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November 27, 2013

2 • Hancock County Holiday Guide, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Dos and don’ts of holiday shopping Thanks to sales featuring heavily discounted items, millions of people wait to start their holiday shopping until the season hits full swing. But in spite of such bargains, overextending budgets during the holiday season is too tempting for many shoppers to resist. However, shoppers need not risk financial peril if they shop smartly and heed some dos and don’ts of holiday shopping. • Do set a budget. Establish what you can afford to spend on gifts and other seasonal trimmings early on. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average consumer will spend around $700 come the holiday season. But not every person needs to be a big spender. The “buy now, pay laterâ€? mentality that credit cards offer lands many shoppers in trouble, a sticky situation many only notice once the first bill comes due. If you cannot afford to pay your entire credit card balance off once the bill arrives, you face steep interest charges that can quickly add up. Instead, pick a set spending limit and keep to it no matter how tempting it may seem to overspend with a credit card.

• Don’t be fooled by false sales. Retailers understand that a good advertised deal lures shoppers into their stores. As a result, some retailers mark up the cost of certain items in order to slash the prices for holiday sales. Even if you are saving the assumed 50 to 60 percent, the final cost of the item still may be higher than normal. Comparison shop and do your research so you don’t fall victim to clever pricing. • Do schedule time for shopping. Hectic schedules sometimes result in last-minute shopping that leads to impulse purchases. Schedule some distraction-free time for your holiday shopping so you’re less likely to rush into purchases before thinking them through. • Don’t double buy. Some shoppers use the holidays as an excuse to buy more for themselves than the people on their lists. While it’s tempting to treat yourself come the holiday season, this is a great and quick way to deplete your budget. If you plan on using holiday deals to supplement your own wardrobe or household needs, reduce your spending the rest of the year and save money for year-

end purchases. • Do collect coupons and look for purchasing incentives. Comparison shopping not only helps you get the best price, but also it can shed light on coupons, shipping discounts and other incentives that lower the overall cost of products. Search online for Web sites that publish coupons and codes for online discounts, including free shipping. Join a store’s marketing list and receive emails with deals

sent directly to your inbox. • Don’t be afraid to delay some purchases if need be. If hosting a post-holiday gathering where gifts will be exchanged, it’s perfectly acceptable to delay buying those gifts until after Christmas or Chanukah, when many items can be found at even lower prices. Many stores reduce prices on merchandise come December 26, so you can wait until after the holidays to shop for items that will be exchanged with

distant friends and relatives. This enables you to save more money and use any received gift cards toward shopping. • Do keep a level head. Some people forget the true meaning of the season is spending time with loved ones. Getting swept away by shopping and worrying about deadlines can make the season less enjoyable. Don’t allow the stress of holiday shopping to compromise an otherwise joyous time of year.


Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 • 3

Great gifts for music fans

Music remains an art form that evokes strong emotions and holds a special place in many a listener’s heart. The nearly universal appeal of music makes it a great gift come the holiday season, when shoppers may not always know what to buy a loved one. The following are a few gift ideas that are sure to have your favorite music fan singing your praises this holiday season. • Concert tickets: Perhaps no gift makes music fans’ hearts race more than tickets to see their favorite musicians perform. Your loved one probably has a favorite artist or someone he or she has long desired to see live. Look into that performer’s tour dates to see if they are playing your area anytime soon. If they’re playing just before the holiday season, don’t hesitate to give this gift a little early. The same approach should be taken if an artist will be in town within a day or two of Christmas or Chanukah. Giving the tickets early enables your loved one the chance to clear his or her schedule. • Musical instrument: It’s never too early or too late to learn

how to play a new instrument. Shoppers whose loved ones love a good rock-and-roll riff might find guitars make a great holiday gift, while those who can’t stop playing air drums should enjoy finding a real drum set come the holidays. When buying guitars, shoppers should learn which hand

their loved ones favor. • Music lessons: Lessons are the next logical step once a music fan has the instruments to work with. But even those without an instrument of their own can benefit from music lessons. For example, music lovers who want to learn piano can make

use of lessons even if they don’t have their own pianos at home. Lessons can be a great way for music lovers to gauge their skill levels before buying an expensive instrument. In addition, lessons can turn music lovers on to new instruments or new types of music they may never have

considered previously. • Sound system: Advancements in technology have proven to be music to music lovers’ ears. Music fans can now take advantage of crisp sound systems that make music that much more enjoyable. Sound systems come in many shapes and sizes, and they can vary significantly in regard to price. When purchasing a sound system as a holiday gift, look for one that’s compatible with your loved one’s existing components, such as a television or music player. • Streaming service membership: Unlike the days when music fans had to wait for local deejays to play their favorite songs on the radio, today’s music fans can essentially create their own radio stations on their computers and even on their phones. Shoppers can buy their favorite music fans subscriptions to streaming services, such as Pandora or Spotify, and listeners can then tailor their own stations to include their favorite genres, artists or individual songs.

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Why buy locally? Buy Local -- Support yourself: Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms -- continuing to strengthen the economic base of our community. Support community groups: Non-profit organizations receive an average 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses. Save Gas: Don’t drive out of town! Create more good jobs: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and in our community, provide the most jobs to residents. Get better service: Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers. Invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future. Put your taxes to good use: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services. Encourage local prosperity: Money spent here is more apt to stay here.

Keep your Holiday Shopping LOCAL with goods, services and gift certificates from local businesses!

4 • Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Finding time during the holiday season Perhaps no time of year is as busy as the holiday season, when social engagements and holiday shopping combine to dominate so much of what is normally our free time. Additionally, holiday travel and late nights spent at work to make up for lost time also cut into our free time, leaving many people in search of ways to add more hours to the day. Though there’s no way to make a day last longer, there are ways to save some time this holiday season. • Go it alone. Holiday shopping can be very time consuming, but shoppers who decide to shop alone may find themselves more productive and focused on the task at hand. Rather than going from store to store and checking items off multiple shopping lists, shoppers who shop singularly can devote all of their attention to their own lists. • Shop online. Another way to save time when shopping for the holidays is to shop online. This saves you the time it takes to drive to and from the mall and walk around multiple stores, all the while saving you from the often frustrating and timeconsuming experience of finding a parking space. In addition, you can shop online at any time of day. So rather than just eating lunch at your desk on your lunch

hour or spending the last hour before you go to bed for the night idling away on the couch, you can make more efficient use of that time by doing some holiday shopping. • Plan ahead. Whether shopping for holiday gifts, taking the family to buy a Christmas tree or organizing a holiday dinner with friends, the more you can plan ahead of the holiday season the less time you will waste once the season hits full swing. For example, when choosing a weekend to go Christmas tree shopping, inform others a few weeks in advance and let them know you want to go early to avoid crowds. This saves you time and might just help you land one of the best trees on the lot. The same principle of planning can be applied to other aspects of the holiday season as well. Planning a meal early allows you to gradually stock up on menu items, saving you the hassle of rushing to the store at the last minute or planning a menu in the days before the party when you will already have enough on your plate. • Don’t shy away from shortcuts when hosting holiday dinners. Hosting a holiday dinner is a big undertaking, one that often finds hosts spending a significant amount of time in

Staying home for the holidays can save families a significant amount of time during this busy time of year. the kitchen. But hosts can save time by taking some shortcuts regarding the menu. For instance, when hosting an especially large meal, don’t be afraid to buy some premade side dishes from a local grocery store or buy a bakery cake rather than whipping up your own homemade dessert. Guests will understand if you cut some corners in an effort to

save some time, and the food will likely be just as delicious. • Stay home. Travel is a big commitment come the holiday season, but what about staying home this season? If the time commitment of traveling is something you truly want to avoid this year, invite some friends and family over to your home instead. You might be more

busy on the day of the holiday, but you will save yourself the travel days you usually build into the holiday season. Parents of young children might prefer to stay home so they can create their own unique holiday memories, while those without children might just appreciate some peace and quiet during this hectic time of year.

The holiday spending season by the numbers

The holiday season is significant for a variety of reasons. In addition to its religious significance, the holiday season is when many retailers enjoy their greatest successes. To understand just how much business Christmas and Chanukah can bring in, consider the following figures. 20: The percentage of annual sales jewelry stores indicate are made during the month of December. 150,205: The number of clothing and

accessories stores open in the United States as of 2009. 27.2: The amount, in billions of dollars, spent during the December 2010 holiday retail season. 983: The amount, in millions, of Christmas tree ornaments imported from China between January and September 2011. 34.87: The average cost of real Christmas trees as of 2011, Artificial trees

sell for an average of $70.55. 4.0: The percentage the National Retail Federation expects retail sales to increase this year. 2012: The year when holiday retail sales were the weakest since 2008. According MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, sales in the last two months of 2012 increased by just 0.7 percent from the previous year. Some financial analysts blamed Hurricane Sandy, an epic storm that caused billions of dollars in damage along the eastern coast of the United States, for the small increase in consumer spending. 24: The percentage of U.S. retail sales made by only the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. 8.4: The percentage growth of online sales from 2011 to 2012. Online sales generally make up about 10 percent of total holiday business. 70: The number, in millions, of poinsettia plants sold in the United States each year. 107,000: The projected cost, adjusted for inflation, of all of the gifts in “The Twelve Days of

Christmas.” 74: The percentage of adults who say the female head of the household is most likely to wrap all of the family’s gifts. 3: The number of years a store-bought Christmas fruit cake can be kept fresh if it is refrigerated.

Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 â&#x20AC;˘ 5

Frugal gift wrapping ideas Holiday shoppers spend billions of dollars each year on gifts for friends, family and coworkers. But holiday shoppers also spend substantial amounts of money dressing up those gifts with bows and wrapping paper. Shoppers may not want to spend much more on wrapping paper, bags and other ways to dress-up their gifts, and by employing a few tricks of the gift wrapping trade, they may not have to. The following are some frugal, yet flashy, ways to wrap presents this holiday season. â&#x20AC;˘ Childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s artwork: Over the course of a school year parents can accumulate dozens of original pieces of art from their childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time in the classroom. Instead of relegating those pictures to a memory box or temporary glory on the refrigerator, turn them into unique gift wrap. Pair these pieces of art with colored ribbon, and everyone who gets a unique masterpiece will feel special. â&#x20AC;˘ Newspaper: Recycle newsprint and comics into wrapping paper. Encourage everyone to wrap in newspaper for a cohesive look come

Christmas morning. â&#x20AC;˘ Cloth: Leftover cloth from Halloween or cloth purchased to create homemade curtains can be turned into giftwrap for awkward-shaped gifts. Use decorative ribbon to seal the bundle shut. â&#x20AC;˘ Brown paper: Brown paper tied with twine or ribbon is inexpensive and can easily be recycled after use. Use a marker to put the names of gift recipients on each package to save on gift tags as well. â&#x20AC;˘ Glass jars: Use mason jars when wrapping smaller gifts, including gift cards, to give them an arts-and-crafts feel. â&#x20AC;˘ Fabric gift bags: If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re handy with a needle and thread, sew sacks out of leftover fabric to make gift bags of various sizes. â&#x20AC;˘ Cookie tins: Find unique cookie tins from yard sales or leftover tins from holidays past and use them as gift boxes. â&#x20AC;˘ Recipes: If you will be giving a cookbook or food-themed gifts, print recipes that can be used as gift wrap and then later used to make certain dishes. â&#x20AC;˘ Baby linens: From blankets

Baskets are an often inexpensive alternative to wrapping paper. to wash cloths, use baby linens to wrap infant-themed gifts for new parents. â&#x20AC;˘ Baskets: Wicker baskets are available in various shapes and

sizes. They can be used to make a gift collection and then reused over and over again. There are many creative and inexpensive ways to wrap gifts

this year instead of relying on preprinted and often expensive wrapping paper.





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6 • Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Visit Santa without all the tears The holiday season means it’s time once again for parents to take their youngsters to visit Santa Claus. Pictures with little boys and girls lining up in their dress clothes with Santa are a holiday tradition, and youngsters are often anxious for their chances to share their Christmas gift wishes with the jolly man in red. But as integral as such photo sessions are to the holiday season, parents know they are one crying fit or meltdown away from having this tradition turn into trouble. After waiting in long lines to see Santa, it’s understandable when everyone’s patience starts to wear thin. The combination of antsy children and aggravated adults could set off a chain reaction that culminates in tear-stained cheeks and a sullied holiday memory. Pictures with Santa can go much more smoothly when you employ the following tips. • Prep children. While kids

may love the idea of Santa, youngsters face to face with a man in a red suit and a big, white beard may be nervous. Begin talking up Santa a few months before Christmas, mentioning how nice and friendly he is. Gauge how kids act around costumed performers at fairs, circuses and birthday parties and help them grow accustomed to people in costumes. If costumes elicit screams of horror, wait another year before seeing Santa. • Visit during off-peak hours. Weekends and evenings are the busiest times to visit Santa. This means long lines and longer wait times. Instead of dealing with the masses, try to get to the mall when the doors first open. Otherwise, let the children skip a day of school and visit during the week when the lines are shorter. • Consider another venue. Many different places of business host events where kids can meet Santa.

Families may be able to share a meal with Santa at a restaurant or visit him at a nursery while selecting Christmas trees. A different environment may be less intimidating to children and take the pressure off waiting in line in a busy mall. • Go well-fed. There’s little worse than waiting in line and doing so hungry. Hunger pangs can turn even the most placid child into a menace. Pack snacks to enjoy while waiting. Opt for items that will not stain lips and teeth or drip onto clothing. • Make it a family photo. Sometimes the only way to entice a little one to take a picture with Santa is to provide some added security. Dress your best and be prepared to have to step in and cozy up to Santa to ensure your child is all smiles.

Turn a visit with Santa into a pleasant experience for children of all age.

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Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 • 7

Holiday menu planning for first-time

Novice holiday hosts often have a lot on their plates. Whether hosting family or friends or a combination of both, first-time hosts typically want to impress their guests while ensuring they get enough to eat and have an enjoyable evening. Since dinner is such a big part of holiday gatherings, hosts often place extra emphasis on what to serve, and that can be tricky when this is the first time they are hosting. When planning the menu for your holiday soiree, consider the following tips. • Get a head count. Though other factors will influence what to serve, the size of your guest list may ultimately dictate what to serve. For example, a small gathering of four to five people will likely rule out turkey, as even a small turkey will prove too much effort and produce too much extra food. On the same note, a small dish like lasagna might not be doable for a larger crowd, as it will force you to prepare multiple entrees, which means more time in the kitchen juggling the various cooking duties and less time with your guests. Once you have confirmed

First-time holiday hosts can take a number of steps to ensure their menus appeal to all of their guests. medical conditions that restrict just how many guests you will be gathering allows hosts to put out which foods they can eat. Solicit hosting, you can then choose a some snacks or bread for guests such information from all of main course that suits the size of to whet their appetites before your guests, and do your best your guest list. everyone sits down for the meal. to cater to each of your guests’ • Decide which type of party The more formal the gathering, needs. Some guests might be on a you want to host. The type of the more formal the menu. Hosts gluten-free diet while others may party you want to host also will of less formal gatherings may need to limit their sodium intake. influence what you serve. A even want to host a holiday pot You might not be able to meet formal gathering should include luck buffet, inviting guests to everyone’s demands. Let guests an appetizer, a main course bring a favorite dish or side dish while the hosts take care of the know if they should bring an and a dessert, including both main course. appropriate snack if you cannot caffeinated and decaffeinated • Ask guests if they have any provide one for them. coffees. A less formal gathering dietary restrictions. Upon being • Include traditional holiday gives hosts more leeway. For fare. People have grown to expect invited to a holiday dinner, some example, whereas a formal certain things from holiday gathering may include soup as an invitees may let hosts know if they have any food allergies or meals, be it sweet potatoes appetizer, hosting a less formal

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on Thanksgiving, brisket for Chanukah or holiday cookies or even eggnog at Christmas parties. When planning the menu, be sure to include at least one of these traditional items, even asking guests for suggestions. Such fare will give the party a genuine holiday feel, and guests will appreciate seeing some items on your dinner table they have enjoyed at their own holiday celebrations over the years. • Don’t overdo it. First-time hosts want to ensure everyone gets enough to eat, so it’s easy to overdo things and prepare too much food. This can be expensive, and guests may feel obligated to overeat so hosts don’t have to discard any of the food they worked so hard to prepare. Though it might once have been a holiday tradition to overeat, many men and women now prefer moderation, and hosts should keep that in mind when preparing their holiday meals. Hosting a holiday dinner for the first time can be nerve-wracking. But there are a variety of steps first-timers can take when preparing their menus to come off looking like old pros.

and a happy new year!

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8 • Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

The basics of poinsettia plant care

Although poinsettias are most often associated with the holiday season, they are actually tropical plants. In spite of their origins, poinsettias can thrive during the holiday season and even last long after the holidays have come and gone. Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America. Aztecs called the plant cuetlaxochitl. The flowering plant was first introduced to the United States by Joel Poinsett, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and was subsequently renamed the poinsettia. The flowers of the poinsettia are actually the yellow blooms at the middle of the bright red or white bracts that form on the plant. Perhaps due to the bright red of the bracts, the plant quickly became a popular Christmas plant. It’s important to note that poinsettias grow in a warm climate and therefore must

be kept in tropical conditions to ensure the plant’s health. Furthermore, poinsettias bloom in response to shortening daylight hours. That means they will need ample darkness each night in order to simulate the dark nights of short, winter days. To achieve this, you may need to put the plant into a dark closet for 12 to 14 hours each night. During the day, the plant should be in a sunny window where it will have access to bright light. The more light the better. Keep the soil evenly moist. Misting the plant will help it to retain some humidity. Also, fill the overflow saucer on your flower pot with gravel to allow water seeping through the pot to evaporate from the gravel. Hot temperatures indoors combined with high humidity will help the plant to thrive. Even one day without

adequate moisture can cause the leaves to drop. Furthermore, decreasing temperatures can cause leaves to fall off. The goal is to keep the indoor temperature consistent. While many poinsettia plants are discarded after the holiday season, these plants can actually be cut back and saved for next season. Trimming back any remaining leaves and continuing to care for the plant by keeping it moist can help. To force the blooms next season, start reducing the plant’s exposure to sunlight in midSeptember to October. Again, this will mean removing the plant to an area that is shrouded in complete darkness. Even streetlights or indoor lighting can affect blooming. If the plant does not begin to turn color before the holiday season, you may need to purchase a new plant and try again next year.

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Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 • 9

Keeping the magic of Santa alive He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. And Ilaughed when I saw him in spite of myself. - “A Visit From St. Nicholas” Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without Santa Claus. Santa will forever be ingrained in the holiday season, serving as an endearing symbol of the season regardless of your religious affiliation. Parents typically go to great lengths to ensure their children enjoy the holiday season. By keeping the magic of Santa alive, parents can add a special touch to the holiday season for their youngsters. Children may become more skeptical of Santa around the time they turn 10, but there are plenty of ways to encourage this spirit to live on year after year. • Read an uplifting story. The holidays are ripe with stories that tug at the heartstrings. Parents can take their children to the library and rent a Christmas tale or take home a book of holiday stories, reading

a different one before bed each night. Encourage children to write their own positive stories of what the holidays mean to them and read them aloud to family and friends. The book “101 Ways to Keep the Spirit of Santa Alive: For “Kids” From 1 to 92” by John Hagerman is a great way to get everyone in the house enthusiastic about Santa. • Keep the magic flowing. Children who believe in Santa for an extra year or two often come from families that keep the magic of Santa alive. In addition to the standard traditions of leaving cookies and milk out for the jolly old man, come up with new ways to evoke the essence of Santa. Spray peppermint air freshener around the tree and other places Santa is sure to visit. Use a large boot to make a footprint in a plush rug. Find a way to trigger noise on the roof to give kids the impression that Mr. Claus himself has arrived. Extra measures to keep Santa alive can help everyone enjoy the holiday that much more. • Take advantage of opportunities to spend time

with Santa. Parents and children alike have many opportunities to spend time with Santa during the holiday season, including photo opportunities at the mall and personalized videos sent directly to youngsters’ email accounts. Elf dolls and breakfast with Santa at a nearby restaurant are other opportunities to spread the magic. Make the most of these opportunities over the course of the holiday season. • Spread some Christmas cheer. Santa’s job is to bring presents to the world’s children. Channel the notion that giving is better than receiving and spend time giving back to others as a family. Schedule a day when you can distribute gifts at a senior center or arrange to bring gifts to a foster child. Bake cookies and deliver cellophane-wrapped dishes to all of your neighbors. These activities put the emphasis on giving. Keeping the tradition of Santa Claus alive can help adults and children alike enjoy a more festive holiday season.

Emphasize safety when decorating for the holidays Decking the halls for the holidays is a beloved tradition for many families. A home’s exterior festooned with lights help create a festive holiday mood, while stockings hung by the chimney and a Christmas tree in the living room bring that holiday cheer inside. Though the holiday season is a festive time of year, it can quickly turn tragic if revelers do not emphasize safety when decorating their homes. When decorating this holiday season, be sure to employ the following precautions so your holiday season is festive, decorative and safe. • Exercise extreme caution with holiday lights. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, 150 home fires per year begin with holiday lights and other decorative lighting. Such fires may start because of frayed or bare wires, broken or cracked sockets or even loose connections. It’s important that men and women be especially careful when decorating their homes with holiday lights, inspecting each set of lights for damage and discarding any

Christmas trees should never be placed in close proximity to heat sources such as fireplaces, vents and radiators. damaged sets. When choosing cause an average of $13 million lights, use only lights that have in property damage annually. been certified for outdoor use on Though it can be tempting to your home’s exterior, and never purchase the most eye-catching use outdoor lights inside. Christmas tree you find, avoid • Purchase the right Christmas acting rashly until you have tree. The Consumer Product learned a little about the tree. Safety Commission notes that Artificial trees should be labeled Christmas trees are involved as “Fire Resistant.” Such trees in hundreds of fires causing can still catch fire, but they are an average of 15 deaths each more resistant to fire than trees year. In addition, such fires without such labels. When buying

a live tree, make sure the tree is fresh. The tree should be green, and its needles should be difficult to pull off of branches, which should not be easily breakable. Tap the tree on the ground before purchasing it. If the tree loses a lot of needles upon tapping the ground, it isn’t fresh. Trees that aren’t fresh are more susceptible to going up in flames. • Keep the tree away from heat sources. Though it might seem more idyllic to place your Christmas tree next to the fireplace, it’s a lot more dangerous as well. When choosing a spot for your tree, find a place that is away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators and vents. But homeowners also should know that even trees placed away from heat sources can still dry out, creating a fire hazard even if the tree was fresh and healthy when purchased. That’s because Christmas trees can quickly dry out in heated rooms. Monitor the tree’s water levels every day, checking those levels in both the morning and at night before going to bed. This prevents the tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard, and

it also helps the tree maintain its aesthetic appeal through the holiday season. • Limit use of candles. Like Christmas trees, candles are a popular yet potentially hazardous decorative item during the holiday season. When decorating with candles, be sure that all candles are extinguished before leaving a room and never leave them burning when you go to bed. Candles should be kept away from any decorative items, including Christmas trees, that can catch fire. Never place candles near curtains, furniture or presents. Holiday enthusiasts with little children or pets at home might want to decorate with fake LED-light candles instead of traditional candles. Curious kids or excitable pets may not recognize the potential dangers of lit candles and, as a result, might burn themselves or tips candles over. The holiday season is upon us, and that means scores of celebrants will be decking their halls. Though festive decorations are a part of the season, safety should always come first.

10 â&#x20AC;˘ Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Holly and mistletoe are symbols of Christmas

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Oh, by gosh, by golly itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time for mistletoe and holly. Tasty pheasants, Christmas presents, countrysides covered in snow.â&#x20AC;? As exemplified by this holiday hit by Henry Sanicola, Frank Sinatra and Dok Stanford, holly and mistletoe are an integral part of holiday imagery and tradition. Holly is used to adorn a home in green and red finery alongside evergreen boughs and wreaths. In addition, it has become customary to hang a bouquet of mistletoe under which people are encouraged to share a holiday kiss. While these elements of celebrations are now incorporated into many of the secular and religious components of Christmas, they have very different origins. Holly Holly has been used since the days of the early Pagans as a decoration for midwinter festivities, when it was brought into homes to keep evil spirits away. The ancient Romans also believed that holly prickles drove away evil spirits, and it held a place of honor at December festivals dedicated to the god Saturn. To avoid

persecution during the Roman pagan Saturnalia festival, early Christians would participate in the tradition of hanging evil-repelling holly on their homes to appear like the masses. Eventually as the number of Christians grew, the tradition became less of a pagan one and more associated with Christians and Christmas. Some people have inferred that holly and its prickly edges is symbolic of the crown of thorns Jesus wore at his crucifixion, with the red berries representing blood. Mistletoe Mistletoe was once held sacred by the Norse, Celtic Druids and North American Indians. It is actually a parasitic plant that grows on a wide range of host trees. Heavy infestation can dwarf the growth and kill these trees. In cultures across pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was seen as a representation of divine male essence (and thus romance, fertility and vitality). The plant also was thought to be a symbol of peace, and anyone standing below it should receive tokens of affection. When enemies met beneath mistletoe, they had to lay down their weapons and observe

Whether faux or fresh mistletoe, a bouquet of this plant symbolizes peace and tranquility for Christmas. a truce until the next day. This is how the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe likely began, and why a ball of mistletoe is now hung in homes during Christmas, a season of peace and affection. Homeowners who hang mistletoe and holly around their


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homes during the holiday season should be mindful of pets and youngsters around the plants. Mistletoe and holly are considered to be moderately to severely toxic, and ingesting the leaves could be dangerous. Therefore, keep these plants away from curious hands.

Mistletoe is commonly hung up high, which should make it less problematic, but holly should be hung high as well. Now largely associated with Christmas celebrations, holly and mistletoe were once part of pagan rituals and ancient superstitions.

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Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Most popular Christmas songs Decorations and shopping are integral parts of the holiday season, but very often it is the music being played over the airwaves that sets the tone for the festivities to come. Christmas music has been enjoyed for decades and certain compositions are widely loved and played year after year. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, who compiles lists of the most popular songs, lists â&#x20AC;&#x153;Santa Claus Is Coming to Townâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Winter Wonderland,â&#x20AC;? both of which were written in 1934, as the oldest and most popular tunes. The newest popular song is â&#x20AC;&#x153;Wonderful Christmastime,â&#x20AC;? composed in 1979. Though personal preference often determines a holiday playlist, the following tunes are of the more popular Christmas songs: â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)â&#x20AC;? - Mel Torme, Robert Wells â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Santa Claus Is Coming to Townâ&#x20AC;? Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmasâ&#x20AC;? - Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Winter Wonderlandâ&#x20AC;? - Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;White Christmasâ&#x20AC;? - Irving Berlin â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!â&#x20AC;? - Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeerâ&#x20AC;? Johnny Marks â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Jingle Bell Rockâ&#x20AC;? - Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll Be Home for Christmasâ&#x20AC;? - Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, Buck Ram

â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Little Drummer Boyâ&#x20AC;? - Katherine K. Davis, Henry V. Onorati, Harry Simeone â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sleigh Rideâ&#x20AC;? - Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the Most Wonderful Time of the Yearâ&#x20AC;? - Edward Pola, George Wyle â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Silver Bellsâ&#x20AC;? - Jay Livingston, Ray Evans â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Rockinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Around the Christmas Treeâ&#x20AC;? Johnny Marks â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Feliz Navidadâ&#x20AC;? - Jose Feliciano â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Blue Christmasâ&#x20AC;? - Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Frosty the Snowmanâ&#x20AC;? - Steve Nelson, Walter E. Rollins â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;A Holly Jolly Christmasâ&#x20AC;? - Johnny Marks â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clausâ&#x20AC;? Tommie Connor â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)â&#x20AC;? - Gene Autry, Oakley Haldeman â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmasâ&#x20AC;? - Meredith Willson â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;(Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s No Place Like) Home for the Holidaysâ&#x20AC;? - Bob Allen, Al Stillman â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Carol of the Bellsâ&#x20AC;? - Peter J. Wilhousky, Mykola Leontovich â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Santa Babyâ&#x20AC;? - Joan Ellen Javits, Philip Springer, Tony Springer â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Wonderful Christmastimeâ&#x20AC;? - Paul McCartney â&#x20AC;&#x153;White Christmasâ&#x20AC;? is the most covered Christmas song of all time. There are more than 500 versions in several different languages.

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12 • Hancock County Holiday Guide,

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Celebrating the Festival of Lights The Jewish celebration of Chanukah is often associated with the Christian holiday of Christmas, but that association has little to do with the significance of each holiday and more to do with the timing. Each is celebrated at the end of the year when the holiday season has hit full swing. But much like the story of Christmas, the story of Chanukah is a rich one. The celebration of Chanukah has a deep history that can be traced back to a successor of Alexander the Great. Upon conquering Syria, Egypt and Palestine, Alexander the Great allowed these lands to remain relatively autonomous, a gesture that extended to allowing residents of these conquered lands to observe their own religions. However, more than 100 years later, Antiochus IV, a less tolerant successor of Alexander, began to oppress the Jewish people under his control, desecrating their temples and even ordering the massacre of many Jews. This treatment eventually sparked a revolt led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son, Judah Maccabee.

This revolt would ultimately prove successful, and the temple was rededicated. But at the time of rededication, oil needed to light the menorah was very low, roughly enough to keep the menorah lit for just one night. However, the oil stunningly lasted for eight days, enough time to prepare an additional supply of oil for the menorah. Aneightday festival was then declared

to celebrate this miracle, and that festival is now known as Chanukah, which is often referred to as the “Festival of Lights.” Though Chanukah is not as religiously significant as the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Passover, many Jewish people still look forward to the holiday and its traditions. One such tradition for many families is cooking

potato latkes, a relatively easy yet delicious food that Chanukah celebrants can enjoy on weekend mornings when gathered around the breakfast table. Potato Latkes Serves 4 11/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoons salt and freshly ground black pepper Vegetable oil for frying In a food processor, grate the potatoes. Line a sieve with cheesecloth and transfer the potatoes to the sieve. Set the sieve over a boil and twist the cheesecloth into a pouch, squeezing out some moisture. Let the mixture drain for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, pour off liquid from the bowl but leave the white potato starch that settles in the bottom of the bowl. To that starch add shallots, eggs, flour, salt and freshly ground pepper. Return drained potatoes to this mixture and toss to combine. Preheat the oven to 200 F. Line a baking pan with paper towels. When you are ready to eat, in a large skillet heat 1/4 inch of oil over medium-high heat until hot. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of potato mixture and cook for 3 to 4 minutes a side; latkes should be golden and crisp on both sides. Eat right away or keep warm in oven. Serve with applesauce, sour cream or cottage cheese mixed with sour cream. Recipe courtesy of

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Nov. 27, 2013 gift guide  
Nov. 27, 2013 gift guide