Imagine that you are standing in front of a lit candle, the atmosphere would be tranquil and still and you would most probably be feeling calm within. Now imagine that you are standing in front of a million different coloured and flashing lights adorning a home or office building. How would you feel now? I’m sure that your whole being would tend to light up inside as well and I bet that you would have a look of amazement or at least have a huge smile on your face.
Using lights to decorate Christmas trees, homes and buildings has been around for eons and can be dated back to pre-Christianity times. In 1483AD Germany started the tradition of illuminating Christmas trees with candles. During Queen Victoria’s reign this tradition was adopted by the United Kingdom and thereafter spread to North America and Australia. During these times the trees were adorned with candles and sugar ornaments and presents were placed underneath the trees (a tradition enjoyed by most to this day).
In 1882 the first electrically powered lights were used and were called fairy lights. At the same time Edward H. Johnson created the first electrically illuminated Christmas tree by using hand-wired and custom made light bulbs. Forty eight years later the Xmas lights finally started to replace candles as the decoration of choice as its popularity grew and it became more affordable for the general public to purchase and use.
This lead to an explosion of lighting competitions between businesses (who could afford the cost of using hundreds of lights to decorate their office buildings) and by the mid 1950’s the Christmas light fever started engulfing households and the now-popular light display competitions began in earnest.
With the advancement in technology came various types of Christmas lights. The change from incandescent light bulbs to light-emitting diodes (LED) proved very popular as they are more energy efficient. Taking one step further and these now have a solar powered option which help to reduce carbon emissions and are ecofriendly. Fibre optic lights offer a new take on the fairy lights allowing for transcendent illumination when decorating the Xmas tree or brightening up the home both indoors and outdoors.
All of these lights have been used to decorate buildings but they started off being used on metal wired frames to create light sculptures. One of my fondest memories when I was younger was when my Grandparents would drive around the city at Christmas time and they allowed me to stick my head outside the window so that I could marvel at the sculptures adorning the lampposts and traffic lights. These days the sculptures have become really “fancy”, they sport 3D designs of angels, snowmen, reindeers and Santa’s with motorised parts moving “body-sized” limbs to the jingle of Christmas music.
I look forward to the days when technology can go a step further and the lights will be able to change into any object that our hearts desire with just the touch of a button.
Pictures are worth a thousand words and therefore Xmas is a great time to get your message across to the ones you love by simply sending a Xmas card. There are so many to choose from; traditional, contemporary, humorous, personalised and generalised cards suitable for every boy and girl, mom and dad, boyfriend and girlfriend, or husband and wife.
Christmas cards come in many flavours, there are the non-religious and all-embracing sentiments of “Season’s Greetings”, the traditional greetings include “Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” and the religious cards embracing prayers, poems or Biblical verses. If you support a particular charity or sporting association you will most likely be able to purchase cards through them and thus have proceeds got to that particular organisation instead of purchasing through the commercial route and supporting the big companies focusing only on their profit margins and not on the goodwill of others and helping those in need.
With the advancement of digital technology you can now send ECards which are online greeting cards, animated cards or Egreetings which deliver personalised messages to family and friends. Due to the fast deliverable times of ECards they tend to be very popular to send to a loved one who might be on the other side of the world (and therefore avoid delays by using the traditional postal systems) or to someone that you might have accidentally forgot about – oops!
Personally I enjoy receiving cards in the mail. I don’t know anyone who does not like to receive letters or cards in the post (unless it’s bills then I am with the majority of the population and would like to just walk past the mailbox and never open it up). By sending a handwritten Christmas card you are demonstrating your love and appreciation for the person it is intended for. Families revel in displaying the Xmas cards received on the mantel piece or have them strung across the room for decoration and nothing screams “popular” more than an array of personalised Christmas cards.
If you want to really wow the recipients of Christmas cards and want to demonstrate that love and attention has gone into the details of the cards and where no random card will suffice then you can create your own. This has become a huge family favourite past-time where the kids put their creative skills to the test by collecting cotton wool balls to create snowmen, or twigs pasted onto cardboard in the shape of Christmas trees and not to forget the use of crayons, paints and collages of paper cut-outs to create Xmas masterpieces. Many a-homemade card has brought tears of joy to parents and grandparents the world over.
For the eco-conscious person you are also able to buy recycled Christmas cards and after the Christmas season most postal agencies place bins outside of their stores where you can dump all of your Xmas cards so that they can be recycled again. No matter which greeting option you choose make sure that you get your cards out early in December and remember to write the messages yourself or else you could be taken off the Christmas list the following year.
Has the thought of pine needles all over the floor and hiding in your furniture all year round driven you to the edge of sanity? Is it time to give up on the need for that “real tree” smell in your house in favour of fake and easy this year? Well, no longer are fake trees the rudimentary pieces of plastic they used to be. On the contrary, there’s a whole world of artificial Christmas tree wonders out there to behold. Whether you look in stores or online, you’re guaranteed to find a tree to suit every style or requirement.
If you’re living in a small apartment then all you need is a box of miniature trees to give just a subtle hint of yuletide. Place them on tables, in windows, beside your computer or at your bedside to create a little magic in your home. You can get trees that come in a variety of colour schemes to suit your own decor and are adorned with small and tasteful trinkets or none at all if you prefer to take control and do the decorating yourself. These styles of trees often come in stylish boxes and make a perfect pre-christmas gift for friends and family who need a fresh new look this year in their workplace or home.
When choosing a full sized artificial tree, they come in sizes that range from 1m tall for the cosiest of rooms, to well over 2m tall for an appearance of grandeur. The best part of buying a bare tree is the excitement of getting to design the look from scratch and the freedom to create a piece of artwork in your own home. You can even choose the colour of the foliage, there is a growing trend towards silver and black Christmas trees with a minimalist approach to colour but a very open-minded approach to style of decoration involved. A very modern look for Christmas.
For those who love Christmas tree lights above all else, there’s always the option to choose a fibre optic tree that require no other decorative items as the forever changing coloured glow that emanates from these would overshadow anything close to it. These varieties range from small green table top trees to large white trees that can be as tall as any other artificial tree on the market. With the room lights switched off, these trees take centre stage as they glow majestically, instilling the common belief of the Christmas tree being the most effective symbol of Christmas in the average home today.
If time is not on your side this year, don’t add extra burden to an already bewildering schedule and order yourself a complete Christmas tree package available in many stores and online shops. This action is surely going to reduce any stress for those who don’t have time to shop for decorations or panic at the thought of assembling a stylish look for their tree. An artificial tree that comes with a full set of pre-designed decorations – problem solved. Have fun with the family putting it all together without having to put a bit of thought into it.
As you can see, there are numerous paths to take when choosing your artificial tree this year, all of which will add a touch of class and style to your winter wonderland and will add a little sparkle to your overall Christmas experience as you count down the sleeps to Santa’s arrival.
Why is it that men seem so easy to buy gifts for, but when it comes to the event itself, it’s the trickiest purchase of the lot? It doesn’t make any sense. There are only two or three things that interest my husband, so it should be straight forward to buy something in relation to those interests. However, I find it so difficult parting with hard earned cash to pay for something that I feel is a complete waste of money that he couldn’t possibly want as a gift for Christmas. And here lies the problem – my opinion of what makes a good present compared to my husband’s opinion are so far removed from each other that it’s not even funny.
Every year I try to find something I think he’s going to love but every year I end up frustrated with my plan and resort to the trusty favourites which are so lack lustre when it comes to the magic of Christmas that I no longer have that excitement about whether he will be as happy with his gift as I am with the act of giving. For several years things continued this way, the frustration grew as I realised that it was never going to get any better until I did something drastic to shake things up. And this is when I decided to break all the rules and have that forbidden conversation with my husband to settle things once and for all.
Instead of guessing what was going to make the perfect present, I took the bull by the horns and asked the man directly for a blunt answer. I wanted to know what would truly make him happy on Christmas Day, which gifts would be appreciated and if he preferred the secretive approach. My astonishment must have been crystal clear across my face by the end of the conversation. This was the day it all changed for me as this was the day I realised that men really do think completely differently to women.
This is what I discovered – a gift of tools and car accessories are great ideas for gifts for men. Personally, that is like a housewife receiving an ironing board and a bottle of bleach as a Christmas present. Nevertheless, I proceed this year with an open mind as he tells me that getting a new set of tools is right up there, in the same category as me getting my favourite bottle of perfume. As for whether secrecy is high on the list of priorities, again I’m slightly disappointed to find that it’s really not that important. In fact, my husband claims he would be just as excited this year if I handed him a gift voucher for the local hardware store because not only could he enjoy picking the tools out himself, but he could wait until the sales in the New Year and get twice as many.
The male brain is a difficult one for a female brain to fully comprehend. My bubble has been shattered; I can no longer have fun picking out fun gifts that I think he will like. Instead, he gets exactly what he wants, and I just have to enjoy the moment of opening my own gifts with trepidation as I keep my fingers firmly crossed that he paid attention to the thousands of hints given throughout the year.
So many lights to choose from and so little time left to deck the halls in a more stylish way than last year’s efforts. What a disaster! It all started out with a handful of fairy lights subtly placed around the living room and ended up looking more like millions of glo-worms lining the walls but without the cute factor. Don’t even ask me about my electricity bill as I’m still trying to pay it off. No, this year will be different – I’m on a mission to create a Christmas glow around the home without causing eye damage due to high voltage glare.
What seems like such a simple task, purchasing indoor Christmas lights, is made so impossibly stressful on account of the vast number of styles available, the better than ever sales on the high street and the immeasurable number of websites offering great deals on the latest lines of fashionable designs. Nevertheless, this will not get the better of me; I will proceed with confidence whether it is for a box of fairy lights or the biggest fibre optic tree in the store.
Some friends of mine actually admit to enjoying the process of walking for hours around crowd-infested shops in a bid to find the best, brightest and cheapest lights for their homes. They search through messy shelves that are teaming with opened boxes and scattered random items that have so obviously been abandoned by some other customer who decided they weren’t getting the deal they were hoping for. What’s worse, they often have their children with them when they do this who have an innate skill for knocking things off such messy shelves. Not my idea of a fun shopping experience. This is why I do the majority of my Christmas purchasing online.
There are some fantastic websites now that are completely dedicated to Christmas items, with pages specifically for lights alone and often with guidelines on what’s new and how to get the most stylish look for less money than other sites of similar content. The easy to read sites are designed to assist people like me who have difficulty choosing from all available styles. They explain what each kind of lighting system is best used depending on your styling needs: with LED, solar, outdoor/indoor lights, fairy lights, fibre optics all separated, I can make a more informed and less impulsive decision for the first time in my “Christmas-light-buying” life.
So long as I plan ahead and give myself plenty of time to search these websites effectively, cuppa in hand of course, I’m sure to find the whole process much more satisfying than braving the inevitable queues at the shops. I’m too easily dazzled by packaging in the shops and would come out with so many “bargains” that, as usual, half of them would end up staying in their boxes as I contemplate my foolishness when it comes to bright sparkly things with a price mark down. Yes, it’s safer for a woman like me to shop online for lights.
We prepare for weeks, spend hours chopping vegetables, scour the shelves for those “must have” items that are only ever available at Christmas time like sponge fingers for the trifle and what do we get out of it? We get that awful feeling of over-indulgence remedied by antacids and Panadol and an afternoon nap. Why do we go to so much effort in order to do this to ourselves? Because it is Christmas and it’s what we’ve always done and will continue to do so every year. You might even say that eating vast quantities of food in a one day period is rooted in tradition with most families at Christmas.
Choosing the ideal Christmas dinner menu in Australia however can often be a major dilemma as a direct result of the high percentage of families originating from, or recent descendants of, the northern hemisphere where Christmas is celebrated during the thick of the winter months. Weather has quite clearly influenced the traditional dinner cooked on this day. In the United Kingdom the tradition includes the roast turkey and ham with stuffing (unique stuffing recipes from household to household as each individual takes the opportunity to show off their special technique with secret ingredients handed down to them by their nanna, and so on). Roast potatoes, peas carrots and the dreaded brussels sprouts, which everyone loves to hate and yet continue to be a main addition to every Christmas dinner, and lashings of gravy and cranberry sauce set this meat selection off perfectly. There are many variations of this meal around the world as many daring individuals attempt to create a modern twist on the traditional classic, but it all stems from this original set up.
If this is the meal you received on Christmas Day every year as a child, it’s quite likely that when trying to capture the very essence of Christmas with your own family, this is exactly the meal that you will create for your own family. However, while this may be a very suitable meal in the middle of winter, all warming and comforting and substantial, it’s not exactly appropriate when you’re perspiring heavily in 40 degrees heat. In Australia, being the middle of summer when we celebrate Christmas, this traditional meal causes a bit of stress for some families. On one hand, it’s the memory, the tradition that urges us to recreate the roast dinner if that’s the culture you were born into. On the other hand, the weather on Christmas day is better accompanied by a cold buffet, a barbeque lunch or something that wouldn’t be out of place at a picnic on the beach.
So what do you do? Do you put childhood memories first and slog it out in the steaming hot kitchen for hours only to spend Christmas eating hot, bulky foods that will have you sleeping with the air-con on full blast? Or do you let sense rule the decision and prepare a seafood salad with plenty of cool drinks, cold meats and head to the pool side for a lazy but highly refreshing day? That, of course, is entirely up to the individual who controls the Christmas dinner tradition. There is always the option to combine the best of both worlds – decorate the dinner table heavily with the traditional decorations but instead of carving a great big turkey, have a large plate full of garlic prawns. Problem solved!
Buying for your wife, fiancée or female partner at Christmas can be at best nerve-wrecking and at worst the deciding factor in the entire relationship’s future. Well, that might be a little dramatic, but you get the idea. If you buy vouchers she’ll think you couldn’t be bothered putting thought into the gift buying process, if you buy her a present you run the risk of getting something she doesn’t like and have to witness that look upon her face of sheer disappointment mixed with fake gratefulness. This is a dangerous path for whoever takes it, so tread carefully. Here are a few ideas to point you in the right direction at the very least.
The most important thing you could do when in the predicament of choosing a Christmas gift for your partner is to steer conversations in your favour then listen intently. Before all the tricks begin, have a clear idea of the style of present you would like to get, for example, perfume, clothing, music, concert tickets, electronics etc. Always have a few alternatives for the plans that are perfect in theory but turn out to be more difficult to fulfil when it comes to the shopping trip. Please note that you will need at least a couple of months to fully exploit this method without being found out or left standing at the shops with bare shelves on Christmas eve.
Once you know the kind of gift you want to get for her, begin leading conversations in a direction where you find out a selection of options she would be happy with. Questions such as: What do you think of…..If you were to choose one which would it be and why…I’ve heard that item is really good, what do you think? Make sure, once you have discovered her true feelings about certain items you have been enquiring about, write it down somewhere safe and secret. A word of warning, if you start this line of questioning in December, she will see straight through you and know exactly your intent. Try to be clever when disguising this intent, or at least do this part as far in advance of Christmas as possible so she may even forget about it by the time Christmas day comes around.
Now that you know what you need to get, it’s time to go shopping. In most instances, this can be done online as well as on the High Street. When it is something very specific you are looking for, do not be tempted to look in bargain buckets. You may find something very close to what you’re looking for but at half the cost. Under no circumstances must you take this course of action. A cheap alternative is most certainly not what your wife or fiancée will appreciate when she unwraps that special gift. Do not take chances; proceed with purchasing the item only when it is exactly what you have been looking for.
It may seem like a long and difficult process, but it is definitely a worthwhile venture. The joy of witnessing your partner’s facial expression change from excited to anxious to exhilaration when she realises that you have given her a gift that she truly wants is prize enough for all your hard work and determination.
Entertaining this Christmas? Want to have an amazing looking table to share Christmas dinner with but have no idea where to start? So long as you have the food side of things covered, then you definitely can afford to spend some time putting details together for a fabulous looking table. If, on the other hand, the food isn’t up to scratch, then no fancy designs in the world will cover that fact so you have to know that the food is good before taking on the next challenge. Assuming this is all good, let’s discuss ideas for creating that magical look for even the pickiest of guests this year.
If bringing the Christmas tree to the table sounds good to you, why not arrange evergreen foliage around each plate in the manner of a wreath, or displayed in the shape of a star underneath the soup bowl. This is a very effective way to bring colour and texture to your design while still summing up the very essence of Christmas nature.
Sparkles always bring a table to life – whether you choose single colour glitter pieces, or multicoloured Christmas shapes to sprinkle all over the table, or even in isolated spots such as around each place setting, this look will brighten up even the darkest of corners.
A simple added touch that can transform your table is to attach a coloured bow to your wine glasses, around each napkin or even around the cutlery set. It takes no time at all to arrange and yet if the colour scheme is considered carefully, can really make the setting look special.
Sticking with the nature theme, the traditional poinsettia in a decorative plant is always a beauty to behold on any table with its simplistic elegance and contrasting colours.
Candles make an excellent focus point when spruced up with some natural foliage, berries and glitter. Consider placing in a wide low-sided bowl with a snow effect for its base.
Being very creative is the key to an original looking centrepiece, and you can achieve this by bunching together some natural tree foliage and assembling on top a favourite Christmas figurine surrounded by some glittery baubles – very cute.
Place Name Cards
If time isn’t on your side this year, try looking online for some pre-designed name cards that you can personalise and print out in a hurry. There are numerous designs to choose from, traditional or contemporary, sensible or fun based, get the professional touch without the professional price tag.
If time isn’t an issue and you are a fan of arts and crafts, try the original approach and paint names onto Christmas baubles with white glitter paint. These little embellishments to your table will have everyone talking.
Painting directly onto Christmas ornaments isn’t always the easiest of tasks so if you want something special for your guests, create a decorative place card from traditional materials but attach to a Christmas item with a decorative bow.
With all these ideas, you’re well on your way to producing a very memorable experience for your guests this Christmas!
During the month of December, it can be so easy to get sidetracked with planning Christmas, getting gifts for family and playing the “Santa” role. However, it is important to spare a moment’s thought for those who so rightly deserve that thought and often don’t get it because of being so incredibly busy with other things. Your kids’ school teachers. They have just finished spending a year educating your child and most likely arranging a beautifully thought out Christmas present for you that they have hand crafted to perfection, or thereabouts. Perfection should never appear too high on the agenda when it comes to kids; it truly is the thought that counts.
Most parents don’t stretch the imagination too far when considering a gift for the teachers and this can lead to a bit of a problem for them. A box of chocolates is a nice idea, but just think about this: if all the kids in the classroom buy their teacher a box of chocolates, which amounts to approximately 30 boxes of chocolates for one person. That’s a little on the excessive side and a rather difficult dilemma for the teacher – housing that amount of chocolate in the heat of the summer might prove to be quite tricky. Don’t get me wrong, teachers usually love chocolates and are grateful for any gift given from their students. Just keep this problem in mind if you do decide to go ahead with this gift idea.
So if chocolates are out of the equation, then what? That can depend on whether the teacher is male or female. For female teachers there are many options available. Candles are an excellent present at Christmas time as they look very pretty, can be suitable for all budgets and will last long into the new year making it very good value for money and a memorable gift. On the same train of thought, photo frames are another great idea for teachers as they can be personalised with their own photos and changed as often as they require. Both candles and photo frames are gifts that can be purchased online in advance of the holidays so they don’t have to be a last minute scramble. If you are stuck at the last minute this year, you could always go with a bunch of flowers or a pretty plant, both of which are actually best bought just before the last day of term.
For male teachers, candles and photo frames just won’t work. What would work very well are funky and unique cactus plants. There are so many varieties available these days, just go and have a look through the local garden shops and try to pick out a plant that would suit your teacher’s personality. Quirky is always good. Other great presents for male teachers are anything barbeque related – personalised stubby holders, barbeque utensils or a cool apron. The majority of men I know love to show off their cooking skills in the back garden to their friends and family in the hot summer months. Presents like these will be well used.
If buying a present from the shops doesn’t appeal, you could always spend a little extra time this year and get your kids to make a present for their teachers – home made Christmas decorations, chocolates and other such items are always very well received as teachers understand the value of the effort involved in these gifts. You could accompany these little treasures with a sachet of cappuccino and any individual pamper packet (facial mask, foot soak, etc). This is personal instruction to the teacher that now it is their turn to look after themselves rather than all the children for a refreshing change.
Playing Santa is a very complex and often stressful role to play year in year out. No two years are the same so there are no chances to sit back, relax and recreate the previous year’s charades. With most things in life, as time goes by things get easier and easier with practice. Not so, however, when children are involved. As children grow older, they get wise to each new cover up and hiding place so you need to keep fresh with ideas on how to pull the wool over their eyes every year. Obviously, once they reach the teen years this may become a bit of a lost cause, but if you’re determined to prolong the existence of Santa in your household and you’ve just about running out of steam, pay attention to what I’m about to tell you.
If you act (convincingly) like you truly believe it was Santa that delivered those presents beneath the tree on Christmas morning, and this must be a fervent and committed belief, and then no one will doubt your beliefs and in most cases will share this also. Of course, you may find that your kids will keep this up, regardless of whether they believe themselves or not, just so that they won’t hurt your feelings or burst your bubble about Santa. Either way, this still maintains the presence of Santa that bit longer than it normally should have without this act taking place.
Never deny Santa when asked and absolutely never ask whether your children still believe in Santa – if they did before, they certainly won’t after you ask them that. Never make that assumption that they must already know, that will kill the magic outright.
If adult family members or friends are planning on a visit close to Christmas time, don’t assume that they are just as aware of the need to keep the mouth shut about Santa as you are. Adults can be completely oblivious to conversational requirements, especially regarding this issue. Some may even think that the children should know the truth and will often “accidentally” let it slip through casual conversation in some shape or form. Have a brief word with all visitors before they cross the door that under no circumstances are they to talk about Santa, let alone unhinge that magical secret unless instructed otherwise – constant reminders may be necessary.
Dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” is of utmost importance at this time of year and although it may appear a little overly excessive, you must pay close attention to wrapping details. This may be stating the obvious, but just in case, always wrap “Santa” gifts with specific wrapping paper and never use this paper to wrap any other gifts from other people or for other people whatsoever. That’s just sloppy and will have you ratted out for sure in no time.
Not always necessary, but certainly a clever tactic to keep things magical in your household for another year – give your children a gift from “Mummy & Daddy” as well as from Santa as this will ensure that the link between you is kept separate for another while. This charade will be reinforced all the more if one of the presents from Santa is one that Mum or Dad would not approve of and you make this known when you see them unwrap this particular present.
Follow these simple guidelines and you are sure to allow Santa to remain real and true for many years, regardless of the age of your children.