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Holiday traditions abound at home and around the world By Sharon Bouchard Feature Writer


ccording to Webster’s D i c t i o n a r y, t h e definition of tradition is the handing dow n of a belief or a custom. At no time a re traditions more cherished than during the holiday season. Maybe in your family there is a special ornament that h a s be en h a nde d dow n t h roug h t he generat ions and the Christmas tree is not f u l ly decorated unt i l that very special ornament is hung. Perhaps it’s even a Christmas pickle.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Santa Claus waves to youngsters as he makes his way, along with a team of horses from Enchanted Acres, through downtown Norway and Paris in the annual Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade held recently.

T here is a ha nded-dow n story that the first child in a family to find the Christmas pickle hanging on the tree w ill receive an extra gift. That is a tradition in some homes, but in reality, the Christmas pickle ornament came about in 1880 when F. W. Woolworth’s imported a large amount of vegetable shaped ornaments from Germany. It just so happens that the pickle outnumbered the other vegetables and more of them ended up on the branches of Christmas trees. Hanging Christmas stockings made by a favorite aunt or grandmother is a tradition for many and a true delight for the children who hang them and experience the thrill of expectation while waiting to see what surprises will be in the stockings on Christmas morning. Another handed-down story takes credit for the Christmas stock i ng t rad it ion. T he stor y states t hat a n Eng l ish nobleman squandered his fortune after the death of his wife leaving his three daughters with no dowries and therefore no potential husbands. St. Nicholas, af ter hearing t he sad ta le, t h rew t h ree pouches of gold coins down the chimney on Christmas Eve, which just so happened



to land in the stockings the daughters has placed over the fireplace to dry. Fact or fiction, it doesn’t matter; hanging the stocking is a wonderful tradition. Holiday traditions are a big part of what makes the season so special and they are handed down and observed not just in your own home, but throughout the world. For example, in Iceland all the churches throughout the country ring their bells at 6 p.m. on Christmas (Jol) Eve, at which time everyone sits down to a large holiday dinner followed by the opening of gifts. A large family dinner on Christmas Eve is also a tradition in Spain, but the eating and celebrating continue until 6 a.m. on Christmas day. In America, traditions are maintained and celebrated in every community. For most towns, the holiday season begins with the annual tree lighting and a visit from Santa. In Oxford Hills, the season is ushered in with the annual Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce Christmas parade which

is always on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. According to John Williams, Chamber director, it is believed that this parade is the largest Christmas parade in Maine. Also a tradition is the last float in the parade carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus on a sleigh who later visit with area children. Christmas in Harrison is a big event in the picturesque town taking place over a two-day period starting with Soup and Songs, followed by the Christmas tree lighting, the arrival of Santa, and a parade. Craft fairs, church concerts, bell ringing, and Christmas pageants can be found in abundance throughout Western Maine and are traditionally held year after year. In your own home, your traditions may be many or maybe there is only one special thing you do every year. Perhaps you look forward to or make jokes about Aunt Mary’s annual fruit cake. It can be as simple as a reading for all the children of The Night Before Christmas or as grand as attending a performance of The Nutcracker Suite every year. Whatever your own personal traditions are, they should be cherished, preserved, and handed down to each generation for many years to come.

Advertising Supplement to the Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, December 13, 2012

Save when shopping this holiday season The

holiday season is filled with tradition. Many families have their ow n unique customs, and those traditions create lasting memories for adults and children alike. One such holiday tradition is shopping for gifts for family and friends. Many people enjoy holiday shopping, anxiously anticipating the look on their loved ones’ faces when they open their presents. But holiday shopping is even more enjoyable for shoppers who can save a little extra money. The following are a few tips for shoppers who still want to give the perfect gifts but don't want to break the bank.

Stop paying for shipping. Many people now do their holiday shopping online through local retailers’ websites. Online shopping can be more convenient and give consumers more options. But some shoppers still shy away from online retailers for fear of high shipping costs. However, some retailers offer free shipping to consumers who spend a certain amount of money. In addition, savvy shoppers can scour the Internet for free shipping codes they can use at checkout. Some retailers even offer free shipping during the holiday season (last minute purchases might not be eligible) to entice customers.

Don't be tempted by retailer credit cards. Retailer credit cards can be very tempting, especially when the cashier offers an immediate 20 percent discount if you sign up for the card at the register. But that discount comes at a steep price down the road. Not only will you be receiving a bill after the holiday season, but that retailer credit card will most definitely feature a high interest rate that can negate the initial discount at the register – unless you pay off the balance in full.

Create spending parameters with your immediate family. The economy has yet to fully recover from the downturn that began nearly half a decade ago. As a result, many people still approach the holiday shopping season with a degree of trepidation. Get together with your immediate family and establish spending parameters so no person feels like he or she has to spend too much money on holiday shopping. Agree that no gift should cost more than $25. Everyone will still enjoy the holiday season and one another's company, and they won't be forced to deal with the stress of overspending. (Metro)

Holiday shopping doesn't have to break the bank. Making a list before you head out the door is a key factor in sticking to your budget.

Empty your wallet of gift cards. Gift cards are popular gifts come the holidays, but many gift card recipients fail to use their cards prior to their expiration dates. Many cards expire 12 months after their initial purchase date. If your wallet is filled with gift cards you received last holiday season, use them to buy gifts for friends and family now before they expire.

Make a list. Santa Claus is renowned for making a list come the holiday season, and holiday shoppers should follow his lead. Prior to your first holiday shopping trip, make a list that includes the names of friends and family to buy for and what you want to buy for each one of them. Doing so decreases the chances you'll forget someone and be forced to drive back to the mall. Reducing the number of shopping trips you have to make will conserve fuel and save you a substantial amount of money and time.

Pay in cash. If you're not a fan of online shopping, then use only cash when shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. Paying with cash eliminates the risk of overspending with credit cards, which will come back to haunt you in January when the bills are due. Take a predetermined amount of cash with you when shopping, and once that money is gone, then it's time to go home.

Advertising Supplement to the Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, December 13, 2012



Things to consider before buying big-ticket items The holiday season is a popu la r t ime for consumers to purchase big-ticket items such as televisions and home appliances. Year-end sales and holiday discounts have made November and December a buyer's market. But just because a consumer can find great deals during the holiday season does not mean he or she should jump at the first deal that comes his or her way. In fact, consumers should consider a host of factors before buying a big-ticket item during the holiday season.

Rebates: Rebates can turn a good deal into a great deal, and many electronics manufacturers offer rebates even if the merchants are unaware. Inexpensive items are not often associated with rebates, but costly items like televisions, computers and cameras may be eligible for manufacturer rebates. If you find an item on sale but the merchant knows nothing about potential rebates, contact the manufacturer prior to purchase. You might save money by purchasing a slightly more expensive item that offers a rebate instead of a heavily discounted item that does not come with a rebate.


Some merchants will offer a full refund if an item is returned within a certain time period, while others may only offer a partial refund. But some merchants might be willing to work with you if you purchase an item only to find it is being sold for

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When purchasing a big-ticket item, a store representative will likely try to sell you an extended warranty for the item. On the surface, such a precaution seems like a worthy investment because, in theory, it's offering added protection for an item that's costing you a lot of money. However, most electronics and appliances already come with a standard manufacturer warranty, and the extended warranty, which can cost several hundred dollars, might just be duplicating coverage you already have. If you're leaning toward purchasing an extended warranty, know exactly what it does and does not cover before buying it. Many of today's appliances are built to last years, and the extended warranty might not cover problems that result from normal wear and tear. Research the product, including consumer reviews, so you know what problems to expect from it. If the problems are minor, then the extended warranty is probably not worth the investment.


Merchants compete for business during the holiday season, a nd such compet it ion benef its t he consumer. Before purchasing a big-ticket item, talk to a merchant about the company's return policy.

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The price of an item is the determining factor for many buyers. If the price is right, consumers will buy an item. If not, they're likely to move on. But even if the in-store price for a big-ticket item seems like a great deal, it's still in a consumer's best interest to shop around. Many retailers offer better deals online than they do inside their brick-and-mortar stores, and you might even be able to pick the item up just as you would if you bought it in-store. In-store pickup can save you the cost of shipping, which can amount to considerable savings. Don't be too quick to purchase a big-ticket item no matter how deep the discount. Be patient and comparison shop. Doing so might save you hundreds of dollars.

Consumers can often find great deals on big-ticket items, including washing machines, during the holiday season.

Reputation: A good deal is only a good deal if you're getting an item that's worth buying. Do your homework before buying a big-ticket item, researching its pros and cons. Consumer reviews can be an especially valuable resource, as consumers like you have no incentive to embellish or mislead others about a product. The product's reputation among industry professionals and fellow consumers should bear considerable weight in your decision-making process. A heavily discounted piece of junk is still a piece of junk. The holiday season is a great time to find bargains on big-ticket items. Educated consumers can come away with a great deal and a great product.

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Advertising Supplement to the Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gift ideas for the food fanatic on your list


ome people are a cinch to shop for come the holiday season, while others can be more of an enigma. When it comes to the latter, shoppers should determine what tickles their mysterious friend or family member’s fancy, such as a favorite hobby or even something to do with his or her profession.

There are many different food trends that come and go throughout the years. Whether linked to recent medical research or brought on by experimentation, different foods or ingredients can quickly become the must-have items for foodies. Every year seems to boast its own trends, and 2012 has proven to be no exception. Based on the latest buzz as well as information from this year’s Fancy Food Show, here’s a look at a few up-and-coming trends.

Food is a passion for many people and provides holiday shoppers with a great opportunity to make a loved one’s holiday season even more special. Perhaps thanks to the increase in cable networks focusing on food, foodies, those people with an appreciation and passion for cuisine, have grown in number in recent years, and holiday shoppers with foodies on their lists have a host of potential gift options at their disposal.

Cooking class: Many foodies don’t just like eating food but cooking their favorite cuisine as well. For those who like to get their hands dirty before filling their bellies, consider paying for a cooking class. Many communities have cooking classics for various types of cuisine, so consult your friend or family member, asking them which cuisine they’d like to learn and when they’re available. Or let them find their own class and then pay for the class. This can be a great way for foodies to learn something new and meet fellow food afficionados along the way.

Specialty spices: Spices can make the difference between an ordinary meal that’s void of flavor and a meal that’s so flavorful it won’t soon be forgotten. When spicing things up for a foodie this holiday season, don’t just buy regular spices at the grocery store. For example, instead of standard cinnamon, buy a specialty spice like Mexican or Vietnamese cinnamon. Such specialty spices can add extra f lavor to a meal while becoming the go-to spice for the home chef among your friends and family members.

Pressure cooker: Many foodies are fawning over pressure cooking, which can cut down on cooking times without sacrificing nutrition.

Growing food trends

Korean food: Move over Chinese, Japanese, and Thai, Korean food is now the select Asian cuisine among many foodies. The spicy and robust flavors of this cuisine make Korean meals popular across the country.

Gift the foodie on your holiday shopping list with something that encourages their love of cuisine.

Serving dishes: Of course, many foodies want to share the fruits of their labors with friends and family. For the person who loves throwing dinner parties, consider some serving dishes this holiday season. Serving dishes can range from casual (for the foodie who can’t wait to fire up the grill) to formal (for the gourmet foodie), so get a feel of your friend or family member’s preferences before purchasing a set of serving dishes.

Cookbook: The ideal fallback item for holiday shoppers who can’t seem to find anything for their favorite foodies, cookbooks filled with recipes for dishes from their favorite type of cuisine (i.e., Italian, Thai, Cajun, etc.) are sure to please. When gifting with a cookbook, peruse a few of its recipes to determine if there are any special ingredients that appear throughout. If there are, purchase these ingredients and gift them as well. (Metro)

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Artisan chocolates: Forget those run-of-the-mill chocolate bars sold at the convenience store; small producers of carefully sourced cocoa beans are turning up left and right. These types of chocolates appeal to eco-conscious consumers as well as those who simply enjoy good food. The chocolates cater to adult tastes and veer away from standard chocolate and nut creations. Gluten free: The demand for gluten-free products has increased significantly, as many people are in tune with their personal health and reticent to consume products that feature gluten. Look for new blends of soy, rice and corn flour used in everything from pastas to pancakes. Resurgence of butchers: Fed up with the humdrum flavor of mass-produced beef from the supermarket, consumers have essentially driven the resurgence of independent meat markets across the country. There is also a growth in heritage cattle and pig breeds to produce more flavorful meats. (Metro)

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Advertising Supplement to the Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, December 13, 2012

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Safety tips for the extreme holiday decorator T

Keep old holiday traditions, not old holiday lights:

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aking holiday decorating to extremes is f un. But accidents ca n happen, especially when using a lot of electronic decorations on the outside of the house.

Put your faith in the magic of the holidays but don’t fall for fakes: Whether it’s a waving Santa, rocking sleigh, or light-up Rudolph, avoid counterfeit electronic decorations that haven’t been certified for safe use. Look for the mark from an accredited certification organization like CSA Group on light strings, extension cords, and animated displays. Make sure they are marked for outdoor use and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Turn off the electricity to the supply outlet before working with outdoor wiring. Unplug light strings before replacing bulbs and check to ensure replacement bulbs match the voltage and wattage of the original. To avoid a shock from damaged wire, use insulated fasteners rather than metal nails or tacks to hold light strings in place.

Stay dry: Keep electrical connectors for outdoor lights above ground, out of water, and away from metal gutters. Connect outdoor lighting into receptacles protected by weatherproof

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Don’t risk your family’s safety by following a few precautions including the use of heavy-duty extension cords for high wattage decorations.

ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). These can provide protection from electric shock by sensing ground leakage and cutting electrical power.

hose who insist on a natural tree might want to consider the following tips when buying what’s likely their biggest decorative item of the holiday season.

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Don’t overextend yourself:

It’s more than a faux-pas to keep lights up all year: Outdoor holiday lights are made for seasonal use only; extended exposure can lead to damage. After the holiday season, take down decorations and store them in their original packaging to keep the proper use instructions for next year. You can find more safety tips at http://www. (Metro)

Tips for buying a natural Christmas tree

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Make decorating a family activity by planning this year’s theme with the kids, but don’t let children or pets play with light strings.

Carefully inspect light strings each year. Discard any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders or loose connections.

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Ask when the tree was cut down. Precut trees may be cut down weeks before they’re sold. So if you’re buying a precut tree, chances are the tree was cut down much earlier than you think. This doesn’t mean the tree won’t make it through the holiday season, but a tree that was cut several weeks ago should have some of its bottom trunk removed before it’s placed in the stand. This will make it easier for the tree to consume water. This step likely isn’t necessary if the tree was cut down the same day you bring it home. Have the tree shaken before taking it home. A tree should be shaken in a shaker before you put it in your car and bring it home. A shaker removes any debris or dead needles from the tree, which can save you the trouble of cleaning up all of those dead needles from your living room floor later on. Have the tree wrapped before taking it home. A tree should also be wrapped in twine before taking it home. The twine should be tight enough to keep the tree’s branches from blowing in the wind when you attach the tree to the top of your vehicle. If possible, keep the tree wrapped in twine as you place it in the stand. This makes the tree easier to control.

Choose the right location. When looking for the right place to set up your natural tree, it’s best to choose a spot that’s cool and free of drafts. The tree should not be placed near heat sources, including appliances, fireplaces or vents, because such heat sources create a safety hazard and can make it difficult for the tree to retain moisture. There should also be ample space between the top of the tree and the ceiling. Place some covering on the ground beneath the tree. Even a freshly cut natural tree will shed needles over the course of the holiday season. Before placing t he stand in t he location you’ve chosen, put some type of covering, such as a tree bag, beneath the stand so it’s easier to gather all those needles once the holiday season has ended. Remember that natural trees are thirsty. Men and women who have never had a natural Christmas tree in the past might be surprised at just how thirsty natural trees get. The stand’s reservoir should have lots of water, which should never dip below the stump. If the water dips below the stump, you might be forced to cut a little more off the bottom of the trunk to ensure the tree will make it through the holiday season. That can be a hassle once the tree has been decorated, so be sure to check the water in the reservoir at least once per day to maintain adequate water levels. (Metro)

Advertising Supplement to the Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, December 13, 2012

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Tree lighting tips Lighting a Christmas tree may seem like child’s play, but time and again people struggle with the task. Untangling wires and wrapping them around boughs can be nerve wracking, but lighting a tree doesn’t have to be a chore when you follow some tips from the professionals. First, keep in mind that wrapping lights around the tree horizontally is more work and often doesn’t produce a multi-dimensional effect. Rather, string the lights from the trunk up to the top, working vertically. This is actually how the tree decorators at Rockefeller Center in New York City do the famous tree year after year. This method helps eliminate tangled wires and empty spots. Remember to plug in the strands of lights before you begin to check for burnt-out bulbs and to adjust the spacing of lights to prevent dark spots. Think about varying light bulb sizes to add more dimension. String an inner layer of small LED white lights to produce an inner glow on the tree before adding larger, colored lightson top to increase visual appeal. Just be sure to match the same wattage of the lights so that you do not have power surges and can prolong the life of the bulbs. (Metro)

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Advertising Supplement to the Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, December 13, 2012

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Out-of-the-box themes for your holiday party P

arties are an integral part of the holiday season, when friends and family gather to celebrate and give thanks. For holiday hosts, parties are a great opportunity to make the season even more festive with an event that guests won’t soon forget. The following are just a few themes to make your holiday party as memorable as it is merry.

Caribbean Christmas:

Christmas sweater party:

Rather than wearing sweaters and long pants, wear beach attire and give the party a touch of the Caribbean. Outfit your home in beach decor and serve food and drinks reminiscent of the Caribbean instead of more traditional holiday fare like eggnog and gingerbread cookies.

The weather come the holiday season may be the one thing to put a damper on the festivities. To combat blue feelings from potentially inclement weather, consider a Caribbean theme for your holiday party this season.

Christmas sweater parties have grown in popularity over the last decade, when revelers have tried to outdo one another with the most outrageous holiday-themed sweater. Give prizes for

Film festival: Holiday mov ies are another tradition of the season, so why not invite friends and family over for a holiday film marathon? Include classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” and encourage guests to submit their own favorites for consideration.

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For those who love to belt out their favorite holiday tunes, consider throwing a Christmas karaoke party that allows guests to perform their own renditions of their favorite Christmas carols. Purchase a home karaoke set and ask guests in advance of the party if there are any particular songs they’d like to perform.

Host a holiday giveaway. Whatever theme you use for your holiday party, it’s always fun for your guests, no matter their age, when Santa shows up to join the festivities.

the most outlandish sweater and let guests know early on so they can begin their hunt for a holiday sweater that’s so ugly or outrageous you can’t help but love it.

Christmas costume party: Costume parties aren’t just for Halloween. This holiday season, consider making your holiday bash a costume party, encouraging guests to dress up as their favorite characters from holiday tales like “Frosty the Snowman,” “A Christmas Carol,” or any of the host of beloved holiday legends.

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Though it can be fun to do a Secret Santa, chances are guests already have enough gifts to buy. But hosts can spice things up with a holiday giveaway that rewards guests. Host a holidaythemed round of Trivial Pursuit or a holiday movie trivia game that encourages guests to compete for prizes. Prizes can be small and inexpensive, but guests will be sure to enjoy some friendly competition for holiday-themed prizes.

Don’t forget the holiday fare. Just like parties are a staple of the holiday season, so, too, are certain foods and types of music. Few people indulge in some eggnog outside of the holiday season, so make sure there’s plenty of eggnog on hand. And don’t forget the gingerbread cookies, either. As people enjoy holiday goodies, make sure they do so with holiday music playing in the background. Choose songs that guests know and to which they can sing along. Such singalongs might become especially memorable once guests have a glass or two of eggnog in them. (Metro)

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Advertising Supplement to the Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, December 13, 2012

Western Maine Holiday 12-13-12  
Western Maine Holiday 12-13-12  

Inspiration for holiday decorating and gift ideas.