The Mill Magazine Edition 12 No. 4 Merriment

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Merriment



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Merriment E D I T I O N 1 2 N O . 4

PUBLISHER MarketStyleMedia EDITOR IN CHIEF TraceyRoman COMMUNITY EDITOR AubreyDucane CONTRIBUTING WRITERS JeffOwen NoridaTorriente ErickM.Mas DimitrisXygalatas JonathanBorba AndreasBrun PaigeCody

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eatures F T THE SCIENCE OF GIFT WRAPPING EXPLAINS WHY Sloppy IS BETTER

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p.30 O Christmas ChristmasT T ree How To Select Thee

p.58 holiday table Merriment p.44 SET THE

LET THE

FOR MAKING MEMORIES

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THE SCIENCE OF GIFT WRAPPING EXPLAINS WHY

Sloppy

IS BETTER T e x t

b y

E r i c k

M .

M a s

T

hey say appearances can be deceiving. In the case of gift-giving, they might be right. Consumers in the U.S. spend billions of dollars a year on wrapping gifts, in most cases to make their presents look as good as possible. This includes money spent on paper, boxes, ribbons, and pretty bows.

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Simple brown paper and twine make for honest wrapping supplies. Photo by Andrii Kucher.

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Which gift would you prefer? Photo courtesy of Erick M. Mas.

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While some people are particularly skilled at gift wrapping – with the perfect folds, carefully tied ribbons, and bows – others aren’t quite cut out for it, and apparently would prefer washing dishes or cleaning the house. Two colleagues and I wondered whether all that time and effort is actually worth it. Does a beautiful presentation actually lead to a better-liked gift? Or is it the other way around? SLOPPY VERSUS NEAT In a paper recently published by the Journal of Consumer Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno professors Jessica Rixom and Brett Rixom and I conducted three experiments to explore the impact of gift wrapping. In the first experiment, we recruited 180 university students to come to a behavioral lab in Miami to participate in a research study described as an extra credit exercise. Upon arrival, each student was given an actual gift as a token of appreciation for their participation. The gift was a coffee mug with the logo of one of two NBA basketball teams, the local Miami Heat or rival Orlando Magic, handed out at random. We knew that every participant was a fan of the Heat based on a prior survey – and that they explicitly didn’t support the Magic. The purpose was to ensure that we were giving half of the students a desirable gift, while the other half received something they did not want.

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Finally, half of the gifts were wrapped neatly, while the rest looked slapdash. After unwrapping, participants evaluated how much they liked their gifts. We found that those who received a sloppily wrapped gift liked their present significantly more than those who received a neatly wrapped gift – regardless of which mug they got. MANAGING EXPECTATIONS To understand why we recruited another set of students and asked them to view an image of either a neatly or sloppily wrapped gift and report their expectations about it prior to seeing what was inside. Participants were then told to imagine opening the gift – which for everyone was a pair of JVC earbuds – and rate their actual attitudes toward it, allowing us to compare whether it matched their expectations or not. Results showed that expectations were significantly higher for the neatly wrapped gifts compared with sloppily wrapped ones. However, after the reveal, participants receiving the neatly wrapped gift reported that it failed to live up to their expectations, while those who got the sloppily wrapped gift said it surpassed their expectations. This suggests that people use the wrapping as a cue to how good the gift will be. Neat wrapping sets the bar for the gift too high,

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Expectations were significantly higher for the neatly wrapped gifts.

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If the gift is for a friend, fussy wrapping may not be worth the effort.

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intimating that it will be a great present. Sloppy wrapping, on the other hand, sets low expectations, suggesting it’ll be a bad gift. So a sloppily wrapped gift leads to a pleasant surprise, while one that’s neat-looking results in disappointment. FRIENDS VERSUS ACQUAINTANCES In our third and final experiment, we wanted to zero in on whether this effect depended on the relationship between the gift-giver and recipient. Does it matter if the giver is a close friend or just an acquaintance? We surveyed a nationally representative sample of 261 adults and asked them to imagine being at a party with a secret gift exchange. At random, participants viewed images and imagined receiving either a neatly or sloppily wrapped gift. This time, we instructed half of them to imagine the gift was from a close friend, while the other half believed it came from an acquaintance. Then we revealed the gift and asked them to rate it. When it came from a close friend, recipients ended up liking the sloppily wrapped gift more, just like in our other experiments. However, when the gift came from an acquaintance, recipients preferred it when it was neatly wrapped. This occurs because these participants used the wrapping as a cue to how much the gift-giver values their relationship – rather than to signal what’s inside. Neat wrapping implies the giver values their relationship.

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A PLEASANT SURPRISE So if you’re stressing over gift wrapping this holiday season, consider saving yourself time, effort and money by wrapping your friends’ and family’s gifts haphazardly. But if you’re planning to give a gift to someone you don’t know quite as well – a work colleague, for example – it’s probably worth it to show you put in some effort to make it look good with all of the neat folds, crisp edges and beautiful bows. I, for one, am taking these results to heart. From now on, I’ll only wrap my wife’s gifts sloppily so she’ll always be pleasantly surprised no matter how good – or bad – the gift is.

aM T M T H E M I L L M AG A Z I N E

Erick M. Mas is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University where he does research on consumer behavior. He received a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of North Texas. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Erick was a Teaching Fellow and the Behavioral Lab Manager/SONA Systems Administrator at the University of North Texas. Before that, he worked in advertising as a Digital Account Manager at Ion Interactive and an Account Supervisor at Zimmerman Advertising. This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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Searching for the perfect Christmas tree. Photo by Paige Cody.

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O

Christmas T ree

How To Select Thee Te x t . b y. J e f f . O w e n

S

electing the perfect Christmas tree for your home can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for the entire family. Decorating and displaying a real Christmas tree is a tradition followed by generations of families. Christmas MERRIMENT•EDITION 12 NO. 4•THEMILLMAGAZINE.COM

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trees are grown in almost every county in North Carolina and Fraser firs from the NC mountains are shipped nationwide. While hardier than most flowers, fruits, or vegetables, real Christmas trees are also perishable. For your Christmas tree to hold up through the holidays, it should be selected and cared for with freshness in mind. By following a few simple guidelines, you can select trees that will meet your needs throughout the holiday season. DECIDING ON TREE SIZE Before setting out to buy a tree, determine where the tree will be displayed and measure the available space. Remember to take into account the height of the Christmas tree stand and any ornaments to be displayed on top of the tree when deciding the desired tree height. The most common mistake people make is buying a tree that is too large for the intended space. Also, consider whether all sides will be seen. For example, inexpensive trees have two good adjacent sides that present well from the corner of a room. If the tree will be seen from all sides, a premium-grade tree may be more desirable. CUT TREE OR LIVING TREE The most common Christmas tree used is a cut tree. However, some prefer using a living Christmas tree sold with roots intact so that replanting is possible after the holiday season. Once established in your landscape, that Christmas tree becomes a reminder of that special year it was displayed. If you choose to buy a living tree, make sure that the species selected will live in your climate. Also be aware that it will take special care including

Strolling through the tree farm. Photo by Paige Cody.

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regular watering, reduced room temperature, and a shorter display period in a heated home to survive until it is transplanted. WHERE TO BUY You might also have a choice of numerous places to buy a real tree. These include choose & cut farms, grower-operated, civic, and charitable retail lots, or retail stores and garden centers. Selecting a fresh-cut tree on a local farm provides a unique experience and tradition for many families, but retail lots often provide closer proximity, greater convenience, and a wider selection of tree species. Good quality, fresh trees can be found in any venue. NORTH CAROLINA GROWN In North Carolina, there are a number of farm-grown trees available for purchase, including Fraser fir, white pine, Virginia pine, red cedar, Leyland cypress, and others. Christmas tree characteristics such as foliage density, color, and fragrance that vary from species to species might also be important as you plan your holiday decorating. Fraser fir, native to the highest elevations of North Carolina and named for plant explorer, John Fraser, has been called the Cadillac of Christmas trees for a good reason. Fraser fir has all the qualities of an excellent Christmas tree including strong branches, soft foliage, a pleasant fragrance, excellent needle retention, and an ability to stay fresh throughout the holiday season. Its branching structure provides both the strength and space for large ornaments. Foliage color is generally a lustrous dark green.

Decorating the tree. Photo by Paige Cody.

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Fraser fir represents over 96% of trees grown in North Carolina. White Pine is a softer-textured tree with more pliable limbs than those of Fraser fir. At nearly three inches, its green and white needles, grouped in bundles of five, are longer than those of most other Christmas tree species. Most white pines have dense branching to give them a full conical shape. White pine foliage exhibits good needle retention in its many uses as either trees, wreaths, roping, or other greenery. Virginia Pine is often sold from ‘choose & cut’ farms and has a rich piney fragrance, good needle retention when displayed in water, and stout branches to support heavier ornaments. Virginia pine’s twisted needles occur in pairs and are about 2 inches in length. It has stronger branches and stiffer needles than white pine. Many people prefer eastern red cedar because it was the traditional southern Christmas tree they grew up with. Red cedar has small needles or scales that produce sprays of foliage rather than distinct branches with rows of needles. Its flexible limbs will not support many or very heavy ornaments but decorations of ribbons, dried flowers, or other lighter ornaments bring out the beauty of the foliage. Red cedar has a nice fragrance. It may dry rapidly in a warm house if not well-watered. If cut fresh from a choose & cut farm, it can be properly cared for, watered regularly, and hold up throughout the holidays. Leyland Cypress is a relative newcomer in the Christmas tree

Photo at top right by Paige Cody. Photo at bottom right by Spencer Imbrock.

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market. As with red cedar, its foliage is made up of fans or sprays of small, scaled needles on soft flexible limbs. Its upright branches have a feathery appearance which also does not support heavy ornaments. It has a brighter green color than red cedar. Leyland cypress has a very attractive shape and full branching overall. Like redcedar, Leyland cypress dries rapidly in a warm house if not regularly watered. Arizona Cypress is another Christmas tree grown on many ‘choose & cut’ farms in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain of North Carolina. It has silvery-green to grey-blue foliage and upright branches. Immature foliage is needle-like. Mature leaves are scale-like, closely overlapping each other and encircling the stem. Some people describe the odor as citrusy or minty. As with other cypresses and cedars, Arizona Cypress and its cultivars are subject to rapid drying. Two varieties commonly grown as Christmas trees are Carolina Sapphire and Blue Ice, both of which have a whitishblue color to the foliage.

aM T M T H E M I L L M AG A Z I N E

Jeff Owen is an Area Extension Specialist on Christmas Trees for the Forestry and Environmental Resources division of the NC State Extension at NC State University. Jeff provides educational programs to Christmas tree growers and research-based knowledge. He is currently working on topics including Christmas tree freshness, ground cover management, climate-related problems, and business management.

Fresh tree trimmings make the best holiday decor. Photo by Andreas Brun.

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★2021★

CHRISTMAS IN CHARLESTON

Steeped in history, Charleston rings in the holidays with a charm of its own. Decorated with sparkling white lights and shiny bows, Charleston dons all its finery for the holidays. Storefronts, homes, churches, boats and parks are adorned with lights, garland and holly showing their yuletide spirit.

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SET THE

holiday table

FOR MAKING MEMORIES Photography by L. Roman Text by Norida Torriente Styling by Jenny Stenhouse Production Assisting by Pollyanna Falk

F

or many families, this holiday season will mark two years since people hosted inperson celebrations. Thanksgiving via Zoom was not the same when you had to tell Aunt Mae to click on the microphone so she can be heard leading the family in prayer. A return to in-person holiday gatherings calls for festive table settings to welcome our loved ones whom we missed in the past year. With the help of Blackhawk Hardware, here are some ideas for creating tablescapes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s to make your guests forget last year’s celebration in front of a computer screen.

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This Christmas table sparkles in gold and navy blue. For product details, see page 50.

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Thanksgiving table dressed in gratitude From Blackhawk Hardware Caspari Placemat $14.99 15 Ounce Stemless Glass $5.99 18 Ounce Stemless Glass $9.99 Nora Fleming Oval Tray $39.99 Nora Fleming Turkey $13.99 Linen Napkin $6.99 Wood Tray $59.99

Pinecone Votive Holder $14.99 Small Bowls $9.99 Ombre Candle $27.99 Tall Taper Candle Holder $14.99 Small Taper Candle Holder $12.99 Decorative Leaf Spray $12.99 Acorn Christmas Ornament $6.99

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Christmas table decked in magic From Blackhawk Hardware

Placemat $7.99 Linen Napkin $5.99 Decorative Flower $24.99 Angel Ornament $6.99 14 Ounce Water Glass $12.99 9 Ounce Water Glass $12.99 Large Tree $44.99 Medium Tree $34.99

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Small Tree $24.99 Taper Candleholder $29.99 Clear Glass Match Holder $34.99 Pinecone Ornament $6.99 Wine Bottle Coaster $19.99 Caspari Place Holder (Pack of 12) $4.99 Decorative Pot $14.99 Plant $3.99


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New Year’s table filled with cheer From Blackhawk Hardware

Caspari Placemat $19.99 Linen Napkin $6.99 Mikasa Champagne Flute (Set of 4) $29.99 Pampa Bay White Beaded Square Bowl $14.99 Pampa Bay White Footed Bowl $24.99 Black Candles $3.99 Each Star Candleholders $14.99 Each Plants $3.99-$24.99

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Mirror $54.99 Silver Floral Spray $8.99 Cheers Cocktail Napkins $5.99 Silver Napkin Holder $44.99 Cookie Cutter $1.99 White Plate $34.99 Silver Wine Bottle Coaster $24.99

aM T M T H E M I L L M AG A Z I N E


New Year's Eve

Dinner and a Show Featuring the Al G and Friends Band Friday, December 31, 2021 — 8:30 pm The Shore Club At Tega Cay

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WE PROVIDE THE DECORATIONS. It’s up to you to use them right.

Locally owned and mismanaged since 1977. blackhawkhardware.com


A holiday toast with friends and family holds special weight and is an important part of our traditions. Photo by CoffeeAndMilk.

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LET THE

Merriment BEGIN

AN ANTHROPOLOGIST EXPLAINS WHY WE LOVE HOLIDAY RITUALS AND TRADITIONS Text by D i m i tr i s Xygalatas

T

he mere thought of holiday traditions brings smiles to most people’s faces and elicits feelings of sweet anticipation and nostalgia. We can almost smell those candles, taste those special meals, hear those familiar songs in our minds. MERRIMENT•EDITION 12 NO. 4•THEMILLMAGAZINE.COM

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Ritual marks some of the most important moments in our lives, from personal milestones like birthdays and weddings to seasonal celebrations like Thanksgiving and religious holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah. And the more important the moment, the fancier the ritual. Holiday rituals are bursting with sensory pageantry. These (often quite literal) bells and whistles signal to all of our senses that this is no common occasion – it is one full of significance and meaning. Such sensory exuberance helps create lasting recollections of those occasions and marks them in our memory as special events worth cherishing.

experiments and field studies show that the structured and repetitive actions involved in such rituals can act as a buffer against anxiety by making our world a more predictable place. Many of those rituals may of course also be performed at other times throughout the year. But during the holiday season, they become more meaningful. They’re held in a special place (the family home) and with a special group of people (our closest relatives and friends). For this reason, more people travel during the year-end holidays than at any other time of the year. Gathering together from farflung locations helps people leave their worries behind, and at the same time lets them reconnect with time-honored family traditions.

Indeed, there are plenty of reasons to value family rituals. Research shows that they can provide various psychological benefits, helping us enjoy ourselves, HAPPY MEALS connect with loved ones, and take a No holiday tradition would be complete respite from the daily grind. without a festive meal. Since the first humans gathered around the fire to roast AN ANXIETY BUFFER their hunt, cooking has been one of the Everyday life is stressful and full of defining characteristics of our species. uncertainty. Having a special time of the year when we know exactly what to do, The long hours spent in the kitchen and the way we’ve always done it, provides a the dining room during the preparation comfortable sense of structure, control, and consumption of holiday meals serve and stability. some of the same social functions as the hearths of our early ancestors. Sharing a From reciting blessings to raising a ceremonial meal symbolizes community, glass to make a toast, holiday traditions brings the entire family together around are replete with rituals. Laboratory the table, and smooths the way for

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Roasted turkey is a familiar favorite that symbolizes Thanksgiving. Photo by Claudio Schwarz.

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Holiday rituals like decorating a Christmas tree are the perfect recipe for family harmony. Photo by Jonathan Borba.

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conversation and connection. All cultures have rituals that revolve around food and meal preparation. Jewish tradition dictates that all food must be chosen and prepared according to specific rules (Kosher). In parts of the Middle East and India, only the right hand must be used for eating. And in many European countries, it is important to lock eyes while making a toast in order to avoid seven years of bad sex.

meals virtually guarantee an enhanced gastronomical experience.

SHARING IS CARING It is common to exchange presents during the holiday period. From a rational perspective, this might seem pointless, at best recycling resources or, at worst, wasting them. But don’t underestimate the importance of these exchanges. Anthropologists have noted that among many societies ritualized gift-giving plays a crucial role in maintaining social Of course, special occasions require ties by creating networks of reciprocal special meals. So most cultures reserve relationships. their best and most elaborate dishes for the most important holidays. For example, Today, many families give each other lists in Mauritius, Tamil Hindus serve the of desired presents for the holidays. The colorful “seven curries” at the conclusion brilliance of this system lies precisely in of the Thaipusam kavadi festival, and the fact that most people end up getting in Greece, families get together to spit- what they would buy anyway – the money roast an entire lamb on Easter Day. And gets recycled but everyone still enjoys the these recipes often include some secret satisfaction of giving and receiving gifts. ingredients – not just culinary, but also psychological. And as this is a special time of the year, we can even allow ourselves some guiltResearch shows that performing a free indulgence. Last year, my wife and ritual before a meal improves the I saw a fancy coffee machine that we eating experience and makes the food really liked, but we decided it was too (even just plain carrots!) seem tastier. expensive. But in December, we went Other studies found that when children back and bought it as a mutual present, participate in food preparation they agreeing that it was OK to splurge a bit enjoy the food more and that the longer for the holidays. we spend preparing a meal, the more we come to appreciate it. In this way, the THE STUFF FAMILY IS MADE OF labor and fanfare associated with holiday The most important function of holiday

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rituals is their role in maintaining and strengthening family ties. In fact, for relatives who live far apart, holiday rituals may be the glue that holds the family together. Ritual is a powerful marker of identity and group membership. Some of my own field studies have found that taking part in collective rituals creates feelings of belonging and increased generosity toward other members of the group. It’s no surprise, then, that spending the holidays with the in-laws for the first time is often regarded as a rite of passage – a sign of true family membership. Holiday traditions are particularly important for children. Research shows that children who participate in group rituals become more strongly affiliated with their peers. In addition, having more positive memories of family rituals seems to be associated with more positive interactions with one’s own children. Holiday rituals are the perfect recipe for family harmony. Sure, you might need to take three flights to get there, and they will almost certainly be delayed. And your uncle is bound to get drunk and start a

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political argument with his son-in-law again. But according to Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, this is unlikely to spoil the overall experience. Kahneman’s research shows that when we evaluate past experiences, we tend to remember the best moments and the last moments, paying little attention to everything else. This is known as the “peak-end rule.” In other words, our memory of the family holiday will mostly consist of all the rituals (both joyful and silly), the good food, the presents, and then hugging everyone goodbye at the end of the night (after your uncle made up with his son-inlaw). And by the time you get back home, you’ll have something to look forward to for next year.

aM T M T H E M I L L M AG A Z I N E

Dimitris Xygalatas is an anthropologist and cognitive scientist at the University of Connecticut. He studies some of the things that unite and divide us, focusing on religion and ritual, sports, cooperation, and the interaction between cognition and culture. He has held positions at the universities of Princeton, Aarhus, and Masaryk, where he served as Director of the Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion. At UConn, he directs the Experimental Anthropology Lab, which develops methods and technologies for studying human interaction scientifically in real-life settings. This article was originally published on The Conversation.


Rituals and traditions can help make our memories of holidays good ones. Photo by Kate Hilznitsova.

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