give them gifts in return. It returned to popularity in the United States during the Great Depression as a way to teach children to be grateful for gifts.

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“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.” The familiar lyrics of this tune are sung as part of Christmas caroling and holiday celebrations, reaching a crescendo each time singers belt out “five golden rings.” The song is an English Christmas carol that was written in 1720. While it references plenty of gift-giving, it’s easy to assume the song is about giving Christmas gifts. However, the 12 days in the song actually refer to the birth of Jesus Christ. The 12 days of Christmas, also known as the Twelvetide, refers to the festive Christian season that celebrates the Nativity of Jesus. In fact, the start of these days occurs on December 25 and extends until the evening of January 5th, the day before the Epiphany, known as Twelfth Night. Each day corresponds to a remembrance of different religious events or people. Christmas celebrants can celebrate well into the new year. Commemorating the 12 days of Christmas can include small festivities from December 25 to January 5. On Twelfth Night, historically known for parties, modern-day fanfare can mark the culmination of the Christmas season — with the last of gift-giving occurring on the Epiphany. Gifting, hosting friends and family, attending religious services, participating in charitable events, or opening one’s home to neighbors and those who can use some companionship are all ways to make the 12 days of Christmas more special.

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festive gift wrapping ideas to Give Your Presents That Extra Sparkle

natural gift toppers Instead of the traditional gift bows, try something a little more seasonal, like pine branches, holly sprigs, pinecones, or kumquats, which really pop against plain brown parcel paper.

paper animals How about a nice, friendly greeting from a penguin, reindeer, or polar bear? They’re not hard to make: Just use a circle punch and scissors to snip out the pieces you need from colored paper.

peppermint treats Plain white paper is the perfect backdrop for something sweet. Top packages with swirl lollipops, drugstore candy, tree cuttings, and ribbon for an elegant (and wallet-friendly) look.

sheet music Nab vintage scores on eBay or Etsy for a wrapping paper alternative. Bonus points if you use their favorite Christmas carol.

initial ornaments It’s a gift, tag, and topper all in one. Glittery monograms identify the recipients while adding a little sparkle to their trees.

brown paper packages Kraft paper is anything but boring: Think of it as a blank canvas for even more Christmas decorations, like mini wreaths, paper trees, and ribbon scraps.

woven ribbon Rethink your stockpile of curling ribbon thanks to this simple twist. A flat lattice design can also survive a trip in the mail without getting crushed.

matching ornaments Coordinate your gifts with the tree by tying on miniature baubles in the same color scheme. Double up with a soft velvet ribbon in a similar hue. from: goodhousekeeping.com

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santa treat holders craftsunleashed.com

SUPPLIES NEEDED

Red Yarn White Yarn Glue Gun Glue Sticks Flower Pots Black Buttons Finger Guards (optional)

First, run a small band of glue around the base of your flower pot. Quickly add your red yarn and hold in place until glue dries. This is where you’ll be glad you use the finger guards. Continue to wrap red yarn around the flower pot until you reach the lip of the pot. Then continue to wrap yarn around and around. I did three layers of yarn. Glue end using your glue gun. Run a small band of glue around the top of the flower pot and glue white yarn in place. Continue to wrap white yarn around the entire top of the flower pot. Add two black buttons to front of flower pot and now it’s time to fill our Santa DIY Christmas treat holders. I filled a few with homemade cookies for a fun neighbor gift and teacher gift. Whether making small party favors or small gifts for friends, you can’t go wrong with these adorable yarn wrapped Santa treat cups. Fill them with candy, cookies, small plants, and more!

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hot chocolate cookie cups INGREDIENTS: 1 package Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 2 tablespoons hot cocoa mix 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 1/2 cup white chocolate chips 12 mini pretzels 1 cup Jet-Puffed Mallow Bits *optional - granulated sugar

thegunnysack.com

INSTRUCTIONS: 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 2. Put 1 tablespoon of the sugar cookie dough into 24 greased mini muffin tins. An optional step would be to roll the sugar cookie dough balls in granulated sugar before putting them into the mini muffin tins to help prevent sticking. 3. Bake for 12-14 minutes at 375 degrees. Allow the cookies to cool completely in the pan before gently removing them. 4. Make the chocolate ganache by bringing the whipping cream to a boil. 5. Stir in the hot cocoa mix. 6. Pour the hot cream over the semi-sweet chocolate chips and let it sit for 3 minutes. Then, stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the ganache is smooth. 7. Break off the loops on some mini pretzels to use as handles. 8. Melt the white chocolate and use it to attach the pretzel handles to the cookie cups. 9. Spoon the chocolate ganache into the cookie cups and top with mini marshmallows. * For best results, store the hot chocolate cookie cups in the refrigerator.

holiday dipped peppermint oreos momonatimeout.com

INGREDIENTS: 28.6 oz Peppermint Oreos 2 packages 16 oz candy coating CandiQuik, Ghiradelli’s, etc. sprinkles candies, etc. INSTRUCTIONS: 1. Cover your work surface with parchment paper. 2. Set out sprinkles, toppings, and candies. 3. Melt the chocolate/candy coating according to package directions. 4. Dip the bottom of each Oreo into the chocolate and place on pronged dipping tool. 5. Use a spoon to drizzle melted chocolate over the top of each Oreo. 6. Gently tap the tool until all excess chocolate has dripped off and scrape the bottom of the tool against the bowl before carefully placing Oreo on the parchment paper. 7. Sprinkle on desired toppings. Let sit until chocolate has hardened.

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holiday health tips The holidays can be a wonderful time filled with family, parties, gifts and get-togethers. That also opens the door to a lot of stress, upended routines, exposure to germs and other challenges that can ruin the season. If you’re feeling pressured with all the things you should and shouldn’t be doing to stay healthy during an already crazy time of year, check out the CDC’s tips for easy ways to boost your health. 1. Wash your hands frequently, particularly when you’re preparing food. Use soap and clean water and wash for at least 20 seconds. 2. Put your hat, coat and gloves on when you go outside. Warm socks and waterproof boots will make a huge difference if it’s snowing outside. No one likes cold, wet feet.

3. Find ways to manage stress. Go on walks, go to bed early, schedule alone time, take a bath. Give yourself a break when things don’t go perfectly. 4. Don’t drink too much alcohol, and definitely don’t drink and drive. Take the keys away from a friend or family member who’s not safe to drive. 5. Get vaccinated. It’s flu season, and nothing kills your holiday party faster than you being in bed with the flu. Everyone six months and older should get vaccinated. It’s a good chance to ensure you’re up to date on your other vaccinations as well. 6. Be safe around fire. Most house fires happen in the winter. Don’t leave fireplaces, space heaters, food cooking or candles unattended. 7. Know what your kids are up to. The holidays bring out decorations, cheese trays with knives, candles and other potentially dangerous objects at your house and other’s houses. 8. Prepare food safely. Wash your hands and cooking surfaces often, wash everything after working with raw meat, avoid cross-contamination, cook foods to their proper temperatures and put foods in the refrigerator immediately. Reheat leftovers to the proper temperatures as well. 9. Take the family for a walk. Whether it’s after a big meal or to enjoy the snow or to wear off some energy, put good shoes on and get outside for a bit. At least 30 minutes of exercise will keep everybody happier and healthier.

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discover unique gifts Shopping local this holiday season helps you find unique shops in the area to fulfill everyone on your list. Discover what makes your community different from any other in the country. Supporting local businesses gives back to your economy and ensures that its unique flair remains intact for the future. When researching establishments to include on your shopping venture, social media and review-based websites are a valuable resource. Search your community for distinct shops that offer a gift which stands out to your recipient. Here are some great types of stores to seek and check off all the names on your naughty and nice list.

LOCAL BREWERY

The craft beer movement is here to stay. In fact, the National Brewers Association reports that in 2018, retail dollars for craft sales amounted to $27.6 billion. That’s about 24 percent of the entire country’s beer sales. Search your area for a local brewery to find the perfect mixture of hops and ales to satisfy the thirst of a craft beer aficionado. Be sure to ask the brewing experts for holiday exclusive recipes or a variety pack that features the best of their offerings. You may even purchase a ticket for a tour so your loved one can view the operations. Some may be inspired to take on the task of brewing themselves.

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LOCAL ARTISTS

Search your community for art galleries or reach out on a creator’s professional networking site. By contacting them with enough notice, you may be able to commission a custom piece of art in your recipient’s favorite style. You can gain a good idea of their preferred type by analyzing the designs they display in their home. Brush up on different styles like contemporary, abstract and expressionism to determine which artist will make a good match for you.

LOCAL DESIGNERS

For those who are interested in fashion, seeking apparel from local designers is a unique way to support your community. Take the time to ensure their manufacturing methods are ethical before supporting their brand by investing in their product.

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did you know? The holiday season is rife with tradition. Some holiday traditions, such as holiday lighting displays, are impossible to miss, while others are more subtle and possibly even unknown to many celebrants. One tradition that falls into the latter category involves the placing of oranges into Christmas stockings. The origins of Christmas stockings are rooted in legend, and one of the more popular tales involves a widowed father of three beautiful girls. According to Smithsonian.com, this father was struggling to make ends meet and was concerned that his financial struggles would affect his daughters’ ability to find a spouse. As the legend goes, St. Nicholas was wandering through the man’s town and heard of his concerns. Recognizing that the man was unlikely to accept charity, St. Nicholas slid down the chimney of his house and placed three gold balls in the girls’ recently laundered stockings, which were hanging by the fire to dry. The value of the gold balls, which were discovered the following morning, was enough to ensure the girls could eventually wed. So what does that have to do with oranges? Those who wanted to replicate the tale could not so easily come upon gold balls to place in stockings, so they chose something similar in appearance: oranges.

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Profile for Brookings Register

Holiday Wishbook 2019  

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