I love December and the holidays. For as long as I can remember I’ve been completely batty over Christmastime. So the question has been asked: What gets you in the holiday spirit?
Because this time of year is so steeped in tradition for me, and because I was so lucky to grow up in a family where I had only happy holiday memories, the things that I do to get me into the holiday spirit are pretty traditional.
1) Make Advent Calendars for my kids. This actually started when my kids were small. I remembered my mum making my brother and I these great homemade Advent calendars one year. So I was inspired! I got a big piece of felt and a glue gun (I’m not much of a sewer) and made these horrid advent calendars (really ugly). For each day leading up to the 25th I made a little pocket and put a candy in. This turned out to be a lifesaver after my youngest was born because he is so allergic to nuts it was almost impossible to find a decent calendar for him. This year I asked my 18-year old son, who was away at university, if he still wanted me to put together his calendar for him. He responded with a resounding YES! So I guess I’ve created a new tradition for my kids to pass on! And, believe it or not, we are still using the same old, ugly felt calendars I made so many years ago.
2) Watch the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I’ve seen this movie multiple times each year since I was a small child. The original show came out in 1966 and so for my entire life I’ve watched it. It was always my favourite. My youngest son hates it when I put it on though because I know all the words and where the commercial breaks were (we bought the show so there are no commercials but I always say “… and here’s where they cut to commercial”). He says, “MUM! Please stop!” Haha!
3) Decorate the Tree. I have two trees each year – one upstairs in our livingroom and one downstairs in the “wreck room.” Both are artificial because of Matt’s allergies (I do miss the smell of a real tree but I don’t miss having to constantly clean up all the needles or Caitie’s lamenting about the death of a tree in our livingroom). When we put up the big tree in our livingroom, we do accompanied by hot chocolate (Bailey’s and coffee for me!), homemade cookies and Christmas movies or music. This year my youngest son was recovering from reconstructive orthopedic surgery and couldn’t help but his big sister made him cookies and we put on some Christmas movies to watch as the tree went up.
4) Go to Summerland Light Up (a.k.a., the Festival of Lights). I live in a small town in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia (Canada) and the last Friday of November each year, our town has a huge celebration featuring vendors, music, crafts, games, fireworks and (of course) the lighting of the town’s lights. Usually we don’t miss this event but this year Matt was recovering from surgery so we had our own tree light up in our livingroom at home.
5) Wrap presents. Okay, this is one I’m torn about. Often I will leave the presents to the last minute and then quickly wrap them up and throw them under the tree. But what I really like to do is carefully wrap each gift anticipating how the receiver will respond when opening it. The only problem with that approach is that I often forget what I’ve bought the person if I wrap it too early. And then I end up spending more on holiday gifts that I would otherwise do. This year … I still need to wrap my presents!
6) Christmas Tuneage. I have one of the biggest Christmas album collections of anyone I know. I’m a sucker for new ones, too. And any new spin on old classics (although I own all those, too!). My favourites: A Very She & Him Christmas, Barenaked for the Holidays, Let it Snow Baby … Let it Reindeer, Christmas by Michael Buble, Wintersong And then there are the classics (Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole).
7) Giving. And not to just family. We tend to do this differently each year but this year I’ve decided to de-materialize our Christmas as much as possible. Many of my friends and family will be receiving a gift from Free the Children to help others who don’t have very much.
8) Christmas Books. I’m a sucker for any books that have a Christmas theme to them. I love to read them at this time of year before I go to sleep at night.
So those of some of my rituals for getting me into the Christmas spirit! What do you like to do?
Since this is part of the 12 Days of Christmas, let’s have a little fun. My recent release Finding Refuge (Book 2 of the Marked Ones) just came out on December 4th. Here’s an new excerpt that hasn’t been featured before and introduces a new character, Xyrisse:
Lying on the sand there was the most pitiful creature Mina had ever seen. With translucent skin, a hairless head and red weeping eyes, it was clearly a girl from Nasseet. She was naked. But Mina had never seen a Hunter in such distress.
Lying uncovered in the sun, her thin skin had blistered and begun to weep. It looked almost as though she’d been dumped here to die. At first, Mina couldn’t tell if the girl was conscious but as Meldiron stepped closer she flinched and that strange cry escaped her lips again.
Arion pulled his sword from his scabbard.
“No!” Mina said stepping in front of him, unable to believe that he would kill so easily.
“We don’t know why it’s here, we have to assume it is a threat,” he said coldly. “Get out of my way, Princess Minathrial.”
But to Mina’s relief, Meldiron gave his kinsman a hard look. “Don’t be ridiculous, Arion, she is hardly a threat.” He removed his shirt and covered the poor girl with it, to shield her skin from the burning sun.
Mina winced when she saw sand crusted in her thin skin.
“I’ll get Thia,” she said, turning and running back to where her sister was resting with the horses.
Thia was a gifted healer and she was going to need all her skill to help the Nasseet girl. Mina quickly explained what they’d found and Thia was on her feet in seconds. Mina grabbed Thia’s bag and they hurried back to where the girl was lying. She was unconscious when they returned but Meldiron was sitting near her in the sand. Mina noticed that Arion had stalked off to the far side of the dune and was looking broodingly over the ocean.
Thia didn’t speak but went right to work assessing the girl.
“Will she live?” Meldiron asked and Mina was surprised to hear the anguish in her brother’s voice. He was trained as a soldier, she didn’t expect him to be so affected by suffering.
Thia did not reply right away. “We need to get her off this hot sand. Mina, there’s a blanket in my bag, can you grab it?”
When Mina had spread the blanket on the sand, Thia motioned for Meldiron to lift the now unconscious girl onto it. As the extent of her injuries were exposed, Mina cringed. Much of her fragile skin seemed to have blistered so badly the flesh beneath was exposed. Thia shook her head and then dug through her bag.
She pulled out a variety of jars of salve and herbs and began covering the girl’s skin with the medicines in them. After she had finished, Thia carefully bandaged the injuries with linen and then she looked up.
“We need to get some liquid in her. The burns are only one thing but she is severely dehydrated.”
Mina reached into the bag and pulled out her canteen.
Thia took it and held it up to the unconscious girls lips but she was only able to dribble a few drops into her mouth.
“Can we move her?” Meldiron asked.
Thia pursed her lips considering. “Not far if we want her to live.” She looked up at them. “We’ll have to make camp here until she is well enough to travel.”
“Then what?” Mina couldn’t help asking.
“Then we take her with us,” Thia said softly.
Arion turned back to them abruptly. “Why would we do such a thing?” he demanded, rage simmering in his voice.
“Because… ” Thia said quietly as she gently lifted the girl revealing her left shoulder. “She, too, is Marked.”
And don’t forget to visit the Reading and Things: 12 Days of Christmas Event. I will be hosting the event from 9-10 tonight (Friday Dec 12th) and giving away books and Amazon cards but there will be authors hosting giveaway for the next 12 days! Happy Holidays everyone!