Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: Festivus

Winter Solstice is December 21.

A month of holidays

December is a month of holidays. For several years, I’ve labored to create blog posts about the holidays that fall during this month. When I realized I was focusing exclusively on December holidays but no others, I started my “Holidays Project” last summer.

At this point I’ve done feature posts on nearly every major religious holiday that usually falls in December, as well as several more minor ones and at least two that are secular in nature. Why so many holidays in one month?

Winter Solstice is December 21.

Blame it on the Solstice. 

The astronomical event of the Winter Solstice creates the shortest daylight of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It falls on December 21, nearly every year. Combine that fact with the nature of humans, and a holiday of some sort is near-inevitable

We humans have a psychological and spiritual need seek out hope and a cosmic picture of the Universe that makes sense. And we probably need it most of all when food is short and we’re in danger of freezing to death. That’s why December is a month of holidays.

I explored Solstice traditions in some depth, in a blog post from 2016 that still gets many hits every yearGet drunk, eat dumplings or fruit, and party down. It’s traditional! 

Festivals of light

Not surprisingly for holidays that originated during a month of long nights, a lot of December holidays feature candles or fires. 

A Solstice festival of light/fire is YuletideIn a 2013 post, I focused on the Yuletide legend of Krampus, but the tradition of burning the Yule Log (originally a whole tree, or most of one) is probably more well-known to those of us whose ancestors hail from the British Isles, where the related custom of Wassailing also originated. Of course, many people prefer their “Yule Logs” to be made of cake, rather than wood!

Winter Solstice bonfires are a feature of a celebration in Maine, in this photo from Bangor.
Winter Solstice bonfires are a feature of a celebration in Maine. (Bangor Daily News/Eric Michael Tollefson)

Last year, the first Sunday of Advent and the first day of Hanukkah both fell on the same day, December 2. This year Advent started on December 1, but Hanukkah doesn’t begin till sunset on December 22.

Compared with Yom Kippur and several of the others, Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday that has gained a greater following because of its proximity to the Christian holiday of Christmas, celebrated on December 25 each year.

Christmas originated as a religious holiday, and it still is one of the most important holidays of the Christian year, preceded by the Advent season and smaller holy or feast days such as St. Nicholas Day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and St. Stephen’s Day.  If you think about it Christmas is a month of holidays, just by itself.

Secular observations

Especially in recent years, many individuals, cultures and traditions have embraced some of the more glamorous elements of Christmas, including Santa Claus, Christmas trees, holiday lights on buildings, and Christmas presentswithout much interest in the Christian religious aspects.

There will likely always be people who decry a “war on Christmas” (meaning a minimization of the religious aspects), it seems unlikely that these exuberant and sometimes garish secular holiday traditions will go away anytime soon. They’re too darn much fun.

The colorful lights outline each building and go on for blocks and blocks each year on Kansas City's Country Club Plaza.
The granddaddy of municipal Christmas light displays is the annual display in Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza (unattributed photographer/KC Kids Fun)

One, somewhat peculiar spin-off of Christmas is Festivus, inspired by a TV show and celebrated with greater or lesser levels of devotion by aficionados.

considerably more spiritual, but not religious, celebration is Kwanzaa. I explored the days of Kwanzaa in some detail, back in 2017. Although the first day had to share billing with Boxing Day, the secondthirdfourthfifth, and sixth days got their own posts. The seventh day of Kwanzaa is also New Year’s Day.

However you celebrate this month of holidays, I hope you find love, joy, and peace among the hectic pace and the welter of traditions!

IMAGES: I created the “Winter Solstice” composite with help from Ksenia Samorukova (Ukususha) and Rawpixel at 123RF. Many thanks to the Bangor Daily News and Eric Michael Tollefson, for the photo of the bonfires in Maine, and to KC Kids Fun (and their unsung photographer) for the photo of the Kansas City Country Club Plaza holiday lights.

Aren’t we there yet? Oh, yeah! Happy Festivus!

Happy Festivus!

Yes–this is it! The day has arrived! Have you set up your Festivus Pole? Have you aired a few grievances? Have you eaten your meatloaf and M&Ms-studded cake? Then you’re celebrating in Festivus style!

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, however, we’re still counting down the days. For some of us, a little wine helps . . .

IMAGES: Many thanks to Teenormous, for the Seinfeld-inspired Festivus T-shirt design, and to Country Living and cartoonist Scott Metzger for the pre-Christmas grin.

Preparing: are you?

We all have our own way of confronting (or trying to hide from) the Holidays. 

It’s not ONLY Christmas, of course–although both secular and sacred Christmas imagery and messaging seem to be everywhere in my Kansas City environment. From Festivus to Kwanzaa, from Hanukkah to  Winter Solstice celebrations to Yule, there seems to be a holiday for everybody at this time of year.

Whatever holidays you celebrate, how’s it going? We’re at the mid-point of December. Are you ready?

Perhaps you’re one of those organized, super-prepared people, who’ve been buying a building stockpile of presents since last January. You already have you holiday greeting cards in the mail (or your e-cards pre-loaded to send at just the perfect moment).

Perhaps you’re in the thick of it now–still working on the gift list, still considering your plans. Partway there–getting there–but not done yet. That’s about where I am: working on it. If you’re still looking for creative gift-wrapping ideas, you may find some of my last-December Image-of-Interest posts helpful.

Or maybe you prefer to live dangerously, and save your shopping/decorating/cooking for the last possible second. Good luck, and may the Creative Force be with you, all you last-minute thrill-seekers!

No matter how you celebrate–and no matter which, if any, holidays you celebrate–I hope you find some merriment along the way!

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Explore December Holidays Pinterest Board, for the “paper dolls” image, and the talented and creative Debbi Ridpath Ohi, via The Office, and John Atkinson, via Wrong Hands, for their humorous holiday images.

5 slick tips to make your own wrapping paper

The Artdog Images of Interest

It’s December (I know. Already!) Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, The Winter Solstice, BrumaliaYule, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Boxing Day, or anything else, it’s likely you’re wrapping presents in December. So this year, on the first three Saturdays of December, the Artdog’s offering some creative gift-wrapping solutions.

1. Designer Marian Parsons used stamping to create this wrapping paper–but this only scratches the surface of the possibilities with kraft paper, butcher paper, newsprint, etc., and stamps. In this case Parsons used a wood block stamp and white paint, but those are more like guidelines. Your imagination is the limit.

The ideas in this post involve, as you see, some personal craft capabilities, and require some advance planning. That’s why I’m running it first. Gives you more time to plan, and execute said plans.

2. Here’s another brilliant idea from Marian Parsons: making decorations with stencils. Use butcher paper for this, so the paper won’t pucker. Parsons uses diluted acrylic paint. You’ll probably want to make some test runs on scraps of butcher paper before you take on a big piece, to get your mixture just right. Otherwise your stenciling efforts could get really smeary (voice of experience, here).

Don’t hog the glory. Most of these ideas are easy enough that kids can do them. If you’re going to make a mess anyway–and if you have the odd child rattling around the house–by all means, deal them in! (Even if they’re not odd, they’ll probably enjoy it).

3. Speaking of children, here’s a project that’s actually designed for them. First, wrap your boxes in plain blue construction paper.The uniform round circles are made from a pencil eraser, dipped in diluted white craft paint then stamped onto make the design–snowflakes, a snowman’s body. Then add permanent-marker arms, eyes and mouth, and a wedge of orange paper glued on for a nose, and a snowman appears. Of course, it’s okay for adults to do this project, too. Thank designer Morgan Levine for this one!
4. Here’s another ultra-kid friendly idea from Marian Parsons: Potato prints! Never heard of them? It’s not only easy, it’s a lot of fun. Parsons offers step-by-step instructions for this project here. You’ve never had such brilliant wrapping paper! Give it a try–even if you don’t have any kids around. Big people can excel at this, too.
5. Here’s another stamping project, only this time you’re using a wine cork, cut to make the oval shape of a Christmas light. Might want to make several, perhaps one for each color. Wrap your boxes in butcher paper or sheets of unprinted newsprint. Then brush the paint onto the cork stamp(s) and alternate colors in a row (maybe you could “cheat” and add a pencil line to follow). After they dry, go back and darken or draw in the line with a permanent marker. This genius idea is from Morgan Levine.

As you can see, these five ideas all require gathering things up in advance, and planning a work-space that can withstand a little wet paint. But with some advance planning and acquisitions, I think you’ll find these are fun and easy creative ways to make wrapping paper that will most definitely impress. Have fun!

IMAGES: I must confess, all of these images and ideas were really easy to find–they’re from a gallery of 50 Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas presented on HGTV’s website. Many thanks for all the great ideas, and for rounding up all the bright-eyed designers!

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