5 Reasons Why You Should Start Your Christmas Shopping Early

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5 Reasons Why You Should Start Your Christmas Shopping Early

Okay, so some of us are inveterate shopaholics and some of us are just not.  Regardless of which camp you fall into, there are distinct benefits to getting started early with your Christmas shopping.

5) The Best Deals Are Right After Christmas

For the frugal and downright cheap among us, going shopping for Christmas stuff immediately after Christmas is an absolute goldmine.  The markdowns for post-holiday goods is usually significant, particularly for perishables like candy, cookies and other holiday treats.  You can stock up on ornaments, stocking stuffers, low cost Secret Santa items and holiday themed toys to give out at holiday play dates between Christmas and New Year’s or even hold onto them until the following year.

The 12 Days of Christmas

Along with the notion of rampaging through the holiday closeout deals, the 12 Days of Christmas is an opportunity for you to celebrate the liturgical season of Christmas (that being the 12 days from Christmas Day through January 5th, the day before Epiphany) in secular shopaholic style.  If you’re thrifty, you can hold off to buy presents until the post-holiday sales kick in and still technically be giving holiday gifts in this 12 day festivity.  If you want to get all of the gifts mentioned in the song, the current estimated retail value is $114, 000.  I’d be happy with a box of chocolate covered cherries, personally.

Port of Entry Christmas Shop at Islands of Adventure courtesy of Ryaninc on Flickr.com

4) New Year’s Bonanza

A common New Year’s Resolution is to get one’s finances in order, particularly if you have been spending like an elf jacked up on cocoa with double marshmallows.  The New Year can provide a clean slate to get ahead of the curve and spread your holiday purchases out over the course of the year.

Christmas Club

For those who enjoy the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping at Christmastime, the option to open a Christmas Club Savings Account is a choice move.  You can deposit small amounts from each paycheck until you’ve accumulated a holiday binge fund for the end of the year.

Use Your Tax Return

If you customarily get a sizable tax return and you’re not using it to pay down your debt from last Christmas, this can provide a bit of seed capital to get your Christmas shopping off to an early start.  Buy key items for your family and friends now and hide them someplace you won’t forget or invest in a short term CD that will fatten your shopping wallet a few months down the line when it matures in time for your holiday gifting needs.

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3) Spread Purchases Out Over The Year

Keep an eye out for gifts throughout the year.  When something jumps out at you as the perfect gift for that hard to buy for relative or friend, go ahead and grab it!  There’s no reason to wait until Christmastime if you see the right thing.  That’s what gift wrap and closets are for, right?

Special Keepsakes

Did you take the kids someplace special this year on vacation or even just the occasional weekend road trip?  Get an ornament or a small memento from the tourist destination that can be used as a stocking stuffer.  You could even get a sweatshirt, jacket or even a knit cap from that vacation spot that can be given as a gift and tuck in some printed pictures from your excursion to rekindle the special time you had with your family.

More Time To Get The Perfect Gift

Do you have that one friend or relative whose signature interest is something seasonal like gardening, fishing, running or camping?  You can find special deals right at the beginning and after the end of these particular seasons that will let you be their hero when they see your customized treasure under the tree.

Back to School Sales

Typically, you will find Back to School sales on clothes and electronics between college semesters around New Years and in late Summer.  These are a great way to spread your holiday shopping dollars out over a wider span of the year.

Christmas Stockings Courtesy of Jim Hammer (hammer51012 on Flickr.com)

2) Christmas Is Coming

So, we’ve talked about the benefits of really early sales and spreading things out.  If you’re in the camp of those who are really juiced about shopping during the holiday time frame, there are still options for getting ahead of the game.

As Soon As The Tinsel Hits The Store

In years gone by, Christmas shopping season didn’t start until after Halloween or in some cases even after Thanksgiving.  These days, however, you’re lucky if they wait until after Labor Day to start hanging decorations and playing Christmas music.  Well, their fervor works in your favor.  If you start early like the stores, you will find that you aren’t left in the lurch on this year’s hot toy or gizmo.  As soon as the bells start jingling, keep an eye out for the top picks and grab yours while they’re still available.

Black Friday

Personally, I’m both an introvert and a fan of sleeping late after a big Thanksgiving dinner.  Black Friday is a big draw for my kids.  They love to hit the malls with their aunt and shop, shop, shop til they drop!  Black Friday (which, as of 2013 seems to begin right after supper on Thanksgiving Thursday) is a massively orchestrated sales effort by bricks and mortar merchants to kick off the holiday shopping season and get those annual books in the black before closing out the year.  You can keep an eye on what the special offers will be this year and strategically shop for just those special items because you’ve been doing the bulk of your shopping throughout the year.  While others are hustling and tussling, you can be a highly targeted shopping ninja making a beeline to those special deals you’ve been tracking.

Cyber Monday

If you’re like me and you can’t be bothered to go to the store regardless of the reason or season, the virtual merchants have established Cyber Monday as the online alternative to Black Friday.  Didn’t get the hot items on Black Friday because the frothing mobs had already torn through the stores like a plague of locusts? Let your fingers do the clicking.  The online merchants have held their stock in reserve for the unfortunate shoppers who didn’t score the choice gifts.  In most cases, they will be able to have your goods delivered well before Christmas.  Some sites will even provide gift wrapping for a small fee.

Online Christmas shopping

1) Stress Free Holidays

Let’s face it, the holidays are meant to be a joyous time to spend with family and friends.  By employing some of the strategies involved in shopping early and often, you will be in a much better mood than a lot of your less prepared counterparts and in a better frame of mind to enjoy the holidays.

Avoid The Crowds

You no longer need to brave the elbows and shopping carts of the inconsiderate, frazzled denizens of the holiday shopping world.  You’ve done your best and gotten prepared ahead of time.  Don’t get caught up in the mob mentality.  You can kick back and watch your favorite Christmas specials and bake some cookies.

Avoid Bad Weather

Snow? Ice? Blinding sleet? Yow! Who the heck needs all that drama?  Let Jack Frost do his worst while you stay safe and snug at home with your cleverly stashed horde of holiday gifts.  Shop while the sun shines and stay home when Old Man Winter comes calling.  You’ll be one less statistic for the DOT to tally this year.

Enjoy The Season

Christmas is the time for wrapping up the year on a high note.  With a modicum of preparation and strategic shopping, you will be far less stressed about the demands of holiday gift giving and more likely to soak up some holiday cheer.  This is the time to celebrate!

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Top 10 Benefits of Holiday Music

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Top 10 Benefits of Holiday Music

The holidays are a time of year when may be looking for some different ways to soothe, center, elevate, and re-energize yourself. Music is a great medium for getting on top of cascading emotions or just to get in the groove with the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping. The EQ Foundation Course© emphasizes the fine arts as a complement to Emotional Intelligence, but the coarsely commercial stuff is helpful too. We recommend:

1. Do you need to get centered and grounded?

The Winter Solstice is literally the time when the ‘Sun stands still’, so it’s only natural that we should seek to do the same.  Be still and find your connection with your spirituality.

If you are religious, Advent and Christmas hymns are just the thing to remind you of the Reason for the Season.  Break out your favorite CD’s or even tapes or vinyl if you still have it.  I’ve always found “Veni Veni Emmanuel” to be particularly stirring as well as “The Christmas Shoes” for a sentimental holiday tearjerker.

If you aren’t, I can recommend some stirring Christmas favorites like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” or “The Carol Of The Bells

2. Do you need to deal with the memory of loss or seasonal blues?

Only classics will do and inspirational tunes such as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Joy To The World” will put the light back into the darkened corners of your heart.

3. Do you need to simply lighten up?

How can you go wrong with cartoon classics such as the Chipmunks “Christmas Don’t Be Late” or “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” or even the absolute classic “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch

4. Do you want to max out on spiritual Christmas beauty?

Classical works like Panis Angelicus, the “Hallelujah Chorus” and Vivaldi’s “Winter” Concerto will rip your heart out of your chest, slap you in the face with it and mount it like the star on top of your Christmas tree.

5. Do you want something Christmassy but light?

To get completely upbeat, light and fun there are holiday classics like “Let It Snow“, “Dominic The Italian Christmas Donkey” and even “Sleigh Ride

6. Are you soooo done with all things Christmas?

Whatever are you doing here then?  This is Christmas All The Time!!! Okay, so you need to detox a bit even though the radio is playing holiday tunes 24×7 no matter where you tune in? There’s Adam Sandler’s “Hannukah Song“, Teddy Pendergass’ “Happy Kwanzaa” or even “Santa Claus is Pagan Too” by Emerald Rose.  If you want to go completely mean, there’s “Father Christmas” by the Kinks.  We don’t believe in Claus-abuse here, but there you are.

7. Are you harried, hurried and hassled and in absolutely no mood for jolliness?

Get over it! Christmas is jolly whether you like it or not. Sheesh!  Try something along the lines of “Mele Kalikimaka“, “Little Saint Nick” or “Jingle Bells” to get you back in the right frame of mind for Christmas frivolity.

8. Do you need to be inspired and to get in touch with the spiritual side of Christmas

Uplifting classics like “Once In Royal David’s City“, “Ave Maria” and “Cantique De Noel” are just the ticket for getting in touch with the spirit of Christmas.

9. When you want to bust it ol’ school

If you need a break from traditional Christmas tunes, you can groove with “Christmas In Hollis“, “Rock The Bells” and “Auld Lang Syne” to give the holidays a little somethin’ somethin’.

10. Getting back to simple, traditional tunes in simple traditional ways

Hearing “Silent Night” in the original German is a touching way to jump back to the early days of the modern celebration of Christmas.  This world famous song was written in 1818 when pastor Joseph Mohr asked his friend and church organist Franz Gruber to put a poem to music for the Christmas service.

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Christmas Carols and secular fun songs are a great way to celebrate the holidays and release the year’s cumulative stress.  Whether you’re feeling happy, sad or anywhere in between you can always crank some tunes to get you back in the spirit of things!

Circus Ring from Playmobil

Circus Ring from Playmobil

Circus Ring from PlaymobilCircus Ring from Playmobil

Is there anything as fun as when the circus comes to town? You can see elephants, tigers, prancing horses, daring acrobats and silly clowns all in one place while you enjoy some delicious popcorn and cotton candy. A visit to the circus brings memories that last a lifetime.  In most places, the circus only comes to town once a year if at all.  Now the fun doesn’t have to end when the circus moves on.

With Circus Ring from Playmobil, your children can capture the magic by holding their own circus. The Playmobil Circus includes everything needed to run a classic circus: the signature Big Top tent with ticket booths and a lighted entrance, a ringmaster, trapeze artists and much more.

The best feature is that it’s a large set, so small hands won’t have trouble playing with the pieces. They’re big enough for little hands to grab and have plenty of room to move around.

Children can play as the ringmaster with the Circus Ring from Playmobil, conducting the show as  trapeze artists do their death-defying stunts through the air.

With Circus Ring from Playmobil, your children can even serve refreshments to the spectators. There is room for lots of spectators! Your children can add their favorite figures from other Playmobil sets to create an audience for their circus acts!

Everything your children need to create a spectacular circus from their imaginations comes with Circus Ring from Playmobil.

Playmobil also provides additional circus themed sets and accessories that can help your children expand their circus to include tight rope actsPlaymobil Circus Tightrope Artists, prancing horsesPlaymobil Circus Horse Act, elephantsPlaymobil Circus Baby Elephants, big catsPlaymobil Circus Animal Trainer and cloPlaymobil Circus Clown with FlowerwnsPLAYMOBIL Clown with Dog Show. These are some great options when you find that your child is looking to expand their circus fun with the Circus Ring from Playmobil.

If you want to really bring their circus to life, there is also a Playmobil Circus game for WiiPlaymobil: Circus - Nintendo Wii that is rated E for Everyone.

6 Essential Family Christmas Vacation Tips

6 Essential Family Christmas Vacation Tips

6 Essential Family Christmas Vacation Tips

A family Christmas vacation can be a truly memorable experience. You can be blessed with magical memories that will last a lifetime. Christmas is a wonderful time to be surrounded by family, dear friends and the joyous spirit of the holidays. It can also be dreadfully hectic without proper planning.  Even though Christmas is one of the busiest traveling times of the year, these tips will ensure your family Christmas vacation is stress-free and enjoyable.

Christmas Vacation Tip #1: Bag It & Tag It

Since you’re planning a Christmas vacation, be sure to wrap your gifts early so you can take them with you on the trip. Be sure to insert padding into presents that need to travel with you to avoid damage, particularly if they are fragile. If you don’t have enough room to bring your gifts in your car, ship them to your destination before you leave home. This will reduce the stress of trying to pack them all into the car at the last minute.  If you’re purchasing the gifts online, have them delivered to your vacation spot so they are there waiting for you.

Christmas Vacation Tip #2: Be Inclusive

Make sure that you plan a trip that will be enjoyable to every member of the family. Before locking in any plans, sit down with the whole family and ensure that everyone has something special to look forward to during the vacation. Be sure that your trip is long enough that everyone will have a chance to enjoy their favorite activities.

Christmas Vacation Tip #3: Check the Weather Forecast

If you are planning outdoor excursions, check the weather forecast to avoid nasty surprises. If you are going skiing or skating, verify with the facility to inquire about their conditions.  You can’t ski on rocks and you can’t skate on slush, trust me.  I know people who have tried.  It’s not pretty.

Christmas Vacation Tip #4: Leave A Margin Of Safety

As you make your travel plans, buy your tickets as early as possible. Airlines and other forms of  mass transit tend to fill up early, particularly near the holidays.  If you’re flying, confirm that your flight is on schedule by calling before you leave home. With that confirmation, make sure that you arrive at the airport early enough to get through security screening and still make your flight. The same is true for trains. Always call ahead to verify that your plans are still on schedule.  You should also look into your options for a TSA Precheck to smooth your way through the security gate.

CheapOair.com

Christmas Vacation Tip #5: Maid’s Day Off

When you are having a family gathering or even Christmas dinner, remember to help with the cooking or clean-up. Cooking for a large family event is a major deal and it requires a lot of effort. So, be a love and lend a hand.  It’s Christmas for them too, right?

Christmas Vacation Tip #6: Santa Questions

One of the best things about a family Christmas vacation is simply having a chance to be together. If your children start asking questions about how Santa will find them when they’re not at home, have some answers ready.  Reassure them that Santa is always watching and will know just where to find them. It’s moments like these that will be a priceless treasure that you will remember for the rest of your lives.

With just a little planning and forethought, you can make your Christmas family vacation the relaxing magical getaway that you all deserve.

Christmas Around the World

Christmas Around The World

Christmas Around the World

Christmas in the Birthplaces of Traditions — Israel, Germany and England

Christmas as we celebrate it today is a culmination of centuries of  traditions. These traditions are religious and secular and they came from various countries around the world. It’s interesting to learn how Christmas is celebrated in these countries. The traditions we will examine are from Israel, Germany and England.  They are examples of some of the things that are unique to that country and which are done today, or which were once done.

BethlehemIsrael

Let’s begin with the town of Bethlehem in Israel, which is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.  Israel has many famous biblical sites. The Church of the Nativity is located in Bethlehem.  At Christmas time, it is decorated with a lot of flags and other Christmas decorations. A huge crowd gathers at The Church of the Nativity on Christmas Eve to see the dramatic parade procession of horsemen, who are mounted on Arabian horses. A lone horseman carrying a cross follows the police in the procession followed by churchmen and government officials. Members of the procession solemnly enter the doors of The Church of the Nativity where they place an ancient effigy of Jesus in the church.  A silver star mounted in the floor marks the site where Jesus was born.  This is in a deep underground cave-like section of the church.  A star is also set on top of a pole in the town’s square. In Bethlehem, homes of Christians usually have a cross over the door and a manger scene is typically set up inside the house.

GermanyGermany

Germany is the home of the Christmas tree tradition.  Their Christmas tree is usually hidden until Christmas Eve in a special room. It is decorated in secret with tinsel, candles, ornaments and angels.  It is also festooned with candies, nuts and cookies.  It is then lighted, the presents placed underneath and then shown to the children on Christmas Eve.

In Germany, December 6th is known as St. Nicholas Day.  This is when Santa visits the homes of boys and girls. Children leave a shoe or boot outside or by the fireplace for St. Nicholas the night before. If they are good, he places gifts and candies inside the shoe. If they are naughty, children will find twigs or a rod in their shoe.

Christmas Dinner includes roast goose, long loaves of bread filled with raisins, nuts and dried fruits. Other sweet delicacies are also enjoyed.

EnglandEngland

Many English traditions are similar to those in the United States because they were brought to the United States by settlers from England. The practice of sending Christmas cards started in England and is still popular as is the tradition of neighborhood caroling on Christmas Eve. Children also hang their stockings on Christmas Eve in hope that Santa Claus will fill them with Christmas gifts or treats. Holly, ivy and mistletoe are still around from pre-Christian times but were assigned Christian meanings and are still used in Yuletide decorations.

Some traditions that are different from ours are the pulling of Christmas crackers, waiting until Boxing Day to open presents and listening to the Queen deliver her Christmas day address.  A cracker is a paper tube that contains a party hat, riddle, toy or trinket, and is brightly colored and twisted at both ends. It gives out a crack as the contents pop out when it is pulled at each end. On Christmas afternoon, the Queen broadcasts a message to the nation which is heard on radio and television.  The day after Christmas is also a holiday that is known as Boxing Day. Boxing Day is traditionally when servants and tradesmen would receive a “Christmas box” as a gift from their bosses.

 

In England, the traditional Christmas Dinner is roast turkey, goose or chicken with stuffing, vegetables and roast potatoes. Dessert consists of the British or Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. A rich, fruit-filled Christmas cake may also be enjoyed later in the day.

Christmas Past & Future

As you can see, Christmas has been evolving from the dawn of civilization when primitive cultures observed the Winter Solstice as a beacon of hope in the bleak, darkening days of Winter right through to the birth of Jesus and on to the modern day celebrations.  Let us know what traditions you enjoy.

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