Dear Friends, 

As December begins we find ourselves moving full steam ahead into the holiday season.  O.K., some people have already started, but for those of us who cannot face a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November in the U.S.)  the fun has just begun.  Along with the family/school/church activities also comes stress, and since everyone has their own unique way of dealing with/celebrating the holidays, we have some practical, witty, and heart-warming contributions to share with you. You may find a tradition to add to your own family celebration. 

Happy Holidays and much Love and Luck in the New Year, 

Allie and Ansie


 As those of you with small children (and those of you who remember when your kids were small) know, the holidays, while exciting are also stressful.  Here are a few strategies I have found to be helpful:

-         Stick to regular bedtimes and mealtimes.  No matter what the activity, your child will not enjoy it if they are tired or hungry (that goes for spouses, too). 

-         When it comes to shopping leave the kids at home (that goes for spouses, too).  Find a neighbor or friend to trade shopping/babysitting time. 

-         My oldest child was 10 weeks old at the time of his first Christmas.  After 1300 miles, 5 homes, and 7 days, the only sound in the car on the way home was whimpering and wailing.  Thank goodness the baby slept most of the way.  The following year, with memories of Christmas past still fresh in our minds, we rebelled against tradition and stayed home and it’s been that way ever since. We don’t travel during the holidays.  Anyone and everyone are welcome to join us at our home.  (If you think your family would never let you get away with this, try it.  I’ve had people tell me they wished they had done it YEARS ago.  It would have saved some very frayed nerves.)

-         Dinner is potluck, laid back, and celebrated at my house (which really works out well because my house is “kid-friendly” and “child proofed” and has all the paraphernalia for babies, i.e. crib, playpen, changing table, gates, etc.)  Since we have a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving I try to do something different for Christmas.  One year we ate Italian, another was just “Bring your favorite food”, and last year I made Beef Wellington.  The best thing about it is that while the women get the meal together, it is the men who do the cleanup afterward.  That way, we all get to relax at some point and enjoy the day. (And the guys think they are geniuses because they can fit all the leftovers into the fridge.) 

I think the key to handling holiday stress is to not have any expectations, be open to whatever comes your way…by that I mean your meal may not be perfect, your children may not be angels, your brother-in-law’s best friend’s sister may miss her flight and you may have another person to squeeze into an already crowded table (at this point, I move the kids to the kitchen and put the oldest in charge of crowd control).  Go with it and a good time will be had by all, including you!



 Hi all -- I handle stress by going to Christmas Tree Lightings and Carol Singings -- the town next to me has a wonderful celebration the First Friday in December -- last year I brought my special friend from Belarus and he and I had a wonderful time, drinking hot chocolate and just walking around looking at the sights -- I find that watching children with Santa Claus helps too. As far as traditions -- there has been a special family one every year -- it is actually Christmas Eve -- it is from the region in Italy (northern) that

my family is from -- We don't eat meat on Christmas Eve -- the family enjoys a special lobster casserole and then we open gifts then -- at midnight we go to Mass and then back to the house for meat -- right now it is just my mother and myself but it is still special.

On Christmas Day I have the grandchildren over and I put the pickle in the tree for them to find (I am also part Czech/German) the child who finds it gets a dollar (well actually they all get a dollar). 



It's me, Gio. 

Well, this piece is by Luciana Littizzetto, a wonderful Italian comedian that, through fun and sarcasm, makes great analyses of Women's everyday issues. She is really cool. Here it is: 


New year. New way of life? Basically, the same. With a few new certainties. Like Cindy Crawford who, in a commercial for a vacuum cleaner, lets us know that she hates dust mites. Terrific. We needed her with her mole to tell us. Just think that, on the contrary, we are crazy for them. We proudly raise them in the hems of the carpets. Happily, we allow them to reproduce in the corners of the fireplace. Go, Cindy, go...just go back to Illinois and, if you can, take with you that turnip Richard Gere with his pralines. (Another Italian commercial, NB) What tiredness. I don't know what is tolerance anymore. Maybe it's the magic of Christmas. Oh yeah. What the heck does a woman do during

Holidays? She frays her soul and her body. With one hand she draws her salary and with the other one she pays the bills, buys presents for the kids, prepares the hangings, decorates the Christmas tree, settles the gas installment, cooks raviolis, buys a Christmas flower for her mother- in-law, runs to the hairdresser, fills the car, hangs the mistletoe on the door, treats the flu of the youngest son that always becomes ill during Holidays, sends

Christmas wishes to her hubby's colleagues, soaks the lentils, buys firecrackers for New Year's Eve, and, to avoid wasting time, sweeps the floor with a broom tied to her ass.

And the man? This damn idiot? He wears a red costume and a white beard and he plays Santa Claus. Period. Then he plays all the time with the kids and tells them, "Mommy isn't longing to play because she didn't remain childish like me!" You didn't remain childish, my dear invertebrate love, you remained foolish.... do you understand it? Those small 3 or 4 letters are making the difference. To you, my sweetheart, the maximum of transgression is sleeping without your pants. Do you know, sweet strawberry, that you're a 2nd quality man? You're like the shoulder ham with polyphosphates. If you eat it you won't die, but in the long run you damage your health. Ah, I forgot. Do you see those sparkling horns that still are under the Christmas tree? They're for you.   ("Putting horns on somebody" is an Italian slang that means betraying him)                

Hope you liked it. So you also have an idea of Italian traditions!   Hugs, Gio 




I was born in the 1950’s in a small town in north
central Wisconsin, a farming town in the north central portion of the state.  I was the fifth of seven children, in a lower-middle-class family that was very much involved in our church.  Christmas was an important holiday for the family, despite constant money worries; Mom and Dad went out of their way to save enough funds to make things special for all us kids.  So, my Christmas memories from my childhood are beautiful, and very dear to me. 

Like most families, I would guess, we had specific traditions.  We always had a real Christmas tree, usually a spruce that Daddy insisted on choosing himself.  It went up on December 23, and was decorated in a specific way that included hanging tinsel strand by strand until the entire tree was one unbroken shimmering silver triangle – we kids weren’t allowed to help hang the tinsel until we were at least in senior high school, although we could help take it down on New Year’s Day – Dad would be absolutely horrified at how long people keep their Christmas trees up these days.  Old-fashioned Christmas lights with silver reflectors, and an incredible array of red, blue, and green balls completed the decorations.  As soon as the tree was up and decorated, my siblings and I changed into our Christmas-best dresses or suits, to kneel in front of the tree for the traditional Christmas photograph.  Then, because my mother insisted on keeping the Biblical Christmas front and center, we all watched as she personally erected the little nativity set her father had made for her when she was a little girl.  For Mom, Christmas was a celebration of family, from the Christ family down through the ages to our family, and we never had any doubt that the ‘gift’ we were symbolically giving each other represented God’s incredible gift to humankind: His only begotten Son. 

Our presents to each other, and one present for each of us from Mom and Dad, were the only presents wrapped and placed under the tree, and we were forbidden to touch them before Christmas morning.  The big focus was on going to church for the Candlelight service Christmas Eve, a service that was mostly Christmas carols and, of course, candles for everyone in the congregation.  After the service, I sometimes chose to walk home; in that town, at that time, no one doubted that I would be safe, and this gave me some of my most treasured Christmas memories.  The one that stays foremost in my mind was my thirteenth Christmas.  It was snowing lightly; the temperature was just cold enough that the snow was crisp, not 80% water, and the cloud cover wasn’t thick, so the moon and even a few stars shone through.  I walked home alone, kicking at the snow and singing my favorite carols to myself.  Other than my quiet singing, everything was totally hushed, that special stillness that accompanies new snow.  I had never previously felt so close to Christmas, and to God and His Creation, as I did that night, and I have never felt so close since.  It was absolutely beautiful, and I could have walked for hours.  

But, I knew I would be expected at home, to go upstairs to bed by 9:30 sharp.  Only after we went to bed would the rest of the Christmas presents be placed under the tree: these were our presents from Santa, although I do not remember a time when I didn’t know that it was my parents who were putting all those unwrapped presents out.  Santa Claus was fun; we loved hearing “T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house …”, but we knew without a doubt that he wasn’t real.  Anyway, we would be sent up to bed, and couldn’t come down to explore until Mom called us for breakfast in the morning.  Even then, we had to eat first, and only afterward would we actually receive our gifts.  Do you know, I can only remember a very, very few specific items: my very first record player, a goofy game from my older brother called “Changeable Charlie’s Aunt”.  What I remember most were the emotions, the closeness, the happiness, the love.  The gifts seem incidental now, looking back, although at the time I probably valued them very highly. 

That thirteenth Christmas, however, is the last one I can remember clearly as being so happy.  Just before Thanksgiving the next year, only a week before his tenth birthday, one of my younger brothers was struck by a drunk driver, and died the next day.  Our church (by which I mean the ministers and the congregation rather than God Himself), which we had made such a centerpiece of our family life, let us down very badly at that time, and the family never really recovered.  Oh, Mom and Dad – especially Mom – tried very hard to keep Christmas up the same as always, but we all felt differently. The pictures in front of the tree stopped.  Over the years, we pulled away from the Candlelight Service, and began opening Christmas presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning.  Gradually, we all drifted away from the church we were raised in.  Most of my siblings simply joined whatever church their spouses belong to.  Once all of us were away from home, all traditions of our old family Christmas pretty much faded; my sibs all celebrate Christmas with their in-laws, Mom doesn’t really celebrate Christmas anymore, and I frequently just stay home with my roommate and my cat.  The family holidays now are Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July, which was also my parents’ wedding anniversary. 

So, each year as Christmas approaches, I find myself dreaming of that special walk home from church on Christmas Eve when I was thirteen.  And I wish there were some way I could recover that exact feeling, but since innocence was such a large part of it then, I doubt it’s possible.  I can come close, though, and I continue to try.  This year, I plan on making a very special attempt, in remembrance of all those who lost loved ones on September 11 and will therefore be feeling this Christmas much as my family did the year I was fourteen.  God gave us his Son full knowing the suffering that lie ahead, and I intend to let Him know how grateful I am.  Christmas is still a time for celebrating family: The Human Family. 


The above material is considered the combined property of Ansie and Allie.
If you wish to use this article, in part or whole, please contact them at for their permission.