FAMILY HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES
For many people, Thanksgiving is what marks the beginning of the winter holiday season. There is just something in the air around this time of year - and I don't mean the smell of smoke from neighborhood fireplaces! But when the breeze gets chillier, the nights get colder, and it gets dark out earlier, it feels like it's time to get into the Christmas spirit! There are plenty of seasonal things to do that the whole family can take part in.
A Home for the Holidays
1. Have a tree trimming/house decorating party. Play holiday music to create a festive mood. In just one afternoon, you and your family or friends can turn your home and yard into a winter wonderland while having a merry time! Be sure to take a photo. You may want to include it with your holiday cards.
2. Toss scented pinecones into a roaring fire. Your whole house will be filled with a wonderful fragrance that will last for hours. Or put several cinnamon sticks (break them in half) and whole cloves into a pan of boiling water or apple cider. You can even squeeze in some fresh orange juice. The spicy aroma will fill your house. Of course, nothing can replace the smell of fresh-baked cookies or pies!
3. Add some extra finishing touches: Candlelight provides a nice warm glow. Make decorative placemats to frame your dinner plates. Wrap real or artificial garland around handrails or mantels.
5. Include the holiday cards you receive as part of your decorations. Tape them around your doorway frame for a festive touch with no extra expense. You can also make a holiday card wreath by gluing the cards together in an overlapping wreath shape. Finish it off with a fancy bow. Or paint some clothespins green and make a wreath from them. As you receive holiday cards, clip them on. Your wreath will be a symbol of your friendship with others.
6. Bake some Dough Ornaments to keep the kids busy. You will need: 3 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water. Combine ingredients and knead until smooth. If too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time. Cut out holiday shapes with cookie cutters. Poke a hole in the top for hanging. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 ˝ hours. After the ornaments have cooled, children can color them with markers, paint with acrylic, sprinkle with sparkles, glue on fabric and buttons, etc.
7. Paint Christmas scenes on your windows. In each of six paper cups, mix 1/2 cup poster paint and 1 tablespoon clear dishwashing liquid. Start with six basic colors: red, blue, yellow, green, black and white. Using your own design or a coloring book scene for inspiration, outline with a thin brush, to plan your design on the inside glass of any window in your home. Choose a size appropriate for the window: stars, candy canes, and angels for small panes and a detailed nativity or snowscape on your sliding patio doors. Use foam disposable brushes. Cover the floor with newspaper. Start at the top and work down. If you make a mistake, wipe it off. Paint largest areas first and then go back for the details. Clean up with warm water and paper towels or sponges.
8. Begin some new Christmas traditions. If your kids have too much stuff, encourage them to give away one old toy for each new toy they receive. Or consider limiting your household’s gift giving to three toys per child in remembrance of the three wise men’s gifts to Jesus. Get a craft book with ideas for handmade gifts that kids can give to each other. Perhaps you could even do away with the gift-giving habit and go on a family trip together instead.
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
1. Keep your kids busy during the holidays with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project Feeder Watch. Put up a bird feeder in your backyard, count the birds that visit (you can select your own days), and then send the data to scientists! The survey is conducted each winter from November through early April. You may sign up at any time. See http://birds.cornell.edu/pfw/ for more details. There is a $15 fee to cover materials and data analysis. But you get your own research kit, bird poster, wall calendar, and newsletter. (This would be a good Christmas gift for a bird lover!)
2. Consider participating in The Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count. 18 years of age and under can participate for free. All others are asked to pay $5.00 to help cover CBC program costs. The official count period runs from December 14th to January 5th. You only have to count the birds for one of those days, but you have to conduct your count within a pre-designated 15-mile area. Counting locations in Arizona include: Carefree, the Salt/Verde Rivers, Hassayampa River, Prescott, Camp Verde, Jerome, Sedona, Mormon Lake, St. Johns, Joshua Tree National Monument, Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, Pipe Spring National Monument, Glen Canyon, Nogales, and several more. Visit www.audubon.org/bird/cbc for additional information.
1. If you plan to send family photos to people, have them taken and developed early to beat the last-minute rush at the photo department. Or use a digital camera and simply print them out or send them via e-mail.
2. Design your own Christmas cards on your computer and print them out. Instead of hand-writing addresses on envelopes, you can also type the addresses into your computer and print out the list of your card recipients onto address labels. Or try sending some holiday e-cards to those who have internet access.
3. Another option would be to send a photo postcard. Simply take a favorite family photo and have it printed on heavy card stock in postcard size and format (4 x 6). You can write a quick message on the back, put on a stamp, and it's ready to mail!
4. If you have trouble getting your holiday cards out on time, send them out late on purpose. Call them New Year greetings. It'll be one less worry for you now, and your friends will appreciate getting a card after Christmas when they have more time to read it.
5. Creative Ways to Personalize Your Cards: tape a family photo inside; send a favorite family recipe on a 3x5 card; copy and enclose a cherished holiday poem; pen your favorite scripture focusing on Jesus; write a one-page holiday update to share what's been going on in your family; include a child’s drawing of a seasonal scene.
Charitable Christmas Ideas
Celebrate Christmas and the joy of giving with 12 Days of Charity! The following projects can be done however you wish – over a period of one month, twelve days in a row, or every other day. The ideas listed below are only a beginning of what you and your family can do. Try to come up with some of your own ideas too.
1. DECK THE HALLS
2. SECRET SANTA
3. COOKIE ELF
4. HOLIDAY HOPE CHEST
5. CHRISTMAS CENTERPIECE
6. GIFT GIVING
7. SOUP TO SHARE
8. SPECIAL DELIVERY
9. HELP THE HOMELESS
10. SONGS OF ANGELS
11. SANTA PAWS
12. FOR THE BIRDS
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