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New Year, New You

12 tips to have a better holiday season

Christmas lights houseBy Amanda Ponzar

Remember it’s not about you or snagging the latest must-have gadget. It’s about peace, joy and love, giving to others, taking time to relax and the real story of Christmas.

Here are some of the season’s best to enjoy.

1.) Visit Hershey Candy Lane or any other lights/Christmas display to help you feel more festive.

2.) Attend holiday pageants, church Christmas Eve candlelight services (nothing like singing Silent Night in the dark all holding candles!) & other events which lift your spirits even (or especially) when the kids sing off key or that one dorky kid in the front is always dancing out of sync (or not at all).

3.) Go caroling in the neighborhood or with a group; we used to carol at the nursing home, and it’s a tradition I hope to continue when my kids are older; “O, Holy Night” is my absolute favorite Christmas carol. Crank up the Christmas music at home or in the car; you’ll feel cheerier in no time.

4.) Turn on the Christmas lights –- drive around and look at them; definitely put up your own. And don’t forget the tree!

5.) Drink hot chocolate –- always use milk, not water, and add a little vanilla, gingerbread or peppermint creamer! Or add pumpkin spice ice cream to your coffee. Mmm. Don't have time? Stop at Starbucks and grab a special holiday beverage.

6.) Burn, baby, burn. Light the fireplace –- a crackling fire whether gas or wood burning makes the room extra cozy. Just don’t burn anything you shouldn’t and avoid smoke.

7.) Give –- yes, it’s fun to give gifts to loved ones so go ahead (just don’t go overboard or into debt), but please don’t forget to choose a worthy nonprofit like International Justice Mission, Salvation Army or your local homeless shelter/food pantry and donate money or other resources (plus many of these offer gift catalogs). Remember, it’s your last chance to get a tax donation this year. Some places need volunteers to cook meals right around the holidays so take your family and go. It's a great way to give back.

8.) Stop and smell the snow –- make a snowman, have a snowball fight, build a fort, or just watch the snowflakes fall. Kids love snow and snow days. Take a walk. Get outside. (You'll need the exercise after all the holiday food.)

9.) Enjoy friends and family. Invite people over even if the house isn’t clean and the kids misbehave. Get together. Drive or fly distances if you have to. And try not to yell or argue. Consider inviting single friends or those who may not have a place to go. We've done this a few years when we didn't go out of town to spend the holiday with family and it was great to have a house bustling with people, laughter, food and games.

10.) Wear warm, fluffy socks and cuddly sweaters.

11.) Watch Shrek the Halls, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life and all those other holiday favorites that remind us what really matters.

12.) Eat lots of cookies –- gingerbread men, frosted sugar cookies and whatever tickles your fancy. We make and decorate a gingerbread house every year. The frosting doesn’t even harden before we’re tearing into it. If you don’t have time to make cookies, BUY them. Forget Martha Stewart and Paula Dean and trying to make everything perfect. For crying out loud, buy all the Christmas/holiday food (I love Trader Joe’s) or get takeout Chinese or pizza; just don’t stress yourself and everybody else out!

Whatever you celebrate and wherever you are, it’s all about giving to others and being thankful for what you have.

(Photo: my neighborhood)


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Harmony Stier

Thanks for sharing the joy, Amanda.


Tim S.

Agreed! We need to turn a critical eye to everything that causes our family undue stress and ask ourselves if we really need to do it, buy it, etc.--or if there may be a better alternative.

Side note: I'm almost positive that in another forty years, Shrek the Halls will be considered a holiday classic on par with It's a Wonderful Life ... Right? Okay, maybe not.


Thanks for this great post. It's a reminder of what the season is all about, before it slips away. We do a neighborhood caroling party every year that was started when our kids where younger and in school with some of the neighbors. Now that they're in college it give us a reason to reconnect with some of these families. After we carol we always go back to someone's house to have some treats and drinks together. It's priceless. Happy Holidays to you.

April Neylan

Thanks for the tips and merry Christmas!

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