Celebrating New Year's Day -- A New Calendar and a New Start I don't know what it is about the simple act of changing a calendar year, but New Year's Day is always a time of resolutions and renewal in our home. We take this chance to start fresh and change things which we have not been happy with the previous year. While some things cannot be changed, such as medical issues and the nagging car repairs that come at the most inopportune time, there are many things about our lives which we can change when we set our minds to the task. The first tradition we have at our home is that of buying a wonderful and decorative calendar to hang on our wall. Sometimes we are given one for the holidays, other times we purchase our own. Every New Year's Day I remove our old calendar and hang our new one. In the process, I first copy over any important family dates such as birthdays or anniversaries which I need to remember throughout the New Year. Many people set out to celebrate New Year's Day by making resolutions which they really don't have any real desire to fight to keep going throughout the year. If you have ever been in a health club or gym in January, then you know how many people can be there that you will never see again come February. It would be almost funny, if it wasn't so sad. The key to making your New Year's resolutions and having them become reality in your life is to start small and really dedicate yourself to what you want to change in your life. If you are overweight, or even simply want to get into better shape, start with eating better and walking around your own neighborhood before you shell out the big money for a membership to a gym. Another good way to spend your New Years Day is to take the opportunity of the New Year to clean out and purge your living quarters. It is very common to bring home your gifts from holiday celebrations and then have no where to put them. By doing some much needed de-cluttering and purging you can have space for all of your new treasures and make some nice donations of your unused items as well. Two of the best places to get rid of your unwanted items are through your local thrift store or freecycle.org. Thrift stores will generally take just about anything which they can re-sell to others. With freecycle.org you send out an e-mail to your local area and the person interested in what you have to offer will come pick-up your unwanted items. Both your thrift store and freecycle.org are good ways to keep your unwanted items out of the landfill. In our home, we spend New Years Day first transferring the calendar, and then we move into the kitchen where we go through all of our cabinets and take a good inventory of what is in each of them. For things we have a lot of, we make an effort to use some of it up in the next few months. For things we will need to purchase we put them on our master shopping list. While we are in the kitchen we also try to find items which make good donations to our local food pantry. For instance, if I have been getting great buys on soup and have 30 cans of it, I will usually give half to our local food pantry and keep the rest to cover us for the rest of winter. On addition to some of the suggestions above, it is always a good idea to look at the New Year as a time of renewal and a time when you can make changes to your life. However, rather than having lofty resolutions which you cannot keep, start small and make goals to change things over the next year or even longer. By making realistic goals you can change the things in your life that you choose to. President's Day -- Leadership Quotes to Live By President's Day is a United States federal holiday and is celebrated on the third Monday in February. The President's Day holiday was originally to honor President George Washington and was known as "Washington's Birthday"; however, it was renamed in the late 1980s to celebrate both Presidents Washington and Lincoln. The day is now simply referred to as President's Day. It is common to find banks and government offices closed on the President's Day holiday; however, most retail stores are open on the day, and many have special sales which happen on that day each year. Because the celebration of President's Day is all about leadership and celebrating the special men who have led our country over the past two hundred plus years, I have gathered together some of my favorite US President leadership quotes. They are listed below for you to read and think about this President's Day. 1. "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -- John F. Kennedy 2. "I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow." -- Woodrow Wilson 3. "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." -- Thomas Jefferson 4. "No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor." -- Theodore Roosevelt 5. "Patience and perseverance have a magical affect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." -- John Quincy Adams 6. " 'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt." -- Abraham Lincoln 7. "I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man." -- George Washington 8. "Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt 9. "Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as a heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors." -- Abraham Lincoln 10. "Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you." -- Thomas Jefferson 11. "The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted." -- James Madison 12. "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." -- John F. Kennedy 13. "There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live." -- John Adams 14. "My observation is that whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty... it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein." -- George Washington 15. "You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." -- Woodrow Wilson It is a well known fact that the leaders of the United States have had to overcome some amazing obstacles over the years. Amazingly, they have risen to meet many of these challenges head-on and have helped to raise the United States to be one of the most powerful countries in the world. Along the way, they have left us with these amazing quotes of wisdom. I hope you have found them as enjoyable as I have over the years. I Have a Dream -- Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday Here in the United States, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday as a legal holiday on the third Monday in January of each year. The actual birthday of Dr. King was on January 15th, however the third Monday is the holiday standard. It is interesting to note that there are only four United States federal holidays which commemorate an individual person, and this is one of those days. Martin Luther King Day started out as a holiday which labor unions fought for in negotiations with employers. They did so because Martin Luther King was a great proponent of labor unions and fair employment for all Americans. After King's death in 1968 many labor unions lobbied to have King's birthday become a national holiday in celebration of his life and activism on behalf of trade unions. Elected largely because of the backing of trade unions, President Jimmy Carter endorsed the King Day bill and unions took the action and ran with it to garner support from Corporate America, unfortunately he was never able to sign the day into law. Finally, in 1981 a petition to Congress to pass the law was signed by six million people and relentlessly then President Ronald Regan singed the bill into law. On November 2, 1983 President Ronald Regan reluctantly singed a bill into law creating a federal holiday to honor King. The first official Martin Luther King holiday was celebrated on January 20, 1986. In addition to Ronald Regan, Senator Jesse Helms led the opposition to the new holiday. He questioned whether Dr. King was important enough to receive such an honor partly due to his opposition to the Vietnam War and purported Communist connections. January 17, 2000 was the first time which Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states. Before that date Arizona and New Hampshire did not observe the day. Even though all of the states now honor the holiday, many did not name the day specifically after King. In Utah the holiday was known as "Human Rights Day." In the year 2000 Governor Michael Leavitt signed a bill officially changing the name of the holiday from Human Rights Day to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. To this day, the holiday in Arizona and New Hampshire is known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil Rights Day. Interestingly enough, even though King Day is a federal holiday and an official state holiday in every state in the Union, it is often not observed by small companies other than banks. Many large corporations close but smaller businesses tend to remain open. However, as the years pass, more and more companies, small and large, are beginning to observe the day. Senator Harris Wofford and Congressman John Lewis wrote a bill which was signed into law on August 23, 1994 by President Bill Clinton. This legislation aimed to change the Martin Luther King Day to one of volunteer service and citizen action rather than as an observance of King himself. As each year passes, more and more states seem to be moving towards celebrating the King holiday as a day of service. Dr. King was all about citizen action and service to your fellow man, so I think he would be very satisfied at this movement. Groundhog Day -- Will Punxsutawney Phil See His Shadow? Groundhog Day began back in 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day or Groundhog's Day is a traditional holiday which is celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2nd of each year, four days before the cross-quarter day between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The traditional weather lore says that if a groundhog comes out of his burrow on Groundhog Day and can't see his shadow, because of cloudy weather, then winter will soon end. However, if the groundhog is able to see his shadow, due to clear sunny weather, he will be frightened by the bright and run back into his den, meaning that winter will continue for six more weeks. The groundhog is a member of the rodent family and belongs to a large group of ground squirrels known as marmots. History tells us that as far back as the fifth century the European Celts believed that certain animals had super-natural powers on the special day's half-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. They believed that if bears and groundhogs came out of their winter dens too early that they were frightened by their own shadow and went back into their dens for four to six more weeks of hibernation. The earliest known American reference to Groundhog Day is February 4, 1841 and took place in Morgantown, Pennsylvania. In storekeeper James Morris' diary he wrote; "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas Day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps our of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate." In the United States, the tradition of Groundhog Day comes from a famous Scottish poem: As the light grows longer The cold grows stronger If Candlemas be fair and bright Winter will have another fight If Candlemas be cloud and snow Winter will be gone and not come again A farmer should on Candlemas Day Have half his corn and half his hay On Candlemas Day if thorns hang a drop You can be sure of a good pea crop. The celebration of Groundhog Day began in Pennsylvania and the town of Punxsutawney held its first Groundhog Day in the 1800s. It was begun out of humor and has continued to this day. Every year on February 2nd, their groundhog, known as Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his den and predicts the weather. If Phil cannot see his shadow then winter will be six weeks longer, however if he is unable to see his shadow then spring will begin. It is said that the weather predictions of Phil are more than 50% accurate, though the residents of Punxsutawney say that he is 100% accurate, of course. While Groundhog Day seems like a rather weird holiday to many, it is simply a fun and quirky way to look at weather. Many school children have fun with the day and get to learn about weather and even groundhogs themselves at the same time. They often learn about hibernation as well as the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. So, while the holiday is a bit odd, it is built from strong tradition and meant to educate and entertain at the same time. The Top 10 List of Gifts to Give Your Love on Valentines Day Valentines Day is a day for lovers. And, there is no better way to show your love than thorough the gift you select for your lover. For this reason, your Valentines Day gift should be well thought out and hand picked by you to match the person it is for. While candy or flowers work for some people, they are not always the best or most creative gift choices. If you are stuck for ideas, here is a list of ten gifts you might want to consider getting your love this Valentines Day: Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #1 -- With the advances in technology of all kinds, it is now possible, and affordable, to purchase a customized Valentines Day gift for your lover. One such gift is a throw blanket which is made with your image, your lover's image, and your names woven into it. They are available online for less than $75 and are a gift which will be treasured forever. Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #2 -- If you would like to send you lover a message in a bottle, you can take an empty wine bottle, remove the label, print up a new one on your computer, and fill it with hand-written love notes written especially for your lover. Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #3 -- Fine jewelry is always a great gift choice. Not the cheap stuff at your local WalMart, but the good stuff that comes from a jeweler. The item itself does not need to be terribly expensive, just of good quality. Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #4 -- Whether your lover is a man or a woman, a gift of sexy boxers or lingerie can be a wonderful choice which you can both enjoy for many nights to come. Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #5 -- If you are buying for a woman, consider buying her a designer bag which she has been coveting but won't purchase for herself. Women often put others first and will do so to their own detriment. Show her you care about her and want to indulge her a bit through your gift. Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #6 -- If your lover likes to take digital pictures, the new digital photo display frames is a wonderful gift option. They allow your lover to download their photos into them and then enjoy them over and over again as time passes. These are especially great for people with children. Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #7 -- If your lover has precious items such as jewelry, it is always nice to present them with a nice jewelry box to keep them in. This idea can even work for the men in your life if you stick to a nice quality wood box. Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #8 -- If your lover is an animal person, or they are into nature, consider the DVD of either Plant Earth or March of the Penguins. If they love a particular television series, such as "Sex in the City" that makes a great gift as well. Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #9 -- Purchasing your lovers signature scent always shows that you care and that you notice which products you use. Sneak a look on their dresser or in their bathroom cabinet to get ideas on which to purchase. Valentines Day Gift Suggestion #10 -- If you want to do flowers and candy then make sure you stick to high-quality in both areas. Don't do cheap flowers or candy as it shows lack of commitment on your part. Hopefully these ten Valentines Day gift suggestions will give you something to think about while you are shopping for the perfect gift for your lover this Valentines Day. It is always important to keep in mind that Valentines Day is a day for both romance and some fun. Try to keep your choices classic and even spread a bit of humor if you think your lover would appreciate it. 10 Tips for an Amazing Valentines Day Valentines Day, also known as Saint Valentines Day, is a holiday which is celebrated each year on February 14th. Valentines Day is the traditional day in which lovers express their love for each other by sending each other Valentines cards, flowers, or candy. The holiday is named after two Christian martyrs named Valentine. They became associated with romantic love and the day came to be. Today, most people associate Valentines Day with the exchange of love notes and other symbols of their love. If you are looking for some ways to show your love this Valentines Day, here are some tips to get you started: Tip #1 -- One of the best things you can do on Valentines Day is to write your lover a love note. Don't send an electronic greeting or purchase a card, spend the time to write an actual, traditional love note to someone you care about. Your love note does not need to be long; however, it needs to be handwritten with some thought having gone into it. Tip #2 -- If you have zero writing skills, then instead of an all out love note, you can write down a list of the things you love about your lover. A simple "I love you because: " list can go a long way to showing someone how you care about them. Tip #3 -- Place your love note on your lover's pillow or if you will not see each other in the morning then you can have it delivered to them with some flowers or candy. Tip #4 -- If you want to add some creativity to your Valentines Day gift then you can create a scavenger hunt which your lover will have to follow around your house to find their gift. You can leave clues around the house which all lead your lover to find the next clue, and then ultimately to find your gift to them. Tip #5 -- If you have a variety of gifts for your lover then you can start at the front door and run a string from one gift to another. By doing this, your lover has to follow the string to get to their next gift. You can use inexpensive kite string from the dollar store to string your gifts together. Tip #6 -- Rather than going out and fighting the crowds on Valentines Day, you can celebrate it at home by cooking for your lover, or you and your lover can cook a meal for each other, together. Cooking at home can be both romantic and a lot more fun than going out and paying for an expensive meal out. Tip #7 -- If you are looking for a non-traditional gift to give to your lover this Valentines Day, consider making some coupons for them that they can redeem for a variety of things throughout the year. You can make them for simple things like washing their car, or for more sensual gifts. Thanks to home computers and cool paper, you can make some really great coupons or gift certificates in the comfort of your own home. Tip #8 -- If you are single this Valentines Day, there are many fun ways which you can spend the day or evening with friends. On fun way to spend the evening is to have a "Valentines Day Sucks" party with your other single friends. Each friend brings a romantic comedy movie and their favorite junk food to the event. You spend the evening making fun of sappy movies and eating as much junk food as you want, just for one evening. Tip #9 -- Another fun way to spend Valentines Day if you do not have a lover to share it with, is to go to a very expensive restaurant with a friend and order the foods you have always wanted to try -- including desert. Take a long evening to enjoy the food and company of a good friend. Tip #10 -- If you will not be seeing your lover until a day or two after the big holiday, you can wait to purchase your flowers or candy until the later date and save a ton of cash. Celebrating the Earth Day Holiday with Your Children Each April the holiday known as Earth Day is celebrated around the world. Earth day is a day of celebrating this great big earth we live on, and a day to raise awareness of the special needs of our earth. While many people think Earth Day is all about recycling and composting your trash, in essence it is much more than that. And, because our children are the future of our planet, they are often the center of Earth Day celebrations. Having our children grow up "green" will help the earth stay healthy as the years go by. There are many ways you can celebrate Earth Day with your children and spend the time teaching them about the environment at the same time. Here are some basic ideas to get you thinking on how you want to spend your Earth Day this year with your kids. Every single person on earth, child or adult, can do their part for the environment. You can teach this to your children in very simple and easy to understand ways. From the day your child is able to turn off a light or television, teach them about wasting electricity and make it part of their normal daily routine to shut off the power when they are done with something such as a television or game. Also, teach them to always turn off lights when the leave a room. If you teach them this as very young children, then it won't be such a battle when they get to be teenagers. And, as they become teens, then it is time to teach them to use power strips and get rid of all of the phantom energy drains in their rooms. In addition to saving electricity, your children can learn to save water by doing small things differently in their daily routines. Simple things like turning off the water while they brush their teeth or taking faster showers all help to save energy and conserve water. If each member of the household does this, it will be a good habit everyone will follow without even thinking about it. A garden can be a wonderful way for a family to go green. Allow your children to develop a compost pile. You can compost your eggs shells and other organic waste products in your yard to keep them from ending up in a landfill. You can then use that compost as fertilizer for your garden soil. In addition to the exercise and interest that gardening provides, it also provides your children a chance to see how food is grown and used. And, as an added bonus, your children will enjoy eating fruits and vegetables which they have grown. Finally, the absolute best way you can teach your child about nature and the environment is to spend time outdoors with your children. By getting your children interested in outdoor activities such as hiking and camping, you can ensure that they will have a more healthy life and a better respect for the world in which we all live. If you want to take your children to a park or on a hike, try letting them lead the way and show you what they find. Children are much lower down to the ground and can show you many things that you might not have otherwise noticed. If you will be spending time outside with your kids allow for a lot of extra time and for them to explore feely. In addition, take family camping vacations which everyone will enjoy and which will help to teach your children about the outdoors in a way they can't learn simply hiking around in a day. As you can clearly see, there are many ways in which you and your children can enjoy the earth we live on. There is much more to Earth Day each year than a reminder to recycle your cans and bottles -- although that is always a good idea too. Celebrating the Holiday of the 21st Century -- Earth Day Earth Day is a holiday which falls in April of each year. Celebrations of Earth Day are held around the globe, and the day is dedicated towards educating people on the merits of recycling, and doing other things to help save this big blue marble we all live on and call earth. There are many ways you can celebrate Earth Day with your children and spend the time teaching them about the environment. Here are some ideas to get you thinking on how you want to spend your Earth Day. Every single person on earth, child or adult, can do their part for the environment. You can teach this to your children in very simple and easy to understand ways. From the day your child is able to turn off a light or television, teach them about wasting electricity and make it part of their normal daily routine to shut off the power when they are done with something such as a television or game. Also, teach them to always turn off lights when the leave a room. If you teach them this as very young children, then it won't be such a battle when they get to be teenagers. Other ways children can pitch in to help conserve electricity is through walking or riding their bike more, as well as helping to hang clothing on a line to dry. In addition to saving electricity, your children can learn to save water by doing small things differently in their daily routines. Simple things like turning off the water while they brush their teeth or taking faster showers all help to save energy and conserve water. A garden can be a wonderful way for a family to go green. You can compost your eggs shells and other organic waste products in your yard to keep them from ending up in a landfill. You can then use that compost as fertilizer for your garden soil. In addition to the exercise and interest that gardening provides, it also provides your children a chance to see how food is grown and used. When you shop for food and other household products, explain to your children where they were made and where their packages end up. A simple trip to your local landfill will be a huge eye-opener for your children and really help them to go green a lot faster. There they can see the amazing amounts of waste even just one small town or community generates. Soon your children will be telling you to purchase things with less packaging. If your child notices something in your own local town which is wasteful or harming the environment unnecessarily, ask them to write their local government official and let their voice be heard. Explain to your children that democracy is for both adults and children. This exercise is wonderful to help with writing skills, as well as to help build a sense of community in your child. Finally, the absolute best way you can teach your child about nature and the environment is to spend time outdoors with your children. By getting your children interested in outdoor activities such as hiking, you can ensure that they will have a more healthy life and a better respect for the world in which we all live. If you want to take your children to a park or on a hike, try letting them lead the way and show you what they find. Children are much lower down to the ground and can show you many things that you might not have otherwise noticed. If you will be spending time outside with your kids allow for a lot of extra time and for them to explore feely. As you can clearly see, there are many ways in which you and your children can enjoy the earth we live on. There is much more to Earth Day each year than a reminder to recycle your cans and bottles -- although that is always a good idea too. Saint Patrick's Day -- The Holiday Where Everyone is Irish St. Patrick's Day is a holiday which celebrates Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick was one of the patron saints of Ireland credited with spreading the Catholic religion to many areas of Ireland. St. Patrick's Day takes place on the 17th day of March each year, which is the day which Saint Patrick died. St. Patrick's Day is a national holiday in Ireland with many businesses being closed on the day. In other parts of the world, especially the US and Canada, it is widely celebrated but is not an official government holiday. St. Patrick's Day is a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics in Ireland. Interestingly enough, occasionally the church authorities move the date of the holiday because of its clash with other holy days. In 2008 this is the case, and it shall be moved to March 15th to avoid Holy Monday. Catholics around the world will start off their St. Patrick's Day with a Mass service which is held to signify the holiday. Here in the United States, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by everyone being of Irish decent for the day. The day has become more of a secular holiday than one of religion. Here in the United States St. Patrick's Day has taken on more of a meaning of celebrating the beginning of spring. This goes along with the tradition of wearing green on the day, because green is both the color of Ireland as well as the color which signifies life and growth. It is said that you will be lucky for the coming Spring if you wear green on the holiday. Amazingly, St. Patrick's Day began being celebrated here in the United States with a parade in Queens New York in 1737, well before the Revolutionary War. Since that day, parades are a very popular way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Many people wear a shamrock on the holiday to signify good luck. However, the roots of this tradition, it is said, come from St. Patrick using a shamrock to explain to the pagans the concept of the Holy Trinity. In the Catholic Religion, the Holy Trinity is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which Christians know all stem from the same God. The three leaves of the shamrock all connected to the same stem were used to explain this concept to the pagans. If you are wearing a shamrock on St. Patrick's Day, it means that you can claim good luck or blessings on that day and for the rest of the year. In addition to the shamrock, many people believe that the cute little fictitious Leprechaun character can bring you good luck. For this reason many people wear Leprechaun pins and other memorabilia on St. Patrick's Day as well as a shamrock. One of the fun and very popular traditions which goes along with St. Patrick's Day is the consumption of green ale. Many bars and pubs add green food coloring to their beer on the holiday to serve to their customers. In addition to the green ale, many people also indulge in Irish Cream and Irish Whisky on the day as well. For the kids, a nice green lemonade or 7UP make great non-alcoholic alternatives. A Short History Lesson on Veterans Day The First World War was known as "the War to end all Wars" and was a war with a large social and political impact on the world even still today. Many men fought in the war, and while the United States entered the war late, and suffered the fewest casualties of all of the participating nations, the number of casualties the U.S. suffered was about 116,000 in total, the war was still devastating. The official end of the war date was November 11, 1918, and at the one year anniversary President Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919 to be "Armistice Day." This was the first nationwide commemoration of the First World War. On November 11, 1920 the countries of England and France held ceremonies to commemorate the war through the laying of rest an unknown soldier. The following year, the United States did the same by relocating an unknown U.S. soldier from his grave in Europe into the current day Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. There was great ceremony around the event and the casket was placed into the tomb at exactly 11:00am on the morning of the 11th of November, 1920. President Harding requested that all flags be flown at half-mast to commemorate the day and the great loss of life of the soldiers who fought in the war. While this played out in other countries, the people of the United States took the unknown soldier to mean both the losses we faced as a country, as well as each American's loss and sacrifices in war. Because of this, in the years which followed, many states adopted laws declaring November 11th as a legal holiday. On June 4, 1926 the United States Congress enacting a resolution asking the president to issue a proclamation to display the national flag on all buildings on November 11th. The resolution again named the day "Armistice Day." On May 13, 1938 Congress enacted a new law which made the day a national holiday. In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, a "Veterans Day" parade was held in Alabama on November 11th. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill into law officially changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In the years which have followed, three more soldiers have been interred into the tomb of the unknown soldier in Washington D.C. They are a soldier from the Second World War, the Korean War, and one from the Vietnam War. In 1968 a law was passed moving Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. However, many people protested because of the significance of the November 11th date, and in 1978 President Ford signed a new law which restored Veterans Day back to November 11th. As of today, the Veterans Day National Committee has the job of coordinating all federal Veterans Day ceremonies. Each year the current President of the United States visits the tomb of the unknown soldier and places a wreath while taps is played. In addition, many states hold their own ceremonies to remember the fallen soldiers of war and the sacrifices of those who serve their country face each day. It is very popular for town and cities to have Veterans Day parades to honor those among their communities who have either lost a loved on to a war, or who have a loved on currently serving in the armed services. 10 Tips for Hosting an Amazing Easter Gathering Each year here in the United States, the celebrations of the Easter Holiday tend to take on two distinctly different meanings. Traditionally, the celebration of Easter is about the resurrection of Christ. However, celebrating Easter as a secular holiday is all about the Easter Bunny and eggs. Whether you are a religious family who celebrates Christ's resurrection, or you choose to have the day be about Easter egg and basket hunts, here are ten tips for making your Easter gathering a success: Tip #1 -- As with planning for any party, you want to plan your Easter Sunday gathering as far in advance as possible. People often tend to make plans for holiday celebrations many months in advance, and the last thing you want to happen is to plan a party and then find out that all of your potential guests are unavailable. Tip #2 -- It is important to plan your menu for Easter early as well. You will find many special deals on foods such as ham and roasts near the Easter holiday. By planning ahead, you will know which deals to be on the lookout for. To save yourself time and a lot of aggravation make sure to write down a list of things you will need. Tip #3 -- Make sure that when you are planning your Easter gathering, or any other party for that matter, that you give yourself enough time to plan and shop. You will not want to be in a grocery store the week before Easter because the entire rest of your town will all be there. If you have some lead-time, then you can avoid the last-minute crowds. Also, you do not want to plan your menu and then find that the store is out of a key ingredient which you need. Tip #4 -- If you want to use dyed eggs as decoration, make sure you dye your eggs a couple days before your event. If you don't, then you might be hosting your party with weird colored fingers. Tip #5 -- If you will be having an Easter Egg hunt for the children in attendance, you might want to consider purchasing some plastic eggs which you can add small toys and candy inside of. This makes you less likely to loose an egg which will smell if you don't find it in time. Tip #6 -- If you will be cooking a large meal, try cooking everything you can the day before. At the least prepare anything the day before which you can. This will save both your time and your energy on the holiday. Tip #7 -- When you home is packed full of your friends and family; accept their help when they offer it. Remember, the party is for you too and by allowing people to help you, you can enjoy your own party as well. Tip #8 -- If there will be a lot of children at your Easter party, have some fun activities which they can work on to keep them busy and out of trouble. You can always offer a prize for the best craft project, or whatever, to give them a sense of competition and to help them spend more time working on their projects. Tip # 9 -- If you will be making Easter baskets, the best place you can find the baskets are at your local dollar store or thrift stores. Both of these offer you a great basket selection at a very low price. You can give the baskets to the kids, or you can have the kids build the baskets and then deliver them to a local charity or homeless shelter. Tip #10 -- Don't forget the less fortunate at Easter time. If you have excess food in your pantry, take some of it to your local food pantry so that those who are hungry in your community can enjoy a good meal for the holiday. The Top 10 Mother's Day Gift Ideas for 2008 Mother's day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Mother's Day is a time to honor our mothers and all of the sacrifices they have made for us. In addition to the act of having given birth to us, our mothers generally have sacrificed many long nights when we were ill, and in many other ways in which we will likely never understand unless we become parents ourselves. Here are the top ten gift ideas for Mother's Day 2008: Gift Idea #1 -- One of the best Mother's Day gifts you can give your mother is the gift of your time. Take time out to show your mother that you value her, and all that she has done for you, by volunteering to complete tasks for her that you know she doesn't like to do. This could be cooking a meal, or even cleaning her home for her. Gift Idea #2 -- If your mother doesn't take time out of her busy day to pamper herself, give her a gift of some luxury spa products which she can use at her leisure in the privacy of her own home. Gift Idea #3 -- Women generally do not buy perfume for themselves. While some do, many wait to have their favorite scent gifted to them. If you are unsure which your mom's favorite scent is, a trip to her room can easily tell you. The bottle which is nearly empty is the best choice for you to purchase for her. Gift Idea #4 -- A mother's ring made with the birthstones of each of her children is an excellent gift choice for Mother's Day; this ring shows all that see it that your mother has children who love her. If your mother doesn't wear rings, you can also get a mother's pendant necklace which has the same effect. Gift Idea #5 -- Every woman loves to receive flowers. If your mother works outside the home, have them sent to her office so that everyone knows she is special to you. If your mother prefers plants to flowers, have the florist send a nice basket garden instead. Gift Idea #6 -- If your mother loves techie gadgets, and many these days do, a nice digital camera or cool new iPod could be just what she has been pining over. Mention new items on the market to her to get a feel for what she might enjoy having, but probably won't spend the money on to purchase for herself. Gift Idea #7 -- Buy a tree or star in her name. Many charities today allow you to purchase things such as trees in a park, bricks for a new building, or even a star in the sky. By doing this you give your mother something which will last a lifetime and beyond -- without adding clutter to her home. Gift Idea #8 -- Many mothers today simply want the gift of some time home alone. If you have younger siblings or a grandparent who your mother cares for, offer to take over for the day and allow her to spend the day off either hiding out somewhere at home or at a nearby location. Gift #9 -- Have your father and siblings gather together and take a nice photo for your mother. On Mother's Day present it to her in a nice frame so that she can hang it on her wall. Mothers always enjoy looking at their family all together in one place. Even if everyone is grown and out of the house, this can make a very special gift. Gift #10 -- While giving a typical household appliance won't be terribly appreciated by your mother, trust me on this one, a gift of a Dyson vacuum or a Kitchenaid mixer will be coveted. If the price is out of your range, you can ask your siblings to split the cost and then all deliver your mother an amazing gift come Mother's Day. Father's Day Gift Suggestions to Show Him You Care Shopping for men can always be a challenge, but often finding the right Father's Day gift to show your father how much you love him can be even more of a challenge. However, there are some simple things you can do, or purchase, to really show him that you love and care for him. Here are some gift suggestions to get you started thinking about what you can give that your father will love and appreciate this year. Gift Suggestion #1 -- If your father is handy around the house, and he enjoys the outdoors, a Swiss Army Knife is always a good selection. Swiss Army Knives stand for quality and function both at the same time. Gift Suggestion #2 -- There is this really cool device on the market called the "Auto Card Manager." It is used to store all of your credit cards, driver's licence, medical cards, etc: in and it keeps them from being broken like they can be when you sit on your wallet all day. This device is an excellent alternative to a wallet and something any dad would love to have. Gift Suggestion #3 -- If your father enjoys a good quality wine or other expensive spirit, they can make a great gift for the dad who won't buy them for himself, even though he would like to. Gift Suggestion #4 -- If your father enjoys a good sporting event such as professional football or basketball, why not buy two tickets and make a day of it -- just the two of you? You can take dad to a great event and you can build memories at the same time. To help build additional memories, try a nice tailgating party before the game. Gift Suggestion #5 -- One thing you notice growing up is that your parents often forego something for themselves to allow you to have the things you want and need. If your father is still wearing his old, funky watch from years ago, buy him a good quality one to replace it with and include a note that you enjoyed all the time he took to raise you. Gift Suggestion #6 -- If your father can't find his way around town, or if he loves to be in the woods hunting for treasures, a GPS can now be purchased for a very reasonable amount of cash. And, they can help your father find his way around in his life. Gift Suggestion #7 -- If dear old dad has always wanted a Porsche, but has been stuck in a Honda, rent him a luxury car for the day and allow him to drive around and enjoy the car. He might even find out that his Honda is more comfortable and be thankful to you that he got to find that out for himself. Gift Suggestion #8 -- Also if you are on the higher-end of the budget area, what about a day at race driver school for dad? What dad wouldn't love to drive a car on a race track? Gift Suggestion #9 -- If your dad is one who likes to show off his love for a pro sporting team, why not get him a grill cover or special decals for his vehicle so he can show it off in a big way? While grill covers, which go over your BBQ, used to be specialty items which were very expensive, they can now be purchased at places like Target for under $40. Gift Suggestion #10 -- If your dad is handy or enjoys working around the house, a new laser tape measure and level can be just what he has been secretly coveting. Both are a snap to use and are small enough for your father to easily fit into his pocket when they are not in use. As you can see, buying a cool gift for your father doesn't need to be too challenging. The best thing you can do is think about what your father likes and go with something similar.
The Mexican Holiday of Cinco de Mayo The Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo is held each year on the fifth of May to celebrate the Mexico's win over the French at the Battle of Puebla in the year 1862. Many people, especially Americans, assume that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico's independence; however, the true Mexican Independence Day Holiday is on September 16th. The Battle of Puebla is a battle which brought great national pride to the Mexican people because their small, poorly armed army of about 4,500 men was able to completely stop a French army, nearly twice their size, from invading Mexico. The victory showed the Mexican people what they could accomplish as a nation and spurred national pride and unity. Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday in the country of Mexico, but the largest celebration is held in the state capital of Puebla where the battle took place. In addition, the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world is actually held outside of Mexico in the Los Angeles area of California. The next two largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations take place each year in Denver, Colorado, and in St. Paul, Minnesota. Each of these three large events draws hundreds of thousands of participants each and every year. The town of Chandler, Arizona holds its own unique Cinco de Mayo celebration each year. Its festival is known for it's Chihuahua dogs and all of its events are centered around this favorite small dog of Mexico. There is even a Chihuahua parade, race, and pageant. Here in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become a popular holiday to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage. It is a time where families can come together, eat delicious Mexican foods, dance to Mexican music, enjoy Mexican art, and so much more. There are no special foods associated with the Cinco de Mayo celebrations other than good quality classic Mexican dishes. The big hits are usually enchiladas, burritos, guacamole, salsa, chips, and tacos. The beverages are usually blended margaritas, Corona beer, and soft drinks for the kids. Because the colors of the Mexican national flag are green, white, and red, most people decorate using these colors for their Cinco de Mayo celebrations. In addition, there are usually overflowing bowls of chips with salsa to snack on. If you will be planning your own Cinco de Mayo celebration this year, you should make sure to plan early and send out your invitations at least four weeks before the day of your party. Ask people to please RSVP so that you will have an idea how many people will be coming. In addition, if you have guests who are of Mexican decent, see if they can share with you their special, authentic recipes for food to serve at your party. After all, no one makes Mexican food better than Mexican people! If there will be children attending your Cinco de Mayo celebration, visit your local party store, or Mexican foods store, and purchase an inexpensive piņata. Fill the piņata with coins and candy and let the children at the party take a swing and break it open. This can be a fun activity for children and adults alike. Whether you are of Mexican descent or simply want to have a party with lots of good food and entertainment, a Cinco de Mayo party is always a great option. July 4th -- Celebrate Independence Day While the traditional 4th of July Holiday is to celebrate the anniversary of the declaration of the United States' independence from England, it is interesting to note that is not when Independence Day celebrations first began. Even more interesting to note is that even though the United States celebrates it's independence from England on that day; the holiday itself is largely based on English traditions. You may not know that during the sixteenth century there were many political and regions debates raging and a lot of discontent existed in the British Isles. During this time, the British people started using both official and unofficial anniversary dates to make their own political statements and show their alliances. They did this buy having parades and feasting which ultimately were to show other people who their alliances were with. When the colonizers left the British Empire, this tradition carried across the ocean. When discontent began to spread, these events were used as a means of protest which allowed the colonizers to show their political affiliations and messages based on their parades and dinners. It was all simply for show. Whenever there was a large parade, feast or other event happening, people often showed up simply to see what was going on. In this day, the large groups of people were seen as supporting whatever political opinion was being promoted -- whether they truly did or not. When the Declaration of Independence was printed, a staged celebration was created and the day was to be the celebration of independence from England, though no one ever did anything official for the day to become a holiday. Because the crowds were so large, it was assumed that the colonizers were interested in separating from the English and the movement proceeded. There were many original festivals to celebrate the Independence Day in the early years; however, the date which it came to be celebrated is July 4th. While the celebrations of the sixteenth century were essentially a political movement, today's Independence Day celebrations are based on the actual freedom the US gained from England. The celebrations have grown and evolved over the years, but in the last two hundred plus years, the celebration has been about our own independence as the United States of America. Modern day 4th of July festivities now include: parades, feasts, festivals, and other large gatherings of people. Often patriotic songs are played and people take a nice relaxing day off to enjoy simply living here in the United States. Many festivals and feasts are head in town parks. This allows the children to run free and play, while the adults enjoy a meal of largely BBQ and other picnic foods. Today some of the most popular foods for the 4th of July holiday are BBQ hamburgers and hotdogs, corn on the cob, and various macaroni and potato salads. In addition to the celebrations was the addition of fireworks. While fireworks are largely a Chinese tradition, they are used on the 4th of July by millions of Americans to help celebrate the day. Most towns and cities across the United States allow citizens to purchase at least safe and sane fireworks for their July 4th celebrations. As you can see, while the 4th of July is now celebrated as a national holiday, it once was staged as a sort-of political act. However, that political thinking caught on and the United States did get its freedom from England -- even though our parades and festivals are mostly in the English style. Thanksgiving Traditions Which Can Be Shared Year after Year Thanksgiving is a holiday each year where your family can really start some great family traditions. Often families tend to get into a rut after a while, and adding some new and interesting family traditions to the Thanksgiving celebration can really liven things up and give people something to look forward to all year. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for those people we treasure in our lives and those things we have been blessed with over the past year. A nice tradition to start is having everyone present at your Thanksgiving gathering go around the room and tell what they are thankful for in their lives. In addition to what they are thankful for, you can add on the tradition of also saying something nice about each person in the room. Another great family tradition is to have a white linen tablecloth on a different table than the one used for serving food, so that it does not become stained. Before or after the meal, hand out a black permanent marker to each person and ask them to write something on the cloth and sign their name and date it. You can then use the same cloth each year and have people continuing to add their information on it, or you can use a different cloth each year, maybe a smaller one, and have someone in the family turn them into stitchery or even a quilt. In addition to the above idea, you can have a journal book where everyone takes time out of their day to write in it what they are thankful for and a bit about the current life of their family. You can then look back over this journal as the years pass and reminisce about old times. If your guests tend to stuff themselves at the Thanksgiving meal, and who doesn't, then you might want to start a tradition of playing a game of football after the meal, or simply taking a long family walk. If you live near a wooded area, you can even ask people to collect pinecones to help decorate your home, and theirs, for the upcoming Christmas holiday season. As people get older, they generally focus more on service work and trying to spend time with other people. If your family is small you can all go to a local church or soup kitchen and help cook and serve the Thanksgiving meal to people in your community who are less fortunate than yourselves. If your family isn't the touchy-feely sort, spending time together watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on television, or even football, can be a fun way to spend the afternoon waiting for the turkey to finish cooking. If you have someone in your family who likes to take pictures, the Thanksgiving Day event can be a good time to get a yearly photo of the whole family. While the camera shy people will balk the first year, in years following they will participate willingly. Another fun family tradition for Thanksgiving is the breaking of the wishbone from the turkey and making a wish. This can be done by children, or you can have a contest to see who gets to break the wishbone. If your family is big into the Black Friday sales events which follow Thanksgiving, a fun tradition can be everyone going over the massive stack of ads which come in the Thanksgiving Day paper and sharing the best buys they find. No matter what traditions you have, or even what traditions you choose to start in the future, the important thing to remember is that Thanksgiving is about friends and family and coming together and giving thanks for all of the blessings in your life. It is a day to stop and give thanks for our lives and those special people who are in our lives with us each and every day. The Top 10 Christmas Gift Ideas for the Woman in Your Life Christmas is a wonderful time of year to show the woman in your life just how much you love and value her. Your gift to her will let her know just how special you think that she really is. Nothing shows your love better than a well thought out gift which takes into account her interests and desires. Here is a list of gift ideas to get you started on your way to purchasing the best gift for the woman in your life this coming holiday season: Gift Idea #1 -- One of the best Christmas gifts you can give the woman in your life is the gift of your time. Take time out to show the woman in your life that you value her, and all that she has done for you, by volunteering to complete tasks for her that you know she doesn't like to do. This could be cooking a meal, or even cleaning her home for her. Gift Idea #2 -- If the woman in your life doesn't take time out of her busy day to pamper herself, give her a gift of some luxury spa products which she can use at her leisure in the privacy of her own home. Great options for this are bath salts and nice smelling lotions or body butters. Gift Idea #3 -- Women generally do not buy perfume for themselves. While some do, many wait to have their favorite scent gifted to them by special family members. If you are unsure which scent is the favorite of the woman in your life, a trip to her room can easily tell you. The bottle which is nearly empty is the best choice for you to purchase for her. Gift Idea #4 -- A mother's ring made with the birthstones of each of her children is an excellent gift choice for Christmas for your mother or grandmother; this ring shows all that see it that your mother or grandma has children who love her. If your mother or grandmother doesn't wear rings, you can also get a mother's pendant necklace which has the same effect. Gift Idea #5 -- Every woman loves to receive flowers. If you're the woman in your life works outside the home, have some holiday flowers sent to her office so that everyone knows she is special to you. If the woman in your life prefers plants to flowers, have the florist send a nice basket garden or Christmas cactus instead. Gift Idea #6 -- If the woman in your life loves techie gadgets, and many these days do, a nice digital camera or cool new iPod could be just what she has been pining over. Mention new items on the market to her to get a feel for what she might enjoy having, but probably won't spend the money on to purchase for herself. From there you should get an idea of what the perfect gift will be. Gift Idea #7 -- Buy a tree or star in her name. Many charities today allow you to purchase things such as trees in a park, bricks for a new building, or even a star in the sky. By doing this you give the woman in your life something which will last a lifetime and beyond -- without adding unwanted clutter to her home. Gift Idea #8 -- Many women today simply want the gift of some time home alone. If you have younger siblings or a grandparent who your mother or other woman in your life cares for, offer to take over for the day and allow her to spend the day off either hiding out somewhere at home or at a nearby location. Gift #0 -- While giving a typical household appliance won't be terribly appreciated by the woman in your life, trust me on this one, a gift of a Dyson vacuum or a Kitchenaid mixer will be coveted. If the price is out of your range, you can ask others to split the cost and then all deliver this amazing gift come Christmas time. Top 10 Christmas Gift Ideas for Teachers and Bus Drivers If you have school-aged children, then you have some very important people to thank come Christmas time. The bus driver gets your children safely to and from school each day, regardless of the weather and other irritations. And, your child's teacher is tasked with helping them learn to grow intellectually while at the same time generally does the work for a small amount of pay and appreciation. In order for you to show your appreciation to your child's bus driver and teacher this Christmas, here are some ideas to help you think of the perfect gift: Christmas Gift Suggestion #1 -- Teacher appreciation gifts should be for the teacher themselves and not so much a gift for the classroom. If your secretary has done a great job this year, you don't reward her with a new office computer; you give her a bonus which she can spend on herself. The same idea goes for teachers and other service personnel as well. However, the one caveat to that are items which the school will never pay for and the teacher will end up purchasing out of their own pocket money. Christmas Gift Suggestion #2 -- One of the absolute best gifts that you can give to a teacher or bus driver does not have to cost a dime. What is it? The gift of a hand-written note from your child thanking them for what they have offered your child. Christmas Gift Suggestion #3 -- Many teachers start their day with a quick joke. A nice clean joke book, appropriate for the age of the kids, can make a great gift for a teacher. They can use this for a laugh, and they can also use it in their classroom as well. Christmas Gift Suggestion #4 -- Teachers always need board games to play in class, and even to enjoy at home with their own children. You can very easily choose a good quality game and then let the teacher decide on where she would like to use it. Christmas Gift Suggestion #5 -- Food items always make good gifts. However, you do not need to send in cookies or cakes to feel appreciation from teachers or bus drivers. Try buying their lunch or dinner by giving a gift card to your local restaurant or deli. Or, you can even give a simple gift card to a local grocery store. Christmas Gift Suggestion #6 -- Teachers love books. While books are always a welcomed gift, you can either choose one yourself or you can leave it up to the teacher by buying them a gift card for a book store such as Barnes & Noble which also gives them a discount on their purchases. Christmas Gift Suggestion #7 -- A low maintenance plant is always a good gift option. Try to stick to something easy to grow without too many requirements so they can be grown at school or at home. One of my personal favorites are cactus gardens and Christmas cactus flowering plants. Christmas Gift Suggestion #8 -- If the teacher or bus driver supports a cause make a donation in their name and give them a card with a note that you have done this. Christmas Gift Suggestion #9 -- If you have a talent that you can teach others how to do, why not offer to teach the class something interesting for the teacher. This gives them a break and helps them to plan a fun lesson at the same time. Christmas Gift Suggestion #10 -- Last but certainly not least, do not buy a teacher something with "#1 Teacher" or an apple on it. It is plain tacky and teachers generally have a ton of that stuff. Instead stick to something consumable if you have to send in something like a coffee mug. Replace that mug with some gourmet coffee or tea and the teacher will appreciate it! Christmas Gift Ideas for Young Parents-to-Be If you have young parents-to-be on your shopping list for this Christmas, there are some wonderful gift options open for you to choose from. You have the option of buying each of them a more traditional individual gift, gifting to them as a couple who are expecting, or gifting them something special to be used with their new baby. When you are trying to decide what gift to give to a couple who will be having a baby, it is important to know how far along they are and when the baby is due. Personally, I generally don't like to gift presents to be used for their baby until after the mom-to-be is in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. Before then there is just too much that can go wrong and I don't want my gift to turn into a sad reminder if something were to happen. So, before this time I tend to gift either to the couple together or individually. What I give depends on how well I know the people and what their interests are. When you will be gifting a couple who are expecting you have a unique option of giving them something that they can use before the baby comes or after. A good gift for before the baby comes is something like a day at a spa, movie theater tickets, and other outings which will be hard to attend once the baby is born. I like to take this opportunity to give the parents something which will help them relax and just simply have some fun. When you are going to give a gift to be used with the new baby, try and stick to neutral colors if the baby's sex is not known to you or the parents. You can choose from an endless supply of generic baby items at this point. You can do anything from a simple gift of cute clothing items or designer shoes, up to the gift of a crib or other furniture item. As a parent, here are some gifts we received, or wished that we had, for holidays leading up to the birth of our children: 1. Diapers, diapers and yet more diapers. Seriously, babies use tons of diapers and even if the parents are planning on using cloth, disposables will still have to be used in some situations. Ask what their choice is, paper or cloth, and then go from there. Also, remember that babies are only very small for a very, very short period of time. Buy diapers which can be used when the baby is older than a newborn. A huge supply of diaper wipes are also needed and appreciated as gifts. 2. Generally a baby shower gives the parents more than enough cute clothing to last the baby through most of their first year. So, for holiday giving a good idea can be a basket of all of the essential items a baby needs in their first year of life. Examples include: diaper rash cream, teething gel, teethers and pacifiers, nail clippers, baby shampoo and body wash, and any other small items you can find in the baby aisle at any local store which you think the parents would enjoy having. 3. Furniture for the nursery can be expensive. However, if you and all of your family members go in on it together and split the cost, you can surprise the parents-to-be with a very nice sized gift certificate to your local furniture store. If you know what furniture they are looking for you also have the option of buying it and setting it up for them as well. 4. A good quality car seat which can last for years is a must have for all parents. However, going out and spending a couple hundred dollars on a car seat can be hard for young parents to do. This makes a car seat a great option. Hopefully this has given you some ideas when you go Christmas shopping this year for the parents-to-be on your list. Christmas Gift Suggestions for the Man in Your Life Holiday shopping for men can be a real challenge. Often finding the right Christmas gift to show your father, spouse, or other man in your life how much you love them can be a down right painful experience. However, there are some simple things that you can purchase to really show him that you love and care for him. Here are some gift suggestions to get you started thinking about what you can give to the men on your shopping list this holiday season: Gift Suggestion #1 -- If the man in your life is handy around the house, and he enjoys the outdoors, a Swiss Army Knife is always a good selection. Swiss Army Knives stand for quality and function both at the same time. Every man can use and enjoy a Swiss Army Knife. Gift Suggestion #2 -- There is this really cool device on the market called the "Auto Card Manager." It is used to store all of your credit cards, driver's license, medical cards, etc: in and it keeps them from being broken like they can be when you sit on your wallet all day. This device is an excellent alternative to a wallet and something any man would love to have and use. Gift Suggestion #3 -- If the man in your life enjoys a good quality wine or other expensive spirit, they can make a great gift. Often men won't buy things for themselves, so gifts of things they really enjoy can be very well received. Gift Suggestion #4 -- If the man in your life enjoys a good sporting event such as professional football or basketball, why not buy two tickets and make a day of it -- just the two of you? You can take them to a great event and you can build memories at the same time. To help build additional memories, try a nice tailgating party before the game or a meal at a nice restaurant you both have been wanting to try. Gift Suggestion #5 -- If the man in your life is still wearing his old, funky watch from years ago, buy him a good quality one to replace it with. Most professional men need to wear a nice watch as a sign of their prosperity. Gift Suggestion #6 -- If the man in your life can't find his way around town, or if he loves to be in the woods hunting for treasures, a GPS can now be purchased for a very reasonable amount of cash. GPS units are great for both directions as well as hobbies such as hiking and geo-cashing. Gift Suggestion #7 -- If the man in your life has always wanted a Ferrari, but has been stuck in a Toyota, rent him a luxury car for the day and allow him to drive around and enjoy the car. He might even find out that his Toyots is more comfortable and be thankful to you that he got to find that out for himself. Gift Suggestion #8 -- If the man in your life is handy and enjoys working around the house, a new laser tape measure and laser level can be just what he has been secretly wishing for. Both are easy to use and are small enough to easily fit into a pocket when they are not in use. As you can see, buying a cool gift for the man in your life doesn't need to be too challenging. The best thing you can do is think about what he likes and go with something of a similar theme. The Top 10 Classic Christmas Gifts for Teenagers As any parent can tell you, buying gifts for teenagers can be a real challenge. And, if you need to purchase a gift for a teen, and you do not have teens of your own, the task can seem nearly impossible. Thankfully, there are many timeless Christmas gift options you can choose from for the teens on your list this year. Here are ten to get you started: Classic Teen Gift Idea #1 -- One timeless gift for a teen, boy or girl, is a nice watch. Teens are getting to the age where they can take care of their possessions better and it is time for them to have some nice items, such as a watch, which they can wear to church and other events when they will need to dress nicely. Classic Teen Gift Idea #2 -- Another timeless gift for a teen of either sex is the gift of a gold chain or bracelet. Once again, they are now old enough to not loose it, and they will appreciate having something nice to wear when it is time for them to dress up. Classic Teen Gift Idea #3 -- Teenagers are all about their clothing and shoes. Talk to their parents, or if you are the parent ask your teen, and find out what their desires are these days. Generally you can't go wrong with a hoodie or t-shirt with cool graphics on it. And, tennis shoes in the latest style make a great gift as well. Classic Teen Gift Idea #4 -- Today's tech savvy teens always appreciate a gift of an iPod or similar popular gadget. Their iPods allow them to listen to music while they are on the bus, a passenger in a car, etc: Classic Teen Gift Idea #5 -- Because many teens have MP3 players and iPods, they are always looking for money to download their favorite songs. Gone are the large record stores of their parent's day, replaced by music download sites on the Internet. A gift card to download music is always a good option for a teen. Classic Teen Gift Idea #6 -- The classic lava lamp is a cool accent to any teen room. They can be placed on the teen's desk and watched while they work on their homework or do other things in their room. Thankfully, with their popularity, even stores like WalMart now carry them. Classic Teen Gift Idea #7 -- Many teens need a little extra help getting out of bed in the mornings. This can be made a bit easier by the gift of a nice alarm clock. By getting one with Atomic Time they will never have to worry about resetting the time when the power goes out in the middle of the night. Classic Teen Gift Idea #8 -- For an older teen who carries a laptop, the gift of a cool laptop case can be a very appreciated gift. Classic Teen Gift Idea #9 -- Digital cameras are now very reasonably priced and make excellent gifts for a teen. Together with some rechargeable batteries and they are all set to take photos for years to come. Classic Teen Gift Idea #10 -- Last but not least: teens always wish they had money to buy the things that they want. The gift of cash or a gift card are always appreciated and valued. The Top 10 Christmas Holiday Gifts for Families Often purchasing individual gifts for members of your family, or extended family, becomes harder and harder over time. When we are children, we are very easy to buy presents for. However, as we get older, and our tastes get more set in, it becomes harder for others to buy us things which we will like and enjoy. A good solution to this issue is to purchase "family gifts" which everyone in the family can enjoy together. Here are today's top ten Christmas family gift suggestions to get you started on selecting a perfect gift for the family on your list -- yours or someone else's. Family Gift Idea #1 -- If you have a budget on the higher-end, a good suggestion is a Nintendo Wii gaming system. The Nintendo Wii is much more interactive and family friendly than you typical gaming system. Family Gift Idea #2 -- For more traditional families, or if you are on a much smaller budget, consider a gift of a game night basket. In this basket you can put a new board game or two, a deck of cards, and some snacks for their game nights. Family Gift Idea #3 -- If the family you are gifting enjoys movies, a movie night basket is a perfect gift. Include in the basket their favorite movie candies, some popcorn, and either a DVD or a gift card to their local video rental store. Family Gift Idea #4 -- For a family who is constantly on the move, the gift of something they can do together in the car can be just the ticket. Consider a gift of a trivia game or book which gives them car game ideas to try out. Family Gift Idea #5 -- If your family homeschools their children, or simply spends a lot of time visiting local attractions, a year membership to your local zoo or other large attraction will be a very welcomed gift. Family Gift Idea #6 -- Another great gift idea is to gather recipes from all of your family members and put it together into a nice recipe book for all of the families on your gifting list. Family Gift Idea #7 -- One tradition which works very nicely for family gifts for Christmas is the gift of a special Christmas tree ornament or ornament set each year. You can use them to commemorate any special happenings in their family each year. Family Gift Idea #8 -- Another big hit is a gift basket which includes chocolate in all forms, such as hot chocolate, gourmet chocolate candies, chocolate spoons to be used in drinks, etc: As long as no one is allergic, there isn't a family out there who won't enjoy this basket. Family Gift Idea #9 -- If the family you wish to gift has been struggling to make ends meet, you may wish to help them out without doing so in an overt manner. One simple way to do this is through a gift basket loaded with food items which they can use. Another simple way to do this is to fill a small gift basket with gift cards to local stores and gas stations in their area. By choosing a variety of stores you can allow them to purchase things they need to help get them through the next year. Family Gift Idea #10 -- Finally, the gift of an advent basket, or an "all week gift basket" can be a nice fun change from your typical gift basket. In this basket you will include wrapped gifts which will be opened one each day until Christmas. This is really enjoyable for children, even with small gifts to be opened. As you can see, gifting for a family can really be the way to go this Christmas season. Many people find it easier to purchase a gift, or make a basket, rather than try to find just the perfect gift for each member of the family. Making the Christmas Holiday Special by Building Traditions One of the best things you can do for the Christmas holiday is to build your own family traditions into the day. Family traditions are something that can be enjoyed by both adults and children, year after year. The first thing you want to do when you are planning to build your own family traditions is to think about what you did with your own family growing up and what you enjoyed most as a child. Are there things from your childhood, and the childhood of your spouse, which you can use to build lasting traditions for your own children? Starting with family traditions and then building your own is always a good idea. Early in the holiday season is the time to decide if your family traditions will include a visit to relatives or if you will spend the Christmas holiday at your own home. Some people prefer large gatherings for Christmas, while others prefer to spend a quieter day at home with their own children and spouse. Whatever you and your spouse decide is fine, as long as you are both in agreement with each other. One fun tradition you can build is acquiring your Christmas tree. You always have the option of fresh or artificial. For an artificial one you can build a tradition of everyone helping to put the tree together and place the ornaments on it. If you will be using a fresh tree, you can go out as a family to cut it down, either in a local forest or tree farm, or even always buy your Christmas tree from the same lot each year. You can then build traditions around who puts on what ornaments and who ultimately puts the topper on the tree. If you will be using a fresh tree, invariably you will have branches which you will need to be trimmed off of the bottom. Make it a family tradition to decorate with these fragrant bows around your home or have your children make and decorate a wreath with them for your front door, or even for an elderly neighbor. Another wonderful way to build tradition into your Christmas holiday is by remembering those less fortunate than your own family. It is always important to teach your children about giving to others and the fact that it is just simply a good thing to do as a human being. You can show this at the Christmas holiday season through gifts to an angel tree child or even through donations to a local food bank. Often quality foods are on sale during the holiday and it is a simple thing to pick-up some extra food items and then donate them to your local food bank. Just this simple act can be the difference between another family having food or not on the holiday. Churches and banks in my own local area often have a tree with paper "angel" stars on them. These are children who are in foster homes or in families who cannot afford gifts for them for the holiday. It can be a great family tradition to select a star or two from the tree and have your children help you shop for the gifts. This teaches empathy in your children and also shows them that the holiday is not all about what they receive, but also about what they give to others. Another way to build family traditions is through the food you make and serve at the holiday time. I know that in my own family, the Christmas holiday is the only time which we bake sugar cookies from scratch and decorate them. In fact, we usually take an entire afternoon and dedicate it to baking treats. Your children will look forward to this each year. As you can clearly see, building your own Christmas traditions doesn't have to be hard or extremely time consuming. However, if you take the time to think out the holidays, you can build in some traditions that will last a lifetime and even generations. Understanding the Holiday of Kwanzaa Kwanzaa is an African heritage holiday which was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Kwanzaa is celebrated through singing, speaking, dancing, and reciting just as is done in traditional African heritage celebrations on the continent of Africa. Kwanzaa is build on seven principles which are collectively known as "Nguzo Saba." These seven principles are: 1. umoja -- unity 2. kujichagulia -- self-determination 3. ujima -- collective work and responsibility 4. ujamaa -- cooperative economics 5. nia -- purpose 6. kuumba -- creativity 7. mani -- faith Dr. Karenga developed Kwanzaa from elements of various African heritages. The African version of the Kwanzaa ceremony was used to show appreciation for the "first fruits of harvest." The African Kwanzaa was made up of four basic elements which were; unity, awareness of ancestry and heritage, recommitment to traditional values, and reverence for creator and the creation. The modern celebration of Kwanzaa lasts for seven days, beginning on December 26th and ending on January 1st of each year. Each of the seven days of the celebration is dedicated to the seven principles listed above. Each day has a colored candle which represents it. They are all held in a candelabrum known as the kinara. The seven days and their associated candles and principles are: Day 1 -- middle candle -- Black -- Umoja -- Unity Day 2 -- innermost red candle -- Kujichagulia -- Self-determination Day 3 -- innermost green candle -- Ujima -- Collective Work and Responsibility Day 4 -- middle red candle -- Ujamaa -- Cooperative Economics Day 5 -- middle green candle -- Nia -- Purpose Day 6 -- outermost red candle -- Kuumba -- Creativity Day 7 -- outermost green candle -- Imani -- Faith The candelabra is placed on a straw mat known as the mkeka. Next to it are placed ears of corn, called vibunzi with one ear of corn to represent each child in the household. Also placed on the straw mat is a fruit basket alled mazao, and a unity cup called the kikonbe cha umoja. On the evening of the last day of the Kwanzaa celebration, a feast called Karamu is held. The evening generally starts with a welcome message, followed by a rememberance of ancestry, a seassessment of situations, a recommitment to values, a rejoicing, a farewell statement and a call for greater unity among all people. Finally, the last day of Kwanzaa, Imani, the focus is shifted to honoring traditions and reaffirmation of self throug gift giving to others. Kwanzaa gifts tend to be hand-made rather than store bought, and should reflect creativity because it is one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. It is very important to understand that the purpose of Kwanzaa is not about giving gifts or a religious celebration. Kwanzaa is simply a commermoration of African heritage and a celebration of togetherness. Kwanzaa is a time for families and friends to come together and celebrate. In addition, the guiding principles of Kwanzaa are meant to bring our more solidary society back together as a group. Kwanzaa aims to bring people together and reunify families and friends in a way that no other African tradition can here in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Understanding the Holiday of Chanukah for the Rest of Us If you are not Jewish, you may have wondered about the holiday of Chanukah but have never had anyone to ask your questions of. Thanks to the Internet you can not get the answers to all of your questions even if you do not have any Jewish friends. The first question many people ask is about the word "Chanukah" versus the spelling "Hanukkah." The reason for the two spelling is because the letters in the Hebrew alphabet are different than those of the English alphabet. Essentially, both can be used interchangeably and either spelling is fine. Chanukah is the Hebrew term for rededication and the celebration of Chanukah is known as the festival of lights. Chanukah begins on the 25th day of the month using the Jewish calendar. This means that it falls somewhere during November or December each year. The celebration lasts for eight days during which time Jewish people celebrate, light candles, and exchange small gifts. Chanukah started over 2300 years ago in what is now known as Israel. The Hebrew people, also known as Jewish people, were ordered to give up their God and worship only the Greek Gods as other people of the time did. The Jewish temples were destroyed and any Jewish people who chose to worship in their own way were severely punished for it. Some of the Jews chose to obey the mandate, while others refused. One of the men who refused to worship the Greek Gods was a man by the name of Judah Maccabee. Judah and his four brothers began an army of dissidents and asked as many other Jewish people to join them as they could. This army fought it's enemy the Syrians for about three years until one day they were victorious and reclaimed their Temple in the city of Jerusalem. The first priority of the Jewish people was to clean and rededicate the temple to the service of the Jewish God. They washed the temple, removed any Greek symbols and idols from it, and were ready to rededicate it to their own beliefs. Blessed oil was required to rededicate the Temple yet none could be found by Judah. They searched high and low and finally found a very little amount of oil in a Temple chamber. They knew that there was only enough oil for one evening, but when they lit it a miracle occurred, the small amount of oil burned for eight nights! This is why the Jewish people light a Menorah each of the eight nights of Chanukah, to represent the eight evenings the oil burned for. A Menorah is a special candle holder which holds a total of nine candles. Eight of the candles are for use each night of Chanukah, and the other candle is known as the "servant" and used to light the other candles. The candles are lit each evening and on the final night each of the eight candles all burn together. This is to signify the eight nights the oil burned in the Temple. While oil used to be burned in a Menorah, today colorful candles have replaced the oil. In additon to the nightly lighting of the Menorah, Jewish children play a game called Dreidel. A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top which has Hebrew letters on each side standing for "A Great Miracle Happened There." Children play the dreidel game by spinning the top and wagering candy coins. The foods of Chanukah tend to be very oily. The reason for this is the fact that their holy oil burned for the eight days in the Temple. One favorite Chanukah food is latkes. Latkes are potato pancakes which are made from graded potatoes which have been mixed with eggs, onions, and flour and then fried in oil. Hopefully, this will help you to better understand the Jewish celebration of Chanuakah a little bit better.
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