Christmas décor dazzled the horizon of most commercial entities months ago, but hopefully your family ignored the embellishments long enough to count your blessings while nibbling on turkey. However, now that the calendar has flipped over, revealing the last month of the year, it’s full-speed ahead into all things Christmas. Just remember during the festivities this month to stop and smell the cocoa and cedars with those you love. Decorate the tree and snuggle on the couch with little ones to watch the lights blink. Mark items off the shopping list and celebrate by making homemade cookies with the kiddos. Wrap gifts with sparkly paper and carry candy canes in your purse to share with friends you pass in the mall.
Sing carols loudly in the car with the windows rolled down and end the day with verses from Luke shared around the fireplace. (Wait — who are we kidding? It’s the Boro. Sit near the air conditioner vent to read the words of the first Christmas long ago…!) Make the most of every minute this month with old and new family traditions and celebrations and try a few of the holidays below.
National Dice Day — Purchase two square mailing boxes or find two that you have stored at home. Cut black construction paper circles and glue onto the boxes to resemble a pair of dice. Place the dice on a shelf to use as a countdown to Christmas day and simply remove the first box when the days left get into single digits. Add individually-wrapped peppermints or chocolates to the boxes, if desired, enough for each family member to have one every day.
Pick a time each day to gather as a family and officially turn one of the boxes to reflect the correct number of days left before Christmas. Snack on a goodie from inside the box, and read from the book of Luke in the Bible. Begin with Luke 2:1 on the first day, then add a verse each day, until you get through all 20 verses to tell of the birth of Jesus long ago.
National Flashlight Day — To celebrate the shortest day of the year, give everyone a flashlight, bundle up with coats and gloves and head outside for a nighttime walk. Look at the stars overhead, listen for the hooting of an owl and watch for an armadillo or rabbit crossing the path ahead. Turn on a family favorite Christmas movie when you return from the walk and sip on hot cocoa after while you watch the show.
Winter — The calendar boasts the first day of winter during the month of December, but the south often boasts all four seasons in one week. Celebrate the beginning of the promise of cold for some folks somewhere, nevertheless, with a rousing game of snowball toss and improvise with rolled up, white socks or recycled wads of notebook or computer paper. Mark off two sides of play outside in the grass with a long piece of rope or yarn. Prepare the "snowballs" by wadding up recycled white paper or gather lots of rolled-up pairs of white socks. Divide the family into two teams and give each team 10 to 15 "snowballs." Each team stands on opposite sides of the dividing line. Play Christmas songs from a phone or radio, and let the snowball tossing begin. The object of the game is to get all the snowballs on the opposing team’s side. At the end of a song, the team with the most snowballs on their side of the divider is the losing team.
Christmas — Make a family, Christmas tree craft project to celebrate the day. First, read about some wise men who made many steps, following a star, in search of the baby Jesus. Read Matthew 2:1-12. Then have each person in the family use one of their own shoes to trace and cut out shoe prints from green construction paper. Have one of the adults also trace and cut one print from brown construction paper. On a large sheet of white poster paper, glue the brown shape near the bottom for the tree trunk.
Then, carefully line up rows of shoe prints in a triangle shape to resemble a tree. For example, just above the tree trunk, line up six or eight of the adult shoe prints for the bottom row, with the "toes" of the prints pointing down towards the trunk. Above that row, place five or six adult prints. The next row above could be an older child’s shoe prints, four or five of them, and the next row a younger child’s prints, three or four.
End with just one shoe print on the very top of the triangle. Once you’ve placed the prints in the proper place Glue the shapes to the poster paper, but only glue the "heel" of each print in place, letting the "toe" part of each print hang loose for a 3-D effect. Add decorations by dipping fingers in paint and pressing fingerprints of multi-colors on the green construction paper shapes.
New Year’s Eve — Celebrate the last day of the year with confetti festivities. Work together as a family to make a fruit bowl snack of various colors. Use frozen ones, if necessary, to add lots of color to the bowl. Then make confetti pancakes by following the directions on a pancake mix, adding a tablespoon of rainbow-colored cupcake "jimmies" (sometimes called sprinkles) to the batter before making the pancakes. Let the pancakes cool slightly, then spread frosting on top of the pancake and sprinkle a few more of the rainbow-colored "jimmies" on top of the frosting.
Snack on pancakes and fruit for a midnight snack, toss confetti in the air — if you’re prepared to sweep it up afterwards — and bang on pots or blow noisemakers when the clock strikes 12.
The end of another year is rapidly approaching. Take time this season to treasure what’s really important — the love of family and friends and the very reason for the holiday celebrations. Merry Christmas; happy new year, and may God bless you bountifully this month as you return those blessings to others. Until next year…
Statesboro native Julie Bland Lavender is married to David Lavender and enjoys celebrating with children Jeremy, Jenifer, Jeb Daniel and Jessica.