My Top 5 Favorite Christmas Traditions

My Top 5 Favorite Christmas Traditions

The most festive activities of the holiday season.
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As the Christmas season comes to a close, and life returns back to normal, I figured I would share some of my favorite holiday traditions.

1. Baking.

For as long as I can remember, my mother always baked. No matter what time of year it was, she was baking. This did not change around the holidays; rather, it became more common. Usually, once or twice during the month of December, my mother and I would bake cookies, Christmas Crackle, and other treats to give to my grandparents and other family friends. My friends always love coming to my house during the holiday season because we always have our traditional frosted sugar cookies. I love baking and it is always better to make treats for the ones you love.

2. Decorating.

Growing up, my mother always decorated the inside of my house extensively for Christmas. By the second week of December, the house was decked in garland, window lights, and my grandmother’s old nativity set. Our tree is always full of ornaments, both those my siblings and I made in elementary school and those compiled over the years. Whenever we go on a trip, my mother buys an ornament. I took to this tradition and have decorated my bedroom for the past few years. This was no different this year. I came back from Thanksgiving break with Christmas decorations for my dorm and I had them up an hour after I returned to school!

3. Going to look at lights.

One of my earliest memories after my family moved to Cape Cod when I was a toddler, is one cold night before Christmas getting lost driving around looking at lights. Every year after Thanksgiving, my dad would take us to go look at lights. We would all load into the car and drive around town.

As we got older, my brothers lost interest; however, my dad and I still go out, look at lights, and grab hot chocolate. Recently, these giant light sculptures have popped up around my town. After Thanksgiving, one road in my town is lined with them lit up after sunset. It makes for a great ride, as there are always new ones popping up! Below is one of the giant light sculptures in front of my high school. It is the blue knight, our mascot!

4. Christmas music.

Whether it be old, original holiday music, or old classics revived by popular artists, I love Christmas music. My family has a large basket of Christmas CDs that are brought up every year in our crates of Christmas decor. The staple in my family’s house during the holidays is Clay Aiken’s Christmas soundtrack. It was always playing at all hours of the day; however, when we brought up the CDs this year, it was missing. Needless to say, we have been playing it off Spotify via an AUX cord. When I think of Christmas, I always think of that CD.


5. Yankee swap.

Every year since before I was born, my family has gathered at my mom’s parents’ house on Christmas Eve. We exchange gifts and spend the holiday together. It has always been my favorite day of the year. When all of my cousins, siblings, and I were younger, my grandmother put together a Santa sack full of small toys and clothing for each of us. We outgrew that and within the past few years, we switched to a Yankee swap. This Yankee swap includes all of us bringing a gift, good or silly. It is always the best part of the night. It becomes competitive and fun.

Cover Image Credit: Sarah Simmons

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12 Gifts To Give Your Girlfriend On Valentine's Day

All of these gift ideas will for sure win over your girlfriend's heart this year!
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To all the last-minute gift givers of Valentine's Day:

Don't panic. While I know how stressful it can be to get the perfect gift for your significant other, there are so many gift ideas that people always forget as an option. The best part about Valentine's day is not the gifts you get, but rather the romantic time you get to spend with your loved one. So don't worry about how expensive the gift is, just worry about how much thought you put into it. If you are still stuck on a gift to buy for your girlfriend, here are 12 ideas to get the ball rolling for you:

1. Chocolate



Chocolate is every woman's best friend. It also can be your wallet's best friend for this Valentine's Day season. A box of chocolate can warm your girlfriend's heart for a low price.

Buy a box on Amazon.


2. Flowers



Flowers. Another common, but romantic gift for your girlfriend. Get creative with it. Throw rose pedals all over the bed, or hand her a giant bouquet all at once. Either way I am sure she will love it.

Buy them on Amazon.


3. Giant Teddy Bear



This is a gift that I always found so adorable. While it can be obnoxious to purchase and carry around, the look on your girlfriend's face when she sees it will make it all worth it. She can cuddle the bear when you're not around. ;)

Buy one on Amazon.


4. Wine



Again, another luxury that is a woman's best friend. You cannot go wrong with buying your girlfriend a bottle, or bottles, of wine. The only question you have to ask yourself when buying it is, red or white?

Buy a set of glasses to match on Amazon.


5. A Couple's Massage

Um, hello. Who wouldn't love this gift? Not only is it a gift for her, but it is one for you as well. This gift can also be surprisingly cheap. Many places offer amazing deals during the Valentine's Day season!


6. Dinner

There is absolutely nothing wrong with just taking your girlfriend to a romantic dinner on Valentine's Day. Dinner can be expensive enough as it is, the important thing to remember is to make memories that will last a lifetime during the meal.


7. A Movie



Again, nothing wrong with just going to a movie for the night. Sometimes a movie can set the level of romance you need for Valentine's Day.

Buy an AMC gift card on Amazon.


8. A Necklace



I know what you're thinking, too expensive! Don't throw away the necklace idea just yet. There are so many stores that sell such elegant necklaces, and they are decently priced as well. Check out stores like Alex and Ani, or Pandora for great deals, or just order from Amazon!


Buy one on Amazon.


9. A Ring



While this gift may only apply to a select few, imagine how memorable this day would be for your girlfriend. Do not think it is too cliche to propose to your girlfriend on Valentine's Day. Who cares how many other people do it, think about the joy it will bring her.

Buy a diamond ring on Amazon.


10. Clothes



Plan and buy your girlfriend's outfit for the night! It saves her time figuring out what to wear, and you just bought her clothes that she will absolutely adore!

Buy a sweater she will love on Amazon.


11. A One Night Stay at a Hotel



I don't think I have to say anything about this gift. You all know how romantic this is.

Buy a Hotels.com gift card on Amazon.


12. Personalized Picture Frame



A gift that is beyond thoughtful. Taking all of your pictures of memories from before and putting them together for your girlfriend is a gift that will for sure have her in tears.

Buy one on Amazon.


Please note that all items are in stock as of the time of publication. As an Amazon Associate, Odyssey may earn a portion of qualifying sales.

Cover Image Credit: Chip Party Ideas

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Christmas Of Remembrance Series: My Last Letter

Christmas time is not about the gifts... It is about something far, far more special.

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Dear Reader,

Thank you for your time.

This is a series that I have dedicated to those I have loved and lost. It was merely a thought, then an idea, and now a realized creation. Christmas time… all winter really is a hard time for me. It holds this duality in my life of being both my favorite and also my least favorite and difficult time of year. It has been that way for years now.

In a way, this series aids my closure and healing further, and it allows me to tell my story in a way that, to me, is less scary (one of the many great facets of this platform). It was never my intention to write this in order to reach people, or encourage people, or serve as an inspiration to anyone. This was for me and only me. No one else. But, if these pieces of writing do impact someone, somewhere, or make them feel encouraged or inspired in some way or another, or just simply make them feel, then I hope you have enjoyed them. If I can make someone feel, then I guess I have done my job.

The life of an artist is often an uncertain one. The life of a human is a trying one. But life is a journey, and all journeys have their trials. Their tests. Their triumphs and rewards. And they all have their losses. What matters most is what you make of all of it. What lessons you learn. What changes you make. What life you create for yourself. What art you create because of it all. It can be very, very hard. But it can all be glorious at the same time.

At the heart of this series, my words, there is this deep and valuable belief of mine: Christmas (or the Winter Holiday that you may celebrate) is so much more about presents and cooking and shopping and all that other bullshit… it is about family.

The family that is related by blood. The family that surrounds your heart. Your Mom. Your brother. Your dearest friends. The bonds that make life valuable. Worth living. These bonds are soulful bonds, ones that are far more special than any mere trivial object. So… be with them. Forgive. Forget. Heal. Mend what is broken. Reassemble what has been shattered. And stop worrying so much. Laugh together. Cry together. Heal on another. Heal together. And may your new days be better, brighter, and full of love.

Happy Holidays.

Ty


A song for you...

"Sense of Home" — Harrison Storm / YouTube

If you liked this series, I invite you to check out my previous article below…

To My Fellow 孤, The Sons Without Fathers On Father’s Day

As well as this article by a fellow creator…

What You Learn Losing A Parent So Young

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