How to Decorate the Home with Cut Pine Branches

The holidays are a time for gathering loved ones close and basking in the warm glow of hearth and home. One great way to achieve that feel is to decorate your home with fresh cut pine. It’s easy to do, and can be a fun activity for the whole family.

Gathering Your Greenery

If you live in a suburban or rural area, you can simply take a walk in the woods and gather all the fallen pine you’ll need. If you’re a city dweller, a trip to your local plant or garden store is all you need.

The Decorations

When it comes to decorating with fresh cut pine, the sky’s the limit. Traditional decorations include garlands, swags, wreaths and boughs. You can also add other plant parts such as berries, dried flowers, cones and seedpods for color and texture.

Keep Your Greenery Fresh

Unlike Christmas trees, fresh cut pine decorations are not kept in water. To help your greenery stay fresh, you should follow these steps:

  • Cut the branches with a clean, sharp cutter and immediately put cut the ends in water until you’re ready to use them.
  • Crush the woody ends of the stems so they can absorb more water.
  • Keep greenery out of sunlight.

Once you’ve made your pine decorations, simply place them where you feel they look best. Mantels are always a good place. A wreath hanging on a door is inviting. There’s also nothing quite like the homey feel of a table with fresh a cut pine centerpiece on it. Whatever you decide, your fresh cut pine decorations are sure to add just the right touch to your holidays.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

Whether live or faux, there’s nothing quite as heart warming as a Christmas tree. But decorating your tree is another matter all together. You can’t just put the lights and ornaments on there in any old order. There’s a method to decorating trees. Here are three rules of thumb for making your tannenbaum look truly majestic.

Step 1: Hang the Lights

The first thing you should do (after setting up the tree, of course) is hang the lights. Start at the base of the trunk and work your way up, wrapping lights around every major branch, moving from the trunk to the tip and back. Working this way not only gives you a solid foundation for the rest of your decorating, but also lends your tree look illuminated from the inside out. Truly magical.

Step 2: Add Garlands

The trick here is to avoid the “sausage effect” (branches bulging between tightly cinched garlands). To do that, start at the top of the tree and slowly increase the amount of garland between each wave as you work your way down the branches. You should only use about two strands of garland for every vertical foot of tree.

Step 3: Hang the Ornaments

If you have favorite ornaments, you should hang them first and in prime positions. After that, hang the larger ornaments. Be sure to space them evenly around the tree. Then add the medium sized ornaments to fill in the gaps. Specialty items such as candy canes, icicles and clip-on ornaments should be hung last.

Now that you have a good grasp of how to trim your tree, get to it. You’ll be envy of the neighborhood.

A Brief History of Holiday Decorations

Holiday decorations. We put them up in our homes with them, stores are filled with them, kids make them in school and the streets are lined with them. But what is their history? Where do they come from? Here are some facts you might find surprising.

Christmas Lights

Everyone knows Thomas Edison’s greatest invention was the light bulb. But did you know he also invented Christmas lights? It’s true (and seems fitting). The story goes that Edward Johnson, vice president of Edison’s company, wanted to decorate his Christmas tree with eighty red, white, and blue bulbs. Edison obliged and, presto, a holiday tradition was born.

Dreidels

They serve as holiday decorations and toys for kids all over the world, but their history is far more complex. During periods of persecution, Jewish men would have to gather in secret to study the Torah. These men kept dreidels close by so that when soldiers passed, they could pull them out and appear as if they were gathered simply to play a game. In that sense, this simple toy is actually responsible for saving many lives.

The Christmas Tree

Germans get credit for popularizing the Christmas tree in the 1500s, but many believe it was St. Boniface, born in 680 A.D., who first made the association of the fir tree with the birth of Christ. Legend has it that he happened upon a human sacrifice that was taking place at the foot of an oak tree. In anger, he felled the tree with an axe. Behind the oak stood a fir tree. Boniface pointed to it and told the pagans to give up their wicked ways and seek salvation in Christ, the bringer of life “ever green.”

Ornaments

These days, ornaments come in all shapes and sizes. You can get Santas, cats, dogs, Star Wars characters and just about any other type of ornament you can imagine. The first ornaments, however, were actually props from religious plays about Adam and Eve— apples hung on the Paradise Tree to represent our first parents’ expulsion from the Garden of Eden. As time went on, other cultures started adding to and expanding on this tradition of hanging things in trees at Christmas time. The Germans put cookies in their Christmas trees, for example, but it wasn’t until F.W. Woolworth reluctantly began selling modern ornaments in his store that the tradition really caught on. He sold them all in just two days. From then on he travelled to Germany every year to buy ornaments and bring them back to the states to sell in his stores.

 

Hanukkah Activities for Kids

Hanukkah is about more than lighting candles and getting presents. It’s about honoring and celebrating the miracle of Judah Maccabee and the revolt that led to the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. But how do you explain that to kids without taking all the fun out of Hanukkah? Here are three fun things you can do with your kids that will also teach them about the meaning of this sacred festival of lights.

Make Latkes

Latkes taste great and they’re symbolic. The oil used to cook them is a reminder of the miracle of the thimble full of oil lasting eight days. Make latkes with your kids using the recipe below. It’s a great way to have fun together and teach them about Hanukkah.

Ingredients

5 big potatoes
3 eggs
1/3 cup of flour
1 teaspoon salt
oil for frying

Directions

Grind the potatoes.
Add eggs, flour and salt.
Mix well.
Warm up oil in frying pan.
Pour batter onto the oil in spoonfuls.
Let fry for about five minutes on medium fire.
Turn over and let fry for another three minutes.
Take out your latkes and lay them on paper towel to cool.

Make a Menorah

Kids love crafts. This simple project is fun and gives you a great opportunity to explain all about the menorah and its significance. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 piece of wood, 12 inches long x 1 inch wide and ½ an inch high.
  • A second piece of wood, 1 inch long x 1 inch wide and ½ an inch high.
  • Glue
  • Colored paint and/or glitter
  • 9 miniature cupcake holders
  • Hanukkah candles

Here’s what to do:

  1. Pain both pieces of wood, or decorate them with glitter, or do both. Let then dry.
  2. Glue the small piece of wood on the left corner of the big piece of wood.
  3. Put eight dabs of glue on the long piece of wood and put a cupcake holder on each one. Let it dry.
  4. Glue the ninth cupcake holder onto the small piece of wood and let it dry.

Place the candle in each cupcake holder and, voilà, your own menorah.

Take a Trip to the Library

Your local library is a great resource for finding fun ways to teach your kids about Hanukkah. You’re sure to find books for kids of all ages that explain the meaning of Hanukkah, and many of them have lyrics to songs that you and your kids can sing together.

10 of the World’s Weirdest New Year’s Eve Traditions

New Year’s. It’s a time for celebrating with friends and family, looking back over the previous 12 months and wishing each other the best for the year to come. It’s also a time for some truly wacky (and fun) traditions. How strange? Just check out this list of the 10 weirdest New Year’s traditions from around the world.

South America

Revelers in Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and other South American countries ring in the New Year by wearing brightly colored underwear. In cities like Sao Paulo, market vendors put out large displays of these underpants a few days before the holiday—red to bring love in the coming year, yellow for money.

Denmark

Danes welcome the New Year by standing on chairs and jumping off together at the stroke of midnight. Literally leaping into January is believed to banish bad spirits and bring good luck.

Philippines

In the Philippines, New Years is all about dots—polka dots, that is. Every year, Philippine people wear polka-dot clothing and fill their tables with round shaped foods. All these rounds things resemble coins and symbolize prosperity in the coming year.

Scotland

The Scottish get fired up—literally—for New Year’s with the Hogmanay Festival. On the 31st of December every year, Scotsmen parade around town swinging blazing balls of fire over their heads. It’s a tradition that dates back to Viking times. The fireballs are believed to bring purification and sunshine.

Mexico

Communicating with the dead is a strong part of Mexican culture, and this extends to New Year’s as well. In fact, this holiday is widely believed to be the best time to communicate with loved ones long gone and ask for guidance in the year to come.

Ireland

Many an Irish lass looks forward to New Year’s Eve in hopes of finding true love. To help make their wishes come true, young women all over Ireland place mistletoe leaves under their pillows to help ensure they’ll meet their future husbands in the coming year. They also believe the mistletoe rids them of bad luck.

Russia

Perhaps the most dangerous celebration is what takes place on Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. Divers cut a hole in the ice. One of them carries a New Year’s tree to the bottom of the lake while the others swim/dance around it. At the end of it all, the divers get their pictures taken with The Ice Maiden and Father Frost, two popular figures in Russian culture.

Finland

A long tradition in Finland is predicting what the New Year holds by casting molten tin into a pan of water and interpreting the shape the metal takes. Heart or ring shapes mean a wedding in the New Year; a ship forecasts travel; and pig shapes signify abundant supplies of food.

Chile

In the small town of Talca, people ring in the New Year by hanging out in the cemetery. At 11pm sharp every New Year’s Eve, the Mayor opens the cemetery gates and the townspeople are welcomed with classical music and dimmed blinking lights. They believe the spirits of their deceased loved ones wait for them in the cemetery and that this is the best way to start the New Year with them. It all began in 1995, when a local family jumped the cemetery fence to spend New Year’s near their father’s grave. Now over 5,000 people have adopted this tradition.

Germany

Every year since 1972, Germans welcome the New Year by watching the exact same episode of the British TV show, Dinner for One, at midnight. Same dialogue, same script every year. Nothing new. No one knows just how this tradition began, but it’s so popular that even the punch line “same procedure every year” now is a catch phrase in Germany.

The best Thanksgiving foods of all time

When it comes to Thanksgiving, eating until you’re stuffed is par for the course. While the main course usually consists of turkey, there are plenty of awesome foods that we get to chow down on while we celebrate the holidays with family and friends.

Nothing beats turkey for Thanksgiving. And there are plenty of ways to prepare turkey including roasting, braising and grilling. But perhaps the most delicious way to enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving is deep-fried turkey.

Honey-glazed ham is right up there with turkey for best Thanksgiving food. Spiral hams are delightful, especially when paired with rich and flavorful mustard. Plus, leftover ham makes for a great sandwich.

As long as there are potatoes on the Thanksgiving menu, you know it’s going to be a great holiday meal. Scalloped potatoes are a favorite. Mixing cheddar with potatoes can take them to that elusive “next level” of awesomeness. Sweet potatoes are also a Thanksgiving treat that are hard to pass up.

Fresh-baked rolls are just so good on Thanksgiving! Put a small slab of butter on a crescent roll that is just out of the oven and still warm—nothing could taste better! Except perhaps, dipping the rolls in hot gravy. “Pass the rolls please” is a request you’ll hear a lot at the table on Thanksgiving Day.

Stuffing yourself with stuffing is a Thanksgiving pastime that everyone loves. Stuffing is the best when you skip the Stove Top and make your own from scratch. It’s a great comfort food and goes well with turkey. And it’s made all the better with … you guessed it, gravy!

Thanksgiving traditions we love

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the important things we have in our lives. It’s about reconnecting with family and friends, going back home and eating a lot of food!

Is there anything more comforting and nostalgic than coming home? That is if things haven’t changed too much. Coming home helps us reflect on our past, where we’re at in our lives presently and where we’re going in the future.

The night before Thanksgiving is often called the biggest party night of the year. Meeting up with college or childhood friends at the local bar and enjoying a few adult beverages is a fun tradition, especially for the younger folks. Woo hoo!

If you enjoy watching football, you may as well camp out in front of the television all day and night on Thanksgiving. College and NFL games are broadcast each year and there is plenty of football coverage on ESPN to flip over to during halftime.

Americans love parades, especially on Thanksgiving. There are at least four major Thanksgiving parades in the U.S. including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York), 6abc  IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade (Philadelphia), America’s Thanksgiving Parade (Detroit) and McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade (Chicago).

Making a wish with the wishbone from a turkey is a great tradition, especially for the kids. Gather everyone around the table, get two people to tug at each end of the wishbone and whoever gets the bigger part of the bone will have all their wishes come true! (OK, maybe not, but it’s a nice thought …)

Community participation is a big part of the Thanksgiving holiday. A lot of runners will participate in local 5Ks, affectionately named turkey trots. And people spend Thanksgiving helping others, by serving meals to those in need and visiting with residents in nursing homes.

Meal preparation on Thanksgiving can be a lot of work, although it’s more fun when others chip in to help. Carving the turkey is a fun tradition as well and all the hard work and holiday planning pays off when it’s dinnertime!

Here’s to hoping your Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and that you get to give thanks for all the blessings in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!