We are just a few short weeks away from Christmas, holiday traditions, and the excitement is building. But here are a few other dates to keep in mind as we roll through December.
December 21st will mark the Winter Solstice when we all accept that winter is fully upon us. Get out the warm and wooly ugly sweaters and wear them to school and those holiday parties and traditions. The uglier, the better when it comes to the sweater!
December 22nd is National Cookie Exchange Day. You have plenty of time to bake your holiday favorites. Why not have a cookie exchange with friends, family, co-workers, or members of your church? Share your best family cookie recipes and fill the house with the aroma of fresh baking.
December 23rd is Festivus. This secular holiday was created as an alternative to the rest of the season’s commercialism. The holiday was coined by author Daniel O’Keefe. Still, it didn’t really get traction until it was the theme of a Seinfeld episode in 1997 which O’Keefe’s son, Dan O’Keefe, co-wrote. They refer to the holiday as “a Festivus for the rest of us” and touted it as an all-inclusive December gathering.
December 24th is, of course, Christmas Eve, but it is also The Feast of the Seven Fishes. Many European cultures serve seven types of fish for dinner on Christmas Eve and invite family and loved ones to share in the feast.
What to do before Christmas when you are from Illinois:
Decorate the tree? Of course, but folks from Illinois tend to prefer to go out and cut down their own fresh tree and drag it into the house. Whether you head out to the woods to cut down a fresh fir tree or go to a “Cut Your Own” tree farm, the tree is a big deal. It has to be just the right one that will fit in the space in the room you planned for it, and soon the smell of fresh pine will fill the whole house.
Decorating the house with lots of lights is important too. Driving around town and even to other towns to see all the decorations is a great way to spend an evening with the kids. Even the dog loves that adventure.
Have you written your letter to Santa yet? Time is running out. Better get that list off to him and hope you are on his list too… the nice list that is.
Cookies are great and meant to be eaten warm from the oven or with a big glass of milk, but for a fun home activity on these cold days and nights, build a gingerbread house and decorate it any way you like.
If you’re a true Illinoisan, some holiday traditions are probably not practiced in other places. A bizarre one is a tradition of hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree. After the tree has been cut down, set up, and decorated, the job is not complete without adding that one special ornament, the almighty pickle. These holiday traditions set kids on a search for the pickle in the tree. The lucky child finds the pickle before the others get to open the first gift, which can sometimes be on the night before Christmas.
Another weird and whacky Illinois tradition is to decorate the cars. After we decorate our houses, storefronts, and businesses, we decorate our vehicles too. Making the car or truck look like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the most popular of all. Placing a red nose on the grill and adding antlers that stick out from the windows gives the impression that you are riding on Santa’s favorite reindeer of all.
Singing Christmas carols is not particularly an Illinois thing, but the folks of Marshall love to sing. Whether you get out to a karaoke night and pick your favorite carol, sing in the church or school choir or gather a group to go door to door, get out and sing those carols. Let your joyous voice be heard and bring cheer to some of the folks that may be stuck in their houses or alone for the holiday. There is nothing like the gift of music and holiday traditions, offering plenty of choices for all kinds of voices.
Soon it will be time to exchange gifts. If money is tight, remember that something you make (cookies work here too) is just as important and thoughtful as something you buy. Of course, we have great stores in downtown Marshall too, so shop local if you are going to shop. Try to remember someone in need and give them a little something that will help them or brighten their days. No matter who you are, even if you are struggling, there is always someone who has it worse than you do. Make sure you keep them in mind and share this holiday season with joy, love, and gratitude.
Merry Christmas, Marshall. We love you all.