I’d like to say that our table always looked just like the one in the picture. Well Christmas day was usually pretty close, but Christmas Eve was ALWAYS much more casual. One of my earlier memories is of a very warm Christmas Day, a backed up sink/garbage disposal (I don’t think we ever had a holiday in that house where the garbage disposal didn’t have an issue of some sort) and then having to transport all the prepared food from my parent’s house to my grandparent’s house via my grandmother’s VERY RED (kind of like a Christmas sleigh) Chevy station wagon (remember those?) while my uncle and I sat in the back keeping the food from toppling over.

CHRISTMAS EVE – Served Buffet style since this was the night we did most of the present opening and the adults didn’t want to spend all their time in the kitchen – in later years we would have it catered (so to speak – they prepared the food, we picked it up and displayed it) from Rattler’s BBQ. We also began to use “FINE CHINA” as hubs calls it aka decorated paper plates, bowls and napkins.

  • Sandwich makings – roast beef, ham, cheeses
  • Potato Salad
  • See’s Candy boxes
  • Wintergreen ribbon candy
  • Chocolate covered cherries

CHRISTMAS DAY – This is where we dug out the REAL fine china and crystal as well as the silver and cloth napkins. I loved setting the table for this meal. There were always enough people that we had a KID’S table too. When I was younger I hated the kid’s table – all the good stuff was sitting at the grown-up’s table!

  • Roast Turkey, Baked Ham or Prime Rib
  • Daddy’s Stuffing – now recreated from scratch to taste virtually the same as my Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing
  • Mashed Potatoes ALWAYS from scratch – it was those potato peels that were one of the biggest garbage disposal problems
  • Giblet Gravy
  • Cranberry Sauce – my family always used Ocean Spray from a can but nowadays we make my homemade sauce ALWAYS (though our oldest prefers canned sauce LOL 😀 and if he’s here I but a can just for him) Cranberry Sauce
  • Baked Ham – in later years it was always HONEYBAKED HAM and I loved making Split Pea soup with the left over ham bone.
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Green Bean Casserole (THEN) Brussels Sprouts Casserole (NOW) 😀
  • Gran’s cranberry salad – she’d make two, one for mom and aunt Liz and one for everyone else.
  • Rolls and butter
  • Traditional pies like pumpkin, Cherry and as well as Cherry Pineapple Dump Cake.
  • See’s Candies

When we go to my SIL’s family for Christmas (or any other big family get together) we do Hor’deouvres. The family is so big now that over the years we have found that if each person brings an hor’deouvre to feed 10+ people that we can make a HUGE feast. We just serve it buffet style (skipping the sit down meal) and mingle and play – it is ALWAYS the best time.

Here are a couple recipes that have been added to the MUST have during the holiday season pile over the years.






Here are a few of my FAVORITE RECIPE LINKS to make for a holiday crowd or for neighbor plates I make every year. They also make some pretty impressive foods and drinks for a buffet table.


WOW this is a HUGE category!  I HAVE SO MANY FAVORITES! BUT, this really is a SUPER easy topic and category for someone who loves to cook and bake.

The one thing I am noticing as I type each BLOGMAS entry is that I am remembering so many silly stories and anecdotes about aunts, uncles, cousins and such that keep bringing smiles to my face. These memories are part of what this season is all about to me

Because of our growing family branches with plenty of munchkins being born and in-laws to accommodate, one of hubby’s sister’s family traditions is to celebrate the weekend before as a LARGE group and then be at each respective home for Christmas itself or with their in-laws.

As the family has grown, Christmas dinner even on that weekend before became a larger and larger production. Eventually instead of a “dinner”  it became a “cocktail” party with each person bringing an appetizer type dish for 20. So, in essence Christmas dinner became a HAPPY HOUR and it has worked out fantastic over the years. Everyone pretty much has a “signature” dish so we end up with a WIDE variety of everything from homemade Egg Nog to Salads and Chicken Skewers on the BBQ with plenty of tasty fudges and baked goodies too.

A few years back some friends took us to lunch at Jack Allen’s Kitchen when we were visiting in Round Rock, Texas and the food was SOOOOOOOOO good that I bought the cook book and have been experimenting ever since with his recipes.

One of our favorite recipes from the book is for pimento cheese made from scratch.  I now also make it into bite sized balls so you don’t have to mess with a knife and and all the cracker crumbs.

A few other ideas that we often have for “party” nights are:

These days with the popularity of charcuterie boards they have been added to the greatest meal category on a busy holiday eve. A charcuterie board to graze on while you work is a truly wonderful thing. 😃

This time of year can be stressful and super busy so to make things easier we have gone to making charcuterie boards on the “eve” nights of holidays. The word charcuterie sounds a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

Charcuterie Boards are suddenly all the rage, but the culinary art of preparing charcuterie boards dates back to the 15th century. The person who prepares the charcuterie board is a charcutier which literally means “Pork Butcher” in French. The original process/meaning was intended as a way to preserve meat before the invention of refrigeration, especially pork products.

The revived comeback of the charcuterie board brings it front and center to our tables and has been born out of the necessity of our busy lives as well as our love for farm to table and deli style meals that are also quick and easy.

Since the original meaning dealt with preserved meats, adding fermented, farm to table, home canned and prepared foods just falls into place along side the meats.

One of the best things about serving a charcuterie board at your own party is that there are NO RULES! It’s yours for the making – make it as simple or as sophisticated as YOU like. One of the greatest aspects of a charcuterie board is that you can mix it all up to fit EVERYONE’S taste.

You can make these as simple or as sophisticated as YOU like. For us it is ALL about favorites and yummy satisfying and filling “bites” of food. Below is a list of some suggestions for building your own charcuterie board for your next party.

I will be doing a “DESSERT” charcuterie board for a New Year’s Eve party we are going to.

  • Breads & Crackers – Crostini with toppings, Artisan Breads, Crackers, Fruitcake
  • Spreads – Jams, Chutneys, Dips, Flavored Mustards, Sauces, Dressings, Flavored Honeys, Flavored Horseradishes
  • Fermented/Pickled – Stuffed Olives, Pickles, Green Olives, Giardiniera, Peperoncinis, Pickled Carrots, Baby Corn
  • Cheeses – Cheddar, Havarti, Brie, Baby Swiss, Gouda, Pimiento Cheese, Manchego, Bleu Cheese
  • Meats – Salami, Roast Beef, Pancetta, Prosciutto, Pepperoni, Ham
  • Nuts & Seeds – Pistachios, Walnuts, Pecans, Macadamias, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Almonds, Chocolate covered raisins
  • Dried fruits – Dates, Prunes, Apricots, Golden Raisins
  • Fresh fruits – Grapes, Oranges, Berries, Apple slices, Pears, Grape tomatoes, Kiwi, Starfruit
  • Decorations – sprigs of Rosemary, Thyme or Basil


What I CANNOT live without in the winter is many, many things, but these are my top items! Then again, SNOWMAGGEDDON 2019 proved there are things I CAN live without, but choose not to. 😀

The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that if I have a sore throat, dry skin, cold feet or hands, cold food or catch a cold I am NOT a happy camper so I go out of my way to prevent that. I like to try and not go out unless the temperature reaches 45, but I don’t hibernate well either, so that is just a pipe dream of a rule. Over the years I’ve included a good selection or warm cozy blankets and a good quality snow scraper to my arsenal.

I drink a cup of green tea or a hot apple cider every night and try to make very balanced comfort food meals to warm up my family from the inside out.

I also have a newer and occasional favorite hot toddy, a Lemon Aval Pota Hot Toddy courtesy of McMenamins one of our local favorite resort chains.


2 ounces Aval Pota Whiskey
2 bar spoons QUALITY honey
Juice of 1 small FRESH squeezed lemon

  • Pour ingredients into a coffee glass or mug and top with hot water.
  • Garnish with a lemon zest twist.

Here are the links to a few of our favorite soups and stews for you.


Top 2 Winter Beauty Essentials?

  • A NICE HOT SHOWER to relax and clean out the pores.
  • A super moisturizer to keep away dry skin!

Top 2 Winter Fashion Essentials?

  • I wait ALL year for it to be cold enough to bring out the boots & UGGS!
  • Scarves and gloves.  I have color combos to match anything AND everything.

Favorite Winter Accessory?

  • HATS, GLOVES & SCARVES of course!!!!

Favorite Winter Nail Polish?

  • Red for Christmas with glitter of course, but normally a pinky, purplish mauve. I just have too much red in my complexion.

Hot Cocoa or Apple Cider?

  • Homemade hot cocoa and MUST have marshmallows and or whipped cream!
  • Apple Cider if it is made into a AVAL POTA TODDY!

Favorite Winter Candle?

  • Apple and Cinnamon

Does it snow where you live?

  • Yes, but after the SNOWMAGEDDON of 2019 with a week long power outage that left us freezing or the SNOW/ICE storm of 2013 that left the cul-de-sac as an ice skating rink, we hope for more moderate levels of snow this year.

Have you ever made a snowman? Snow Angels?

  • Absolutely! And a snow woman and snow kids!

What is Your Favorite Holiday Movie?

  • IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE tops the list! Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street and they never get old either. And a Hallmark sucker every year for their new movies each year.

What’s your favorite holiday drink? 

  • Coffee
  • Hot Tea
  • Hot Cocoa
  • Hot toddies – never been an eggnog fan

Candy cane or Gingerbread men?

  • I like the chalk style peppermint, but I’m not real keen on actual candy canes and I like soft gingerbread men and sugar cookies.

What’s your favorite holiday/Christmas song?

What is most important to you about the Christmas holidays? 

  • That it is genuine and homemade for the most part. Christmas is not a commercial holiday for me. I believe in trying to remember the real reason for the season and keep the Christmas spirit in my heart and life ALL year long.


Hubby says I never met a Christmas decoration or ornament I didn’t like. He’s NOT wrong, but I am discerning in my tastes. He would also tell you that our tree is going to collapse under the weight of all of the sentimental and treasured ornaments. 😀 What he forgets is that MOST of our family has made me the “safety deposit box” for all things nostalgic not to mention all of our own treasures from over the years.

One of our favorite shows was THE BIG BANG THEORY which always makes me laugh as I picture Penny asking about Sheldon’s Ornament Placement Template. LOL There is no such thing as a proper way to place an ornament in our house 🙂 We believe in the more the merrier theory.

The ornaments below are some of our homemade bulbs.  Several years ago I made quite a few and then did them with my girl scout troop also. Hubby liked them so well that we have now donated all our store bought bulbs and made MORE than enough of these for the entire tree.

My newest addition that I absolutely adore is my Scentsy nativity.

I do have MANY favorite indoor decorations. Hubby and I agree on outdoor decorations and that he’s MOSTLY in charge of location. Outdoor decorations are mostly generic and none that are very sentimental, but indoor decorations are mainly hand me downs and sentimental so I am more particular about them AND their placement. Here are a few of my new ones this year.

I am seriously paring down my decorations and ornaments each year. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but a few things no longer hold an appeal for me. LOL For example, hubby and I decided that the “blow ups” that we bought for the munchkins next door are going to go away after this year for a couple of reasons.

  • Here in the Pacific North West we get a lot of rain and snow during the holidays making them a pain in the neck.
  • We also get a lot of wind during December making them a pain in the neck requiring extra securing to keep them from taking flight.
  • After they go down at night they sometimes end up in strange positions so they don’t always want to return to their upright positions readily without going out to help them the next day, and often that is in the rain or snow.
  • The extension cords are all over the yard and have to be moved to do yard work.

So, outside decorations are being streamlined big time! That said, I did buy a new set of adorable wooden trees that a friend’s SIL is making. I’ll be picking them up on Tuesday and can’t wait to get them strung with the lights I bought. They’ll be perfect on the front porch.

What about you? Do you have favorite decorations and ornaments? Are they hand me downs from family?



This is ALWAYS a FUN category! Do you do a lot of baking for the holiday season?

  • Do you have special recipes that you use ONLY at Christmas time?
  • Are they hand me down recipes from your mom, aunt or grandma?
  • Do you like gingerbread, shortbread, fudges or divinities?
  • Do you participate in cookie exchanges?
  • Do you bake for your neighbors?

This year I am changing up the recipes a bit that I’m making for the delivery driver’s goodies that I leave on the front porch when I know they’ll be delivering, a few local mom and pop businesses that I frequent and my “GIVING PLATES” (neighbor plates) and trying 2 new recipes. I LOVE these plates. They are my way of hopefully spreading some positive random acts of kindness. And every now and then one of my favorites makes its way  back to me.

Remembering back to being a kid always seems like going home to me.  Dad would buy all sorts of nuts by the pound during the holidays and of course bring out the nutcrackers. There was always a box (or 2 OR 3) of See’s candies (I just loved the milk chocolate Bordeauxs and since there was only 1 or 2 in each box I always tried to be the first to find them) and there would be tins and tins of butter cookies, snickerdoodles, peanut butter fudge, chocolate fudge as well as the sugar cookies that all of us kids had iced and decorated.

This year’s neighbor plates will include:

Here are the links to some of our favorites I’ve made in the recent past.

42 gingersnap cookies, (homemade or store bought)
14 ounces KRAFT caramels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup + 1/4 cup finely chopped honey roasted peanuts
12 ounces combination of white and dark chocolate
Sprinkles of choice (I like chocolate for the holidays)

  • Arrange cookies on cooling rack line baking sheet.**
  • In a microwave melt the caramels with the heavy cream, stirring until smooth.
  • Stir in peanuts.
  • Spoon about a teaspoon over each cookie.
  • Refrigerate until set.
  • Alternately melt white and dark chocolates.
  • Coat each cookie halfway with one of the chocolates, return to the rack allowing the excess to drip off.
  • Sprinkle with sprinkles and/or crushed peanuts.
  • Refrigerate until set.

NOTE** Wax paper or parchment paper works well also.

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup CRISCO
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoons ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
sugar for rolling

  • Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg and ground cloves. Set aside.
  • Cream butter and crisco together until smooth.
  • Add sugar and molasses, blending until smooth.
  • Add flour mixture gradually until well blended.
  • Chill dough for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Roll dough into small balls
  • Roll balls in sugar and place on cookie sheet.
  • Bake 8 minutes for soft chewy cookies and 12 minutes for crisp cookies.

While the category is cookies, but cookies come in many forms as far as I’m concerned 😀 These are some of my and my family’s favorite Christmas “non-cookie” recipes.

My great aunt Louise’s corn flake wreaths are not technically cookies, but they are a treat that I try to make every year at Christmas time. My great aunt who I only got to see a couple times a year used to make these every year for us kids, but especially just for me because I ALWAYS asked for them. My cousins and I would wait out on the front steps for her to arrive every year just to see them, the wreaths that is. 😀

She always made them soooooooooo pretty and perfect!  Aunt Louise was just plain crazy it seemed to me as a kid.  I can’t pinpoint any one thing that made me think that, but as the years wore on she continually proved it.  Let’s just say if the made a movie of her life, Shirley MacLaine would play her part.  Aunt Louise reminds me of Shirley’s character Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias.

CRAZY AUNT LOUISE’S HOLIDAY WREATHS  (these are better when they are made a few days ahead)
30 LARGE marshmallows (or 1 jar marshmallow cream)
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon green food color
3 1/2 cups cornflakes
Red Hots

  • Combine marshmallows, butter, vanilla and food color in top of double boiler. Heat and stir frequently until well blended.
  • Gradually stir in cornflakes until well blended.
  • Drop onto wax paper and arrange into wreath shapes. I plop them onto the wax paper and then push out from the center to form the wreaths.
  • Decorate with red hots.
  • Let cool.
  • If your house is warm – chill in refrigerator until set.

These are another fun recipe that can be dressed up with colored sanding sugar.

8 cups Rice Krispies
50 Kraft caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup + 1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 bag mini marshmallows
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • In a medium sauce pan over  a low-medium heat stir together the sweetened condensed milk, the caramels and 1/4 cup unsalted butter until smooth.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Line a 9×13 baking dish with foil, extending over the edge.
  • Spray with non-stick PURE or PAM.
  • Melt butter in large sauce pan.
  • Add marshmallows and stir  until just melted.
  • Add vanilla, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of caramel sauce and stir until smooth.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Stir in rice krispies until evenly coated.
  • Press into pan**.
  • Cool completely.
  • Pour remaining caramel over rice kripy treats and spread even with a spatula.
  • Sprinkle remaining sea salt over top.
  • Enjoy!
  • Store in an airtight container.

NOTES:  **I use a stainless steel spatula that has been sprayed with PURE to keep it from sticking.  It helps to press down firmly to get an even level.

This recipe is just PURE decadence, but has become a SERIOUS CHRISTMAS ADDICTION 😀

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 LARGE eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons PURE vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  • Line cupcake tins with papers.
  • Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. Set aside.
  • Whisk eggs for about 1 minute. They will become frothy and lightened in color.
  • Add oil and whisk again until combined.
  • Add sugar and whisk for about 1 minute.
  • Add vanilla extract.
  • Add sour cream to the batter, whisking until combined
  • Now add the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk gently. Whisk batter until JUST until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX!

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar

  • Make the Cinnamon Swirl: mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of white sugar. Set aside.


  • Now start by pouring about 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter on the bottom of each cupcake tin.
  • Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the Cinnamon Swirl mixture.
  • Top with another heaping tablespoon of batter.
  • Now, sprinkle another 1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon Swirl mixture over batter.
  • Top with another heaping tablespoon of batter.
  • Using a toothpick, swirl the batter a few times to create a swirl effect.
  • Top already swirled cupcakes with one final 1/2 teaspoon of the Cinnamon Swirl mixture.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, checking halfway to rotate pans.
  • Remove from the oven once cupcakes are lightly golden brown and puffed.
  • Cool 10 minutes.

+/- 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
+/- 2 tablespoons milk

  • Mix powdered sugar and milk together.

NOTES:  There are many factors that will affect your glaze consistency.  The brand of sugar you use, whether you use a scale or a measuring cup…  If your glaze is too thin and runny, add more sifted powdered sugar and test for consistency again.  If the glaze is too thick and not spreading, add a very, very small amount (1 teaspoon) of milk at a time, until you achieve your desired consistency.

And these brownies are an ABSOLUTE MUST! The mint is perfect (not like toothpaste) coupled with the fudge brownie and rich ganache.

11 ounce package dark chocolate pieces
1/2 cup butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
Creme-de-Menthe Filling (BELOW)
Dark Chocolate Ganache (BELOW)

  • In a medium saucepan, melt and stir 4 ounces (3/4 cup) of the dark chocolate pieces, butter, and the unsweetened chocolate over low heat.
  • Remove from heat; cool.
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Grease foil; set aside.
  • Stir sugar into the cooled chocolate mixture in saucepan.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon JUST until combined.
  • Stir in vanilla.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined.
  • Stir in the remaining 7 ounces (1-1/2 cups) dark chocolate pieces. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
  • Spread Creme-de-Menthe Filling over cooled brownies.
  • Place uncut brownies in the refrigerator while preparing the Dark Chocolate Ganache.
  • Spread slightly cooled Dark Chocolate Ganache over Creme de Menthe Filling, spreading to the edges with a spatula.
  • Cover and chill about 1 hour or until set. Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut brownies out of the pan. Cut into bars.
  • Place brownies in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons GREEN creme de menthe
Milk (optional)

  • In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter.
  • Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.
  • Gradually beat in 1 cup of the powdered sugar.
  • Beat in creme-de-menthe.
  • Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar. If necessary beat in 1 tablespoon of additional milk to make the filling slightly thicker than a frosting

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 11 ounce package dark chocolate pieces

  • In a medium saucepan, bring whipping cream JUST to boiling over medium-high heat.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add dark chocolate pieces (do not stir).
  • Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth.
  • Cool for 15 minutes.
  • Pour over brownies and QUICKLY spread evenly.

NOTE: You can substitute 2 tablespoons milk, 1/2 teaspoon mint extract, and several drops of green food coloring for the GREEN Creme-de-menthe.

BLOGMAS 2023 ~ DAY 14 ~ CHRISTMAS MARKETS ~ BLOG 365.341 has a great article about the 17 BEST Christmas Markets around the world.

I would love to travel to them all, but that just isn’t in the cards for me so I watch them be featured in Hallmark Christmas movies and dream. I would LOVE to travel to those markets and fairs that have all the town interactive, but the closest I come to that here is running into everyone I know at the local ones as well as the parade that is coming up on the 16th.

I do try and participate, as well as shop at the markets and fairs locally around me. And by around me I mean within 100 miles or so for the most part.

A girlfriend and I traveled 225 miles last month for the best one we have been to this year. It was held at a large Fairgrounds and was in 3 separate buildings with vendor trailers peppered in between the buildings. We were fortunate that day that it was also beautiful weather. It was so fruitful that we made a couple trips back to the car to unload ourselves of bags.

Last week I visited our local county fairgrounds for their annual event which I have adored in years past. But, sadly this year was quite disappointing with a lot of repetitive vendors and even many with not so hand crafted items. 🙁

Then last weekend when her daughter was visiting we ventured to another one in the opposite direction and loved what they had to sell, but it was an outdoor market, in the rain and extremely LONG check out lines because they had such cute stuff.

We have certainly done our part to shop local and not have everything delivered by Amazon or from discount stores. Unfortunately, many of the things I was hoping to purchase as gifts just weren’t available this year from the same vendors or the vendors I was hoping for have closed up shop.

My Eagles group has adopted some local foster kids and we have been shopping for them also. I also have a family from social services I’m shopping for, but they are in need of more practical items like bedding and such. I am making them each stockings though to add in some fun items that aren’t on their needs lists. One of the kids on my list is developmentally challenged and needs some sensory items that just aren’t easily available her in our rural community and I did have to resort to Amazon for those things.


I’ve always wondered where Santa Claus came from. So, I decided to do a history tutorial this year. Last month when I wrote my list of BLOGMAS and chose the days and what I would write about on those days I had no idea how much of a coincidence this would be. The eerie part you’ll see part way through this post. I did some research on St. Nick and struck gold with

Santa Claus also known as Saint Nicholas or Kris Kringle has a long history steeped in Christmas tradition. These days Santa Claus is thought of mainly as the jolly man in a red suit who brings toys to good girls and boys on Christmas Eve, but his story stretches all the way back to the 3rd century, when Saint Nicholas walked the earth and became the patron saint of children.

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around A.D. 280 in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.

Nicholas’s popularity spread over the years and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. Traditionally this was considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married.

By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.

St. Nicholas first became popular in American culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas).

In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The background of the engraving contained the now familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. 
In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a “rascal” with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a “huge pair of Flemish trunk hose.”

Gift-giving centered mainly around children and has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the early 19th century. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. 

In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a “live” Santa Claus.

Did you know that the Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s? In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. Those familiar Salvation Army Santas have been ringing bells on the street corners of American cities ever since.

Perhaps the most iconic department store Santa is Kris Kringle in the 1947 classic Santa Claus movie “Miracle on 34 Street.” A little girl (Natalie Wood) who believes Kris Kringle when he says he is the real Santa Claus (Edwin Green). “Miracle on 34 Street” was remade in 1994 and starred Lord Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson and both versions are wonderful! Both feature the Macy’s Santa and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade which began in 1924. Fans of all ages still line up to meet the Macy’s Santa in New York City and at stores around the country, where children can take pictures on Santa’s lap and tell him what they want for Christmas.

In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” more popularly known as “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.” 

Moore’s poem, which he was initially hesitant to publish due to the frivolous nature of its subject, is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head! Although some of Moore’s imagery was probably borrowed from other sources, his poem helped popularize the now-familiar image of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve in “a miniature sleigh” led by eight flying reindeer to leave presents for deserving children. “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” created a new and immediately popular American icon.

In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves and his wife, Mrs. Claus

Eighteenth-century America’s Santa Claus was not the only St. Nicholas-inspired gift-giver to make an appearance at Christmastime. There are similar figures and traditions around the world.

Christkind (Christ Child is an angel-like figure often accompanied by St. Nicholas on his holiday missions) or Kris Kringle believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. English legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children’s stockings with holiday treats. Père Noël is responsible for filling the shoes of French children. In Italy, there is a story of a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.

But here in the United States, Santa Claus is often depicted as flying from his home to home on Christmas Eve to deliver toys to children. He flies on his magic sleigh led by his reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph. Santa enters each home through the chimney, which is why empty Christmas stockings—once empty socks, now often dedicated stockings made for the occasion—are “hung by the Chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there,” just as the famous poem dictastes. Stockings can be filled with candy canes and other treats or small toys.

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus call the North Pole home, and children write many, many letters to Santa Clause telling of their wishes for under the tree on Christmas morning. They also check his progress via NORAD as he travels the globe delivering toys. Many a cookie and glass a milk is left by the tree and fireplace for Santa Clause as well as carrots for his reindeer on Christmas Eve.

Santa Claus keeps a “naughty and nice list” to determine who deserves gifts on Christmas morning, and parents often invoke these lists as a way to ensure their children are on their best behavior. These lists have been immortalized by the 1934 Christmas song “Santa Claus is coming to Town”:

“He’s making a list 
And checking it twice,
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake!”

Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was born over 100 years after his eight flying counterparts. The red-nosed wonder was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store.

In 1939, May wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store. Using a similar rhyme pattern to Moore’s “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. But, When Christmas Eve turned foggy and Santa worried that he wouldn’t be able to deliver gifts that night, the former outcast saved Christmas by leading the sleigh by the light of his red nose. Rudolph’s message—that given the opportunity, a liability can be turned into an asset—proved popular.

Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Several years later, one of May’s friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph’s story (1949). It was recorded by Gene Autry and sold over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences every year since 1964.


The phrase “Merry Christmas” is traditionally used in the United States while “Happy Christmas” is more prevalent in the United Kingdom, both the expressions have altered and developed with time. Ever wonder why?

Happy and merry are synonyms, but they actually have different very different connotations. Merry implies more of a verb type action while happy, leans more toward quiet contentment.

According to Merry Christmas and Happy Christmas are both greetings used during the last part of December, around Christmas time. The first word of each is only capitalized when used as a greeting. When one is speaking of a happy or merry Christmas, the adjectives are lowercase.

Merry Christmas began as a saying in the 1500s. It was recorded in a letter as a wish that God would send the recipient a “mery Christmas”. It was solidified as a capitalized greeting by Charles Dickens in his great work A Christmas Carol.
Queen Elizabeth II, for whatever reason, did not use Dickens’ phrase. Instead, she used the phrase Happy Christmas in her broadcasts to her subjects. After her use, the term gained popularity and is still the most common form in Great Britain and Ireland.

There is debate whether or not the greeting has religious meaning and whether a more generic Happy Holidays should be used instead to respect non-Christian views. Be aware of your audience when choosing the correct phrase.

Obviously there are many theories. Country has yet another view.
Ever wondered where the phrase “Merry Christmas” comes from? It’s a relative question since we live in a country where “Happy Easter” and “Happy Birthday” are the norm, making “merry” part of “Merry Christmas” pretty unique. No one is entirely certain where the “merry” originated, but there are several interesting theories.

Wait. Does anyone say “Happy Christmas”? Yes! For starters, it’s important to note that “Happy Christmas” hasn’t faded completely—it’s still widely used in England. This is believed to be because “happy” took on a higher class connotation than “merry,” which was associated with the rowdiness of the lower classes. The royal family adopted “Happy Christmas” as their preferred greeting, and others took note. (In fact, each year, Queen Elizabeth wished her citizens a “Happy Christmas,” rather than a merry one.)

A dated letter from bishop John Fisher to Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell revealed that “Merry Christmas” has been used since at least 1534. The English carol, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” which was introduced in the 1500s, also uses the popular phrase.

So when did “Happy Christmas” become “Merry Christmas” in the U.S.?

Historians believe it might boil down to a simple grammatical lesson. “Happy” is a word that describes an inner emotional condition, while “merry” is more of a behavior descriptor—something active and maybe even raucous.

As both words evolved and changed meanings over time, people slowly stopped using “merry” as its own individual word during the 18th and 19th centuries. It stuck around in common phrases like “the more, the merrier,” as well as in things like Christmas songs and stories, largely due to the influence of Charles Dickens. The Victorian Christmas went on to define many of today’s Christmas traditions.

It’s no wonder that now when we hear “Merry Christmas” we hear something sentimental. Even the word “merry” on its own now makes us think of December 25.


WOW I’m truly blessed with so many to choose from!

Some of my favorites are my very first personal desk when I was 9, my aunt coming to visit from Texas around that same time and sitting on the floor in a leather dress playing “A Barrel of Monkeys” with the younger kids or maybe the year I got my first bike, whoops wait that was the birthday before Christmas.

But I think my all time favorite was when my grandfather who worked for General Electric as an X-ray technician of sorts (he oversaw the installation and calibration of X-ray equipment) and the year he brought home a GE Snow tree with beautiful ornate ornaments (I still don’t know the correlation between between being an X-ray technician and Christmas trees though).

Anyway this tree had a HUGE decorated cardboard base and once the tree was up and decorated you filled this base with thousands of tiny Styrofoam balls and when you turned the switch on the tree would make it’s own snow.  As a kid I thought it was pretty cool, but as an adult I look back and realize what a MESS it made!! Especially when the Santa Ana winds were blowing and the static electricity was high – those damn balls stuck to EVERYTHING! We lived in the high desert of southern California and the winds were ever present during December, often morphing into their severe form of Devil Winds and the snow was nowhere to be found so the tree was a novelty we all enjoyed.

But wait, that is not my favorite memory. It turns out that my favorite memory is of trying to stump my dad each and EVERY year with his gift – it became a mission of sorts to be the first person to stump him. I swear the man was like Carnac when it came to knowing what was inside a box. We tried EVERY year to stump him and I don’t remember ever being able to actually do it. We tried adding bricks, taping a silver dollar with duct tape to the bottom so it would flip back and forth to make noise when you shook it, the box inside a box trick, adding a pair of old shoes… but he ALWAYS guessed!  I still don’t know how he did it. Sadly 🙁 this will be the 31st Christmas without him. He died so young, but I have so many wonderful memories of him and Christmas from when I was young.

There of course have been many memories since, but for some reason the childhood ones are the most memorable at times.


There are literally thousands of different advent calendars. The calendars can be homemade DIY or quite elaborate. It’s entirely up to you.

These days most are promotional items and come in every form from daily chocolates to beers. You can make your own, find them on ETSY, EBAY… but what do they stand for? What is advent?

Advent itself is Christian followers remembering the birth of Christ in celebration of His birth and the anticipation of His return. Advent originates from Latin meaning “coming” or “arrival. Advent begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas.

This year the first Sunday was November 26th, the second IS TODAY, December 3rd and the third one will be the 12th. The third one is also known as Gaudette Sunday and is a time of rejoicing that the fast is almost over.

Advent calendars are a cute little way to help kids not only countdown to Christmas, but also learn along the way. Many families offer up a daily scripture or devotional reading to go along with the chocolate treat as a way to stay focused on the reason for the season.


Many families also use an Advent Wreath, burning the candles as they countdown to Christmas. Each week features a different liturgical theme. Traditionally the first week features hope and expectation of the Jewish people as they await the Saviour’s arrival and reminding Christian believers to wait for Jesus’ second coming. The second week focuses on preparation and the third week celebrates the coming of the Messiah while the final week celebrates God’s peace and love.

Both royal purple and Sarum blue are used to symbolize the preparation, penitence and royalty to welcome the new king at Christmas time while purple is also used as the color of suffering during the week of Lent and Holy Week. Most churches have shifted their emphasis to the Sarum blue for Advent and reserving the royal purple for the Easter season. Pink replaces the blue in week 4 as a shift happens to lessen the emphasis of penitence and turn the attention to the celebration of the season.

Red and green derive from old European practices using evergreens and holly to symbolize the ongoing life and hope that Christ’s birth brings to the world. Red and green are NOT actually liturgical colors for the season.


I know many parents are tired of ELF on the SHELF, are you? Now Food Network even has a baking competition that revolves around the ELF on the SHELF.

I have always loved the idea and would make a list each year of the antics they would get into that year so I was always prepared and hopefully didn’t repeat myself too much!

My munchkins have grown up fast! 2 of 3 of them “KNEW”, but the youngest still believed and we tried keeping the elf/nisse tradition alive another year! BUT, her teacher told the whole class that year! Who does that? I was soooooo mad! First off it wasn’t her place to tell the kids and what kind of person, especially a teacher, steals a child’s belief of anything? These days the munchkins all tower over me in their teens and our elf/Nisse has become a sentimental fixture in the Christmas decorations.

Last year I discovered Julenisser, a Nordic tradition, to replace our previous Elf on a Shelf. I can’t find that a Julenisser is actually given a name, but I’m winging it here. 😀 The nisse is one of the most familiar creatures of Scandinavian folklore. Again this year we’re bringing back Annabelle and her pet reindeer, Alvin.

In Solvang, a Danish community, they actually do a Nisse Adventure like a scavenger hunt and Danish style JuleFest celebration throughout the month of December.

In Denmark there is a serious subculture regarding the Christmas elves and gnomes known as Julenisser. They live in forests and eat fruits and berries throughout the year before they come spend the month of Christmas with your family. They have BIG hearts and ARE magical and they love to play tricks on you and your family!

Hallmark even did a Christmas movie this year that involves a Gnome/Troll calle MY NORWEIGIAN HOLIDAY.

I know some people begin the day after Thanksgiving, but for us December 1st was always the beginning, though now that the munchkins all know I’ve put them out already this year.

For several years we did an Elf on the Shelf for the munchkins. Each year since we’ve done a “cousin” elf so it wasn’t the same elf every year. I know many parents are dreading that darned elf every year and having to come up with at least 24 DIFFERENT scenarios that are different from the previous year!

So when do you begin? Do you have unique names for your elf? Or do you have a Julenisser? Also, do you have a favorite Christmas character? Angels, Snowmen, Nutcrackers, Bears, Gnomes, Reindeer, Peanuts (Charlie Brown, Snoopy…), Elves, Gingerbread Men, Penguins or the BIG man himself, Santa Clause.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the past several years: