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?

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Setting Kids Up For Success

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of success, so today I thought we’d talk about setting our kids, and the kids of the world, up for success. As the adults of the world we can either help the next generation or hurt it, and I’d rather them have a better world than the one we live in than worse. Let’s look at 3 things that can help set kids up for success.

Set a good example. The first way you can set your kids up for success is by setting a good example and being on top of your own responsibilities. Having a messy house, not trying to get a job when things are tight, not having healthy practices for yourself, not managing your finances well, and having terrible relationships and interactions with others aren’t the things you want to teach your kids. They learn by what they see and hear from the adults around them (and often imitate it), just like we learn from the people we listen to and what we see them doing.

Let them learn. Sometimes the only way they can get to success is to do it themselves or with very little guidance from you. Sometimes what they need is to give it a try (or a dozen tries) until they get better at math or baseball or skating or painting, or whatever they’re interested in or struggling with that’s essential for them to know. Encourage them to get out and do stuff with friends, try new foods and go new places, expose them to different parts of the world in whatever way you can (books, TV, the internet, vacations), and give them choices so that they have to learn to make decisions.

Teach them to contribute. I’ve been seeing the commercial again about the kid who flies paper airplane messages over the neighbor’s tall wood fence thinking they’ll get to his dad who is overseas. The neighbor decides to contribute and sends them off to the dad, who sends back a box of his own airplane messages and the neighbor flies them back over to the boy. No, the neighbor didn’t have to get involved, but he knew that he could play a positive role in keeping the boy’s relationship with his dad alive while they’re separated. You can teach your kids to contribute too by having them donate some of their old toys or clothes to needy kids, or packing a care box for a service person overseas.

So how will you set your kids up for success?

Safe At Work

This past week we’ve been hearing lots of stories from women about the unwanted attention in work situations. Of course, there’s the bullying that goes on in schools and with young people around the world, and the unwanted attention or violent actions women (and some men) face outside of the workplace as well, including too many domestic violence situations, and I talked about that on my other blog today. According to Facebook, over “45% of the people in the United States are friends with someone who’s posted a message with the words ‘Me too'”, and that’s just the people who are willing to talk about it! So this is a serious situation that really needs to be addressed, and here today I want to talk about the importance of making the workplace as safe for everyone as possible.

Work safety starts with the boss and management. I can’t tell you how many stories I hear about bosses that spend time screaming, yelling, berating, ignoring and fighting with their employees, not to mention the employees who are just unappreciated by their boss(es). If you want your people to feel safe working for you, you need to be the best leader and human possible. You need to remember that we’re all human and mess up on occasion, give them the education and tools they need to do their jobs, and let them know you appreciate them doing their jobs.

Second, there needs to be an amount of respect between all of you. They may not have your title or your education or your finances, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless or worth less than you are as a human being. They may be replaceable, but at what cost? If you treat them like trash there’s a high likelihood that they’re not going to say anything positive about your company, and some may even go so far as to tell their friends and family or even companies they work for in the future never to buy from you (who may pass on the word to others not to buy from you).

Finally, while it doesn’t have to be something you shout to the world, as a business you should have a plan and resources that your employees can tap into if they face unwanted attention or violence through work or their personal lives. This isn’t about having the required sexual harassment seminars that people joke about afterwards or a file at the back of a file box from the first day the company opened however many years ago. This is about genuinely offering support that people need as well as letting all your employees know that violence and unwanted attention aren’t going to be allowed. In some cases you can work with offenders if they’re willing to honestly get help for their issues and commit to acting differently in the future, but no one should feel unsafe going to work. You can share resources through a page on your website that employees have the link and password for or an email you send out on a regular basis depending on the turnover in your company (but at least yearly). If you really want to stand up as a company in the community you can offer career training and support at local shelters and donate to domestic violence organizations and other organizations that fight or raise awareness about these situations.

The fact is there’s a larger majority of people who have a job than have a significant other. Work is something that most people do on a daily basis, so the workplace should be the place that people feel most comfortable and are safest. So as businesses we need to step up in a big way to show that unwanted attention isn’t OK and that women (and men) everywhere have the right to come to work without being harassed or mistreated. I encourage you to take a good look at your business before the end of the month and make sure that you’re making your workplace the best it can be for your employees.

Talking about Tragedy

I hate that another week started out with bad news, that another individual has taken it upon themselves to hurt and kill others, that once again we’re a nation in pain and dealing with the loss of life. Most people woke to the news of a shooting in Las Vegas on Monday morning, but when I went to bed it had just happened and very little was known (I’m a serious night owl in this season of my life). I thought it would just be a few people who were hurt and killed, but was greatly saddened to find out how many people were impacted in this tragedy. I know that you’ve probably been reading about it on countless blogs, newsletters and news sites since it happened, so you may not want to read another perspective on it, so if not I encourage you to keep the families in your thoughts and prayers, and if you’re in the Las Vegas area to donate blood. But if you’re still processing and want to reflect with me, let’s talk about tragedy.

What I knew when I turned off my computer on Monday morning was that another person chose violence towards others. Without even trying hard I could list a dozen or two issues (or more) in the world that need fixing or attention. There are so many pressing problems that the world deals with and then there are the issues that we deal with in our own lives that may seem small by comparison, but still take up space in our minds and stress us out. So it boggles my mind that someone would choose to pick up a gun (or whatever their preferred method of violence is) and use killing as their message delivery system, and what they choose to do with the rest of their life. It’s a reminder to all of us that there are people in the world who need help, and may hide behind a mask of normalcy for years before you ever see a crack.

But it’s also a reminder to us all that we are still alive. We can’t go back to Sunday morning and make everyone alive again, we can’t go back to when the man first had the idea to do something like this, we can only move forward. Already on Monday and in the days that are ahead you’ll hear more about gun control and security and related topics, and it’s not a bad idea to make sure that we’re really aware of the privilege it is to have guns and the responsibility that comes along with them. You can certainly tune in and see what develops in that area as well as the investigation, but my encouragement to you would be that you really think about the life you have. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t take the people in your life for granted. Celebrate each and every day with them. Live a life that fills you and fulfills you. Choose to make a positive difference for the next generation so they won’t experience tragedies like we’ve been seeing for the past several years in increasing numbers. Don’t let this tragedy only be a loss of life, let it motivate you to live your life to the fullest.

Be Yourself Because You Matter

In the wake of large storms like those that have hit the southern US or natural disasters like the fires and drought on the west coast of the US it’s easy to think big picture. Sure millions are without power, millions are dealing with smoke or water issues, animals are struggling to deal with their homes being devastated, and companies have lost millions if not billions as a result. Those are some big numbers and indicate that a lot of people were affected by those events, or are still being affected. There’s nothing wrong with looking at those big numbers and sending mass aid to those locations. Those big numbers prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s an issue, and not just for one person but for millions.

But when it comes right down to it, it’s not millions of people having the exact same experience, every person’s experience is different. Every struggle is different, every challenge is different, and we’ll all make different choices when it comes to resolving them. Each of the people in Florida and the surrounding islands are united by their common hurricane experience, but each of them experienced something slightly different, and each will resolve their problems at a different speed or with a different solution.  And as part of that common experience, each and every one has the opportunity to rise from this situation stronger than they were before.

The same is true for us. We’re each living life together, but at the same time each of us have very different lives. As part of those lives we’ve got different opportunities and different challenges. You’re here reading my blog, and there are thousands of other blogs you could be reading, including thousands that also post on business, life, family, relationships and/or success topics, including some that I read on a regular basis.  Why do those thousands of people keep writing even though they’re one of many? Because if the writing we do helps just one person, makes a difference in the life of one person, encourages just one person that they’re not alone in their experience, it’s worth it.

Regardless of what you do in your life, the biggest responsibility you’ve been given is to be yourself and make a difference as yourself. Maybe you’re able and willing to put yourself in a plane in the path of a hurricane to get data that will be invaluable to saving lives and understanding climate change. Maybe you’re willing take a risk on an experimental drug for your illness so that tests can be done and learned from to better help others in the future. Maybe you’re happiest when you’re around kids and as a teacher you can help the next generation gain confidence in who they are and teach them the skills they’ll need to survive. Maybe you’re willing to listen to those who are struggling and help them find the path back to themselves and learn to live again. Whatever your gifts are, don’t be discouraged because you’re one of many, choose to be strong and brave in that path and be yourself.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”  Jane Goodall

Mother Teresa on Life, Love, Loneliness and Hurt

Over 100 years ago this month Mother Teresa was born. She was a woman who had incredible wisdom, dedicated her life to a very selfless mission, and taught the world a lot about love. As I was considering her life, I happened upon a few quotes that speak to some insights on how we may be able to help the world heal from the tragic events that have unfolded around the US and world in the past few weeks, not to mention those that are ongoing situations. These situations can’t be resolved with a simple shaking of hands or trading of objects, these are issues that have remained and repeated in one way or another for decades, if not centuries. Resolution will take time, effort on everyone’s part and ultimately a decision that the world is a better place if things were different. Mother Teresa said:

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

“Peace begins with a smile.”

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

No war is won or lost by the actions of one person. No one person could have won WW2 or the Civil War or the Trojan War by themselves. But without each of the individuals who participated in those wars on the winning side, the history may have happened much differently, likely creating a much different today. If the world is to become a healthy, fulfilling, thriving place, we have to start doing something different and treating each other different, starting with ending the violence. Yes, there will always be violence, but in the majority of the time, a simple, quiet word can do more than an abrasive, violent tantrum.  I encourage you to take a deep breath the next time your first reaction is to be nasty or overreact, and see if you can’t communicate with a little more patience, peace, respect and love first.

Drug Free School Zone

As we look ahead to the next few weeks many kids are going back to school, and some may already be there. Today I thought we’d talk just a bit about one of the two biggest challenges your kids may be facing as they return to school: drugs, and the other of course would be bullying. We all have some experience with or exposure to drugs and bullying, whether it’s what we’ve heard or seen on TV, something a family member or friend has dealt with or something we’ve personally struggled through. In too many cases there are people who die as a result of drugs or bullying. And yes, drugs and bullying can be something that adults struggle with too, it’s definitely not just an issue with kids. Another similarity is that we’re both often inclined to hide our issues and not talk about them or get the help we need. Sometimes we don’t get help because we don’t realize it’s that bad or tell ourselves we’re dealing with it, but other times we’re just scared of what others will say or that there might be attacks or punishments because of hiding it or being in the struggle in the first place. We’re going to talk about drugs today and address bullying in more detail next week.

Not all drugs are bad, when taken correctly drugs can help people of all ages live better, feel better, get better, and heal. There are also lots of natural alternatives like supplements that many people feel also help with dealing with certain health issues, and marijuana has proven to be helpful to some people as a medicinal aid as well. But the issue comes in when there is no medical reason for taking the drugs, supplements or even marijuana. The issue is when people use drugs to feel good or escape their issues or look cool or feel something. That feeling becomes addictive and quickly people get sucked into using more and more until they’ve got more health issues as a result of taking them, and many people each year die as a result of taking those drugs. What was a quick fix becomes a serious and deadly problem.

But the real issue, as presented especially by drugs but also in the bullying, is that we’re not able to enjoy life as it is, we’re not confident in who we are, we’re not willing to face the difficult stuff in life, and we feel the need to escape the reality of life. I get it: life can be very challenging and there are some seriously bad stuff being shared in the news. But the answer isn’t to hide or bury our heads in the sand, it’s to join the many people who are stepping up and standing up for a better world, for rights for everyone, for every voice/culture/group to be heard, and for everyone to be treated as a human being who is capable of making an incredible difference in this world.

So what can you do as a parent to help your kids avoid drugs or help them stop taking drugs? First, don’t do or abuse them yourself, set the example for them. Second, if you do have an issue get help for it, there are tons of resources around the US and in other countries that can help you beat your addiction. Third, talk with them about local resources that they or their friends could access if there’s an issue and what to do if someone overdoses and they’re with them. Fourth, help them find and encourage healthy and helpful activities that they can do that will bring them joy, help them feel good about themselves, help them be healthy and teach them responsibility.

Avoiding the issues of drugs and bullying can only hurt the next generation, it’s time we step up and be honest about this issue that is hurting so many families and killing so many people who could make a very positive difference in the world. I encourage you to talk with your kids and teens today.

Listening in Business

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is listening. It’s so important if you want to be successful in business to be listening. Let’s take a minute today to talk about the important things you should be listening to if you want to be successful.

Your customers: what are they saying? They will let you know about their dissatisfaction and the things they love. The internet is a great place to find reviews about your products and services, and you should invite your customers to give you feedback directly as well. You can also listen to their silence and their lack of return to your business and products/services as a clue as to how much they don’t like you.

Your suppliers: are your suppliers constantly raising prices? Are they hesitating on delivery? Do they tell you it’s difficult to get what you ask for? If so it may be a clue that there’s something broken or not working right in your supply chain.

Your employees: your employees are often your first line of interaction between your customers and your products/services, so it’s important to listen to what they have to say about what you offer, what customers are saying to them, things they’re feeling challenged by and what they would like to see changed. If your employees aren’t happy, aren’t respected and don’t think your product or service is worth what you’re charging then you’ll have some difficulty getting them to work at their best for your company.

Your marketing: I know it can sometimes be difficult to understand all the metrics and know exactly what things mean, but it’s important to be in touch with your marketing team to see how people are responding to your marketing. If they’re not responding and you’ve done the proper a/b testing, and tried different marketing opportunities for a consistent period of time, maybe the marketing isn’t the issue.

The market/business world: are you in tune with what’s going on in other businesses? With how they’re marketing their products? With what’s going on with your competitors? With how others are marketing? With government or industry changes that might affect you? I know it sounds like a lot of work but it’s important to be aware of what’s going on outside of your company, not just inside your company.

How good of a listener are you as a business leader? Take time today to really listen to what’s going on in and around your business.

Words of Freedom

Today I’m sharing a few quotes on our topic of the month, freedom.  Quite a few people have some great insight into this topic and I think it’s worth taking a look at their perspectives. 

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Kevyn Aucoin

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” Jim Morrison

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?” Soledad O’Brien

“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” Stephen Covey

“Instead of trying to make your life perfect, give yourself the freedom to make it an adventure, and go ever upward.” Drew Houston

“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”  Jim Morrison

“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.” Barack Obama

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Albert Camus

“True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what’s right.” Brigham Young

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” Soren Kierkegaard

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” Nelson Mandela

“We gain freedom when we have paid the full price.” Rabindranath Tagore

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.” Rosa Parks

What wisdom have you heard about freedom?

Personal Remembering

Monday in the USA we celebrated Memorial Day. It’s one of the days each year that we take time to stop and reflect on the men and women who have fought for our country, who still fight for our country and who have lost their lives fighting for our country. It was a pretty cloudy weekend where I live so there was a bit less revelry than I remember from past years, however, I didn’t do any of whatever there might have been because I spent the weekend feeling not so great and doing lots of resting.

But as I was reflecting on Memorial Day and how I spent my weekend, I was reminded that as much as Memorial Day is about being together and honoring the men and women who fought, those memories can also be very personal. Sometimes you don’t want to be with others, even those you love, you need to be alone to take the time to personally reflect and remember. Maybe it’s because your loved ones don’t feel the same way you do about that person or they’re not the sentimental type or they don’t have the need at this point in their life to reflect that you do. It’s not wrong to not take a lot of time to reflect deeply about someone you’ve lost every year, but if you don’t take any time for personal reflection on those you’ve lost and those who have touched your life ever, I think you’re missing out.

I don’t believe we should try to live our lives alone, but I also don’t think every second of our lives needs to be spent with others. There are things that we should do on our own without feedback or intrusion or direction from others. Some things are done both personally and publicly (like mourning), but some of us are willing to write off the need to do the personal side of things because we’ve done the public. Often we make that decision because we don’t want to feel those deep, sometimes painful, emotions that would be brought up if we spent time on our own. But if you want to experience the most life has to offer you need to take the time to get up close and personal with those sometimes uncomfortable feelings and activities.

This week I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the people who matter and have mattered in your life as well as what you want from your life in the future. We’re almost half way through another year, what will you make of the next 7 months?