Light for the New Year

As we head towards the end of another year and the start of a new one, I wanted to talk about a very holiday topic: light. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah light is central to the celebrations on trees, hung on houses, candles that are lit and the star in the sky. Even with the New Year celebrations there’s lots of light, from the dropping ball to the fireworks. As people most of us depend on the light outside (the sun), and all of us depend on the light that we create, whether it’s in a bulb or a fire.

We’ve always been dependent on light, but as we’ve grown over the centuries we’ve developed technology that allows us to have light whenever or wherever we need it. I think in some ways we’ve forgotten how crucial the light we have is. We take it for granted that it will be there when we need it. The place I’m currently living in is an old building and has only 2 light switches. I never took a simple light switch for granted before, but now I’m so thankful every time I do have a light switch to use because it means no fumbling around in the dark to find a cord. I’ve got light but I have to work a little harder to use it.

Light has always been treasured because it chases away the darkness. Sometimes what we need is to let some light shine into our lives, illuminating things we can’t see or would try to hide or just plain can’t see. If you feel like you’re leaving 2017 with a lot unaccomplished or feeling frustrated with what did or didn’t happen, maybe you should choose to make 2018 a year of light. You can’t do anything about how the first 11 months went of 2017, they’re over. You’ve got just a few days left in the last month of 2017 if you want to do anything different for this year.

Yes, you can still do something great with this year, there’s no reason to give up, you should cross the line feeling as though you’ve done all you can. But you should also be taking a look at the year ahead and looking to any changes you need to make and any darkness you need to conquer. Let’s finish off this year with a victory, and plan for more victories in the new year, too.

“Personal peace does come to all who follow the light of truth, and thus come out of the darkness of deception.” Hal Runkel

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Christmas Wisdom

As I was looking for some Christmas insights to share instead of my regular content on social media I found that many quotes weren’t just fun or festive, but that they carried some really good insights for our holiday preparations and celebrations.  So I encourage you to take a minute here with me and reflect on these words about this special holiday.

“Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.” Thomas S. Monson

“Christmas gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us – a time when we can look back on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead.” David Cameron

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” Dale Evans

“For it is in giving that we receive.” Francis of Assisi

“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” Charles M. Schulz

“God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.” Pope Francis

“Don’t let the past steal your present. This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone.” Taylor Caldwell

“It’s true, Christmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers. But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you’ll find you’ve created family traditions and lasting memories. Those memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul.” Caroline Kennedy

“At Christmas, I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story. A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child.” Queen Elizabeth II

“The thing about Christmas is that it almost doesn’t matter what mood you’re in or what kind of a year you’ve had – it’s a fresh start.” Kelly Clarkson

“When you give up yourself, that’s when you will feel the true spirit of Christmas. And that’s giving that’s serving others and that’s when you feel fulfilled.” Joel Osteen

“Christmas is, of course, the time to be home – in heart as well as body.” Garry Moore

Christmas Questions

You know what I realized the other day? In this festive season we spend a lot of time asking questions! I know, it surprised me too. After all, we’ve typically got a love-hate relationship with questions, they challenge us but also can open up incredible opportunities and insights to us. So what are some of those Christmas questions?

Do you hear what I hear?
Is he/she here yet? Are they here yet?
What did you get me?
Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?
Are we there yet?
Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
What did you bring me?
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
Can we build this now?
Where are you Christmas?
How much longer until we can open gifts?
What Child is this?
Do they know it’s Christmas?
How long is the line?
What do you want for Christmas?
Have you been good this year?

Are you asking questions this holiday season? Maybe your questions are more along the lines of ‘how will we ever afford this Christmas?’ or ‘how long until a new year is here?’ I know for many people it’s been a challenging year. In some ways that’s a good thing because now we’re asking more questions and taking a more serious look at what we can do to avoid or limit this year’s experiences from happening in the future. It’s hard to make changes in life without asking questions and taking action based on the answers to those questions.

But as we see from some of the questions above, not all questions are scary! Some are so filled with joy, anticipation and excitement that you can practically picture a kid jumping up and down asking them. Others are more reflective questions, encouraging us to think more about the meaning behind the season.  Some questions may also remind you of the ways you challenged your parents as a kid, and your kids today may challenge you.

As we head towards the end of another year I would encourage you to open your mind to asking some questions. Some will be tough questions, but others should be questions of possibility and hope. You can’t find the answer if you don’t ask the question, go on the adventure or try things out. What questions are you asking today?

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Christmas

We’ve all been there, the Christmas that we’ve all spent alternating time in the bathroom or unable to get out of bed. It’s not the way we want to spend the holidays, but between the sometimes dramatic weather changes, the foods we’re eating that we’re not used to eating and all the people we’re exposed to, it’s almost surprising that we’re not sick over the holiday season more often. I can remember a couple of Christmases that I spent sick or someone else in the family was sick, you probably can too. It’s annoying that the average ones don’t really come to memory, but the really good ones and the bad ones do.

In some ways this is a reminder of our humanity, that as much as we try to make things perfect or be perfect, it’s just not possible all the time. Of course there are things you can do like making sure you’ve planned things in advance, you’re getting plenty of sleep, and eating well whenever possible. It’s also a reminder that as much as we want this time of year to be special, life is still moving on and part of life are the challenges.

Maybe this holiday season you’re feeling like it’s just not going your way. Maybe you’re without a job and can’t get gifts like you usually do. Maybe a family member is very ill or going to die soon, or a friend or family member died recently. Maybe you’ve gone through some major life changes like a divorce or big move to a new country. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that this isn’t going to be your favorite holiday season and that you’d rather stay low-key than go all out. Maybe you’re even going to keep the food in the freezer for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.  Sometimes the best ways to celebrate are the quiet ones.  Maybe this won’t be one of the best Christmases, but it’s still early enough for you to decide how it’s going to end up, or at the very least the attitude you’re going to have about how it goes.  What are your most memorable Christmases?

Christmas Around the World

One of the things I love about Christmas is that it’s a very universal holiday, there are more people around the world that celebrate it than any other holiday, and we do it all on the same day.  To celebrate that unity today I thought we’d take a look at some Christmas traditions and how to say Merry Christmas in 25 languages! It’s a great opportunity to get in a little education and try some new things with the kids, too.

Traditions:

Germany: Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree on Christmas eve, the first child to discover it in the morning receives a small gift.  They also leave a shoe outside the house on December 5th, which is filled with sweets over night if they’ve been good or a tree branch if they’re not.

Columbia: Little Candles’ Day (Día de las Velitas) marks the start of the Christmas season across Colombia. In honor of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception, people place candles and paper lanterns in their windows, balconies and front yards.

Argentina: Their celebrations typically include the boots of Father Christmas, red and white flowers (the poinsettia), and putting cotton on Christmas trees to simulate snow. But most family gatherings take place on Christmas Eve, with huge feasts, gifts exchanged at midnight, and children going to sleep to the sound of fireworks.

Iceland: Christmas is often celebrated by exchanging books on Christmas Eve, then spend the rest of the night reading them and eating chocolate.

Egypt: fruitcake is believed to have originated here, as a necessary item for the afterlife (some say that it may last that long as well.

Greece: the tradition of mistletoe is said to have started here, as an unspoken promise to marry the one you’ve committed to.

Brazil: children receive gifts from the Magi on Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, as well as from Papai Noel on Christmas Eve. However, rather than a chimney, Papai Noel enters through the front door and travels by helicopter.

England: the tradition of sending cards was made popular by John Calcott Horsley in the late 1830’s, which quickly traveled to the US.  Caroling also was popularized in England, started by wandering musicians who visited the rich, hoping for a little Christmas gift.

France: one of the big traditions in France is the burning of the Yule Log, which occurs from Christmas to New Year’s Day, following what ancient farmers did in hopes of having a prosperous next year.

Merry Christmas:

Armenian – Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand

Basque – Zorionak eta Urte Berri On

Croatian – Sretan Bozic

Choctaw – Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito

Dutch – Vrolijk Kerstfeest

Feline – Mew Mew Meow

Filipino – Maligayang Pasko

Finnish – Hyvaa joulua

French – Joyeux Noël

German – Fröhliche Weihnachten

Greek – Kala Christouyenna

Haitian – (Creole) Jwaye Nowel or to Jesus Edo Bri’cho o Rish D’Shato Brichto

Hawaiian – Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou

Icelandic – Gledileg Jol

Irish – Nollaig Shona Dhuit

Indonesian – Selamat Hari Natal

Italian – Buon Natale

Japanese – Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto

Latin – Natale hilare et Annum Faustum

Portuguese – Feliz Natal

Russian – Pozdravlyenie s Rozjdyestvom i s Novym Godom

Swedish – God Jul

Spanish – Feliz Navidad

Thai – Sawadee Pee Mai or souksan wan Christmas

Yoruba – E ku odun, e ku iye’dun

Welsh – Nadolig Llawen

You can see a video with many of them here.

What are your Christmas traditions?

Memories of Holiday Stories

The holidays are officially here! One of the things I’m thinking about this month is making memories. So today I thought I would share about one of my favorite memories from my childhood: holiday books. If you’re looking for a new story to read with your kids, here are some of my childhood favorites as well as some new holiday favorites (all the links are Amazon links for convenience, none are affiliate links).

The Mitten, Jan Brett

Annie and the Wild Animals, Jan Brett

The Wild Christmas Reindeer, Jan Brett

The Legend of the Poinsettia, Tommy dePaola

The Night of Las Posadas, Tommy dePaola

The Friendly Beasts, Tommy dePaola

Night Tree, Eve Bunting

Christmas Tapestry, Patricia Polacco

The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats

Ox Cart Man, Donald Hall

Brave Irene, William Steig

Winter Story, Jill Barklem

Little Blue Truck’s Christmas, Alice Schertle

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving Paperback, Jan and‎ Mike Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree, Jan and‎ Mike Berenstain 

The Christmas Wish, Lori Evert

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad, Mercer Meyer

Tacky’s Christmas, Helen Lester

Biscuit’s Christmas Storybook Collection, Alyssa Satin Capucilli

Cranberry Christmas, Wende Devlin

Bear Stays Up for Christmas, Karma Wilson

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas, Madeline L’Engle

One Wintry Night, Ruth Bell Graham

Clifford’s Christmas, Norman Bridwell

Fisher-Price Little People Christmastime is Here

Llama Llama Holiday Drama, Anna Dewdney

Best Christmas Book Ever, Richard Scarry

Christmas Mice, Richard Scarry

What are your favorite holiday stories?

Christmas Carol Classics: Frosty the Snowman

“Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children know
How he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That Old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh and play
Just the same as you and me.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That Old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

Frosty the snowman
Knew the sun was hot that day,
So he said, “Let’s run
And we’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away.”

Frosty the snowman
Had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
“Don’t you cry,
I’ll be back again some day.””

Frosty was first recorded by the famous Gene Autry (with the Cass County Boys) in 1950.   The year before Autry recorded Rudolph, which was also a big success.  As a result of the song’s success there were lots of TV shows and books and other materials made.  One of the things that made this song stand out and be so successful was the concept of it.  We’ve all made a snowman that we wished would come to life, or at the very least thought about how cool something like that would be.

While most versions never talk about Christmas, we typically think of it as a Christmas song, probably because of all the magic in it.  After all, how else would a snowman come to life? When it comes to this time of year it does seem like there’s a little extra sparkle in the world, a little extra something showing up in our days that just makes them a little better.  Maybe it’s all the cheer, maybe it’s the goodwill, or maybe it’s just the desire not to get caught doing bad things before Santa makes his famous run.

But the song ends with Frosty saying that he’ll be back again some day.  I love that the song ends this way because it’s a great reminder that as much as life is made up of individual days and moments, there’s a lot more to life than just the individual moments.  Each day is an opportunity to build on what the previous day accomplished or start over because you’ve realized a mistake you were making.  Of course there are special moments that come each year like Christmas and Thanksgiving that are important reminders to celebrate life and gather together.  So whether you’re anticipating the magic to return, leaving the magic behind for the time being or dancing and singing with that magic, find a way to add a little magic to your day.

A Timely Holiday

This week I’ve gotten a whole bunch of emails from people and companies with different sentiments about the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays. They’ve all contained some sage advice, and I’ve been sharing what I’ve been reading through my blogs and newsletters as well as with friends and family.  The word that I wanted to share today is timely.  I do believe in a right time for everything, even if we don’t think it’s the right time.  So often we’re wanting things to happen on our time but that’s simply not how it works.  Time isn’t something we can control.  Sure we can do everything possible to expedite things, but sometimes there’s no way to push things through quicker.

I don’t know why some things take years to develop or why some things happen way before we think we’re ready for them or everything seems to happen at once.  I don’t think that’s life playing a joke on us, I think that’s just the way it works and part of how we learn and experience the life journey.  Sometimes it helps if you take a step back, other times it helps to push through and not keep looking back so much.  Sometimes you just have to be patient and let it do what it’s going to do.

This weekend as you gather with family and friends, consider the timing.  Is this the right holiday for some forgiveness?  Is this the holiday you should be taking extra time off?  Is this the holiday you should be giving extra? Is this the holiday that you need to step up for family and friends?  Is this the holiday that you do something for yourself?  Whatever comes your way this holiday I encourage you to reflect on what’s life trying to tell you and what opportunities life is bringing you.  And if life’s bringing you lots of blessings and joy make sure you share it!

Christmas Carol Classics: Jingle Bells

“Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh yeah”

Today’s song is the classic “Jingle Bells” and you can listen to a very classic rendition here.  I decided to include this song not because it’s such a classic and everyone knows it, but because of what came up in my research while deciding which songs to do.

It was originally published in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont.  Interestingly enough it wasn’t published as a Christmas song, but that’s what we know it as today.  Originally it was a drinking song and a reminder of the freedoms couples could have when riding on a sleigh unchaperoned.  And jingle bells were originally seen as a practical noise, whereas now we see them as a reminder of Christmas and Santa’s sleigh coming. The song is also one of the most famous to be recreated into another tune, Jingle Bell Rock.

That said, Jingle Bells is one of those songs that brings out the kid in all of us, something that the holiday season is notorious for doing.  Even the most serious of things need a little fun too, like the way in 1965 Gemini 6 astronauts decided to play a prank on Mission Control and told them that they were seeing a shape traveling north to south close to the earth and then used a harmonica and sleigh bells to send the melody of Jingle Bells back to Mission Control.  So let the song remind you to have some fun this Christmas.  Don’t worry so much about getting the right gift, instead, enjoy the people you’re with and the life you have.

Personal Marketing

We’re getting closer to Christmas and Hanukkah with each day, I hope that your business is filled with cheer and good will (and lots of sales!).  Today I thought we’d take a moment to talk about one of the challenges when it comes to marketing and business.  There are 2 general audiences and 2 sub audiences that businesses may try to reach: the general audiences are men and women, and the sub audiences are boys and girls.  No, everyone doesn’t fit into those neat packages, there are men who have no interest in football and women who love football for example.  But as I was thinking about the differences between targeting men and women in business it got me thinking about Christmas and making sales this time of year.

It struck me as interesting that many of the Christmas stories we know and love are based around men (or boys); think about Santa, Jesus, and Scrooge, not to mention more modern characters like Buddy the Elf (Elf), Jack Frost, Kevin McCallister (Home Alone), Charlie Brown, George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life), Clark Griswold (National Lampoon) and Ralphie Parker (A Christmas Story).  Yes, some of these were given the lead role because men are traditionally seen as leaders.  And yes, each of those stories has at least one female in a serious role too.   But I couldn’t name the women like I could the men that the story is based around.

The point is that it’s easy to stick a man in a lead role because that’s what we know, just like it’s easy to try to incorporate sports, sex, cars or success into your marketing to target men for example, or kids, love, relationships and beauty to target women because that’s what a large portion of them like.  But what more businesses are realizing is that there’s a lot more to men and women than just those blanket categories.  The recent Dollar Shave Club ads highlight this well with regards to men.  In the ads you’re shown a bunch of different guys who shop for different types of body wash or some other related product.  There’s Mr. Muscles, the Slob, the Cool Dude, the Clean Cut Guy, and the Average Joe.  Yes, all these guys use the same types of products (body wash etc.), but each product isn’t right for every guy (no matter what a celebrity spokesperson might say).

In this world of customization and numerous companies offering something similar yet different, it’s very hard to be successful with a blanket product or campaign that speaks to (or tries to speak to) one or more of the general audiences as a whole.  In those cases there’s a specific goal with the ad, and it’s usually more often about branding, not a specific product (think about some of the holiday ads you’re seeing for major companies).  I understand the appeal to selling to “everyone” but let’s face it, that’s not a reality anymore with all the options that are available in 2016.  Taking the time to really get to know your customers and their likes, dislikes and interests will help you get clear on how to target within the larger general audience to speak to your specific audience.  Don’t stoop to the old standby, easy answers unless they’re the right ones when it comes to your customers.  Take the time to customize your marketing and show your customers that they matter to you and you understand them.