5 Ways to Keep Holiday Gatherings Merry & Bright

1. Announce Your Hugging Game Plan
A simple fix to the awkwardness of choosing the appropriate greeting for varying levels of acquaintance is to let the other person know what you are going for. I like to ask, “Would you like a hug?” or, if I know they like hugs but don’t know if they are expecting one from me, I say, “I am so happy to see you! I need to give you a hug.”

2. Repeat the Names

I know this has been said before, but since I am personally weak in this area and need a reminder, I’ll just go ahead and say it again: People feel valued when you make an effort to remember their name. It’s true. If you want to spread holiday cheer, it is great to sing loud for all to hear, but it is also wonderful to actually try to remember the names of your co-worker’s children. You can help names stick by repeating them, asking what they mean or even writing them down.

3. Go Next-Level with Anyone
Weed out stale, cut-and-dried questions like “Where are you working right now?” and “Have you been enjoying the holidays?” If it is a question that has been overused on you, it has been overused on this person as well. Instead, use an invitational, open-ended question that you are truly interested in hearing the answer to, such as, “What’s been on your mind this week?” or “What is your favorite way to spend your time these days?”

4. Bring Your Questions and Your Best Snippets
While preparing for an event, plan how you will contribute to an entertaining conversation. Pull a few interesting snippets of your life, local news, or global discoveries to the forefront of your mind. (Avoid bringing up politics–because of acid reflux, obviously.) Choose ahead of time a few questions you want to ask folks you expect to see at this event. If there is a topic you’ve been wanting to discuss with someone who is also interested, keep that in the forefront of your brain too. Boom. You are ready.

5. Jump Aboard the Awkward Train

In the event that conversation dives so far into the awkward or absurd that no amount of civility will bring it back, you can still have a good time by going Brant Hansen and just bringing a wonderful snippet of your own to the conversation. A few starter options:

“Does it ever bother you that gingerbread people live in houses made of the flesh of their fellow men?”

“Do you ever stop and ask roadside bystanders whether they are hitch hiking, or just trying to compliment your driving?”

“What spiritual applications do you take from 1 Samuel 19,  where the Spirit of God came upon Saul, and he stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel, and lay naked for a day and half?”

 

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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A Bucket-List for Christmas

Today I was an unwilling eye-witness of the fact that Walmart is swarmed with candy canes and snowmen, and the first of my neighbors have put up their lights.

I guess it’s official. The holiday season has begun.

And if you’re anything like me and my good pal Grumpy Cat…. you’re joinin’ us in our way of thinking.

grumpy cat

Christmas is not my favorite holiday. I adore my Savior, don’t get me wrong…. but these days, the real meaning of Christmas isn’t what it’s all about at all. Too much rushing, shopping, planning and stressing. Not enough quiet, worship & awe. I do have a proactive combat plan, though, this year, with the hopes that it will birth some peace, hope and cheer.

It’s called,

(drumroll)

THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS.

Because, after all, what spreads more peace, hope and cheer than a nice fat partridge that’s just been plucked out of a primival Genovian Pear-Tree?

Here’s how it actually goes. I have a Christmas Bucket List called The 12 Days of Christmas. Basically, 12 things to do on twelve different days leading up to the day of Christ’s birth. The point is to make good memories, encourage people, and to pour out the Father’s love and giving which is what our Savior’s arrival was all about.

It was a giving-of-Himself in an even deeper sense than I’ll ever fully understand, actually.

So here goes….

1. Fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child

Belize

Wrap a box. Fill with fun. Send to a child who needs a ray of hope. Can’t believe I’ve never done this. There are drop-off locations everywhere! But the deadline is November 18 so…. time to hit Five Below and some craft stores!

2. Send mail to soldiers.

Holiday Mail for Heroes: perfect opportunity to spread Christ’s love! I can’t imagine the mental and emotional pain soldiers face every day, but Jesus does…. and he has a cure. Deadline for mail to arrive at Mail for Heroes Headquarters: December 6.

3. Send Christmas cards… on time!

While we’re speaking of cards I’ll admit…. mine are usually late. Here’s to turning over a new leaf!

4. Donate blood.

Sounds gruesome… but it’s fast, simple, and comes with free snacks. And blood banks are low in my area.

5. Hear Handel’s ‘Messiah’ live.

My Mother’s favorite, and an old Christmas tradition that was dropped when we were old enough to (loudly) voice our complaints that the soloists shrill notes shattered our eardrums. The lyrics do a phenomenal job of capturing and displaying the Messiah’s journey of love and heartache.

6. Have a cookie-making (read: eating) party.

yummmmmyyyy

One word sums it up: YUM. Foremost on my mind: these^.

7.Tour the lights on a snowy night.

There’s just something about friends, hot chocolate, the wet, foggy chill of snowy air….

8. Watch a Christmas Drama.

Seeing the story in action sometimes brings up things I’ve never considered before, and always fills my heart with cheer.

9. Love up on kids in a children’s rehab center.

I just can’t forget Erica, the girl who wanted to talk & talk to me…. and had no one. She was my age, and bound to the confines of her sickness forever.

10. Bedazzle someone’s home in the dead of Christmas Eve night.

Holidays are painful reminders of days gone by for many, many people. A little goodwill might help.

11. Serve at a soup kitchen on Christmas morning.

A moment in a darker world can make you instantly wish for your own, even with it’s flaws. A moment of authentic love can sprout strength.

12. Drink eggnog for the first time.

Or read the Christmas story every day. Or sing “Deck the Halls” at top volume whenever an angry face is spotted. Or dress the dog up in a scandalously embarrassing costume and take her to visit my senior friends. Or do all of the above.

Simultaneously, even.

Hey, who said I need to make my mind up? It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, ya’ll! But I’d love to hear YOUR holiday traditions that make Christmas meaningful! Leave a comment… maybe I’ll try some of them!

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Happy season of rejoicing to all, and to all a good night.