I Love Christmas!!!

I Love Christmas!!!

And, of course, Harry Potter and The Grinch...

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"Finals week is coming" is just two words off from being a Game of Thrones quote, but it holds so true now. I found myself stressing about how to schedule my studying days so I can not fail these exams, and then everything just went crazy. Escape was necessary, and I found it at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Yes, I know it sounds like a bad idea to go to a theme park three days before the two finals I'm most worried about, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity! Universal Hollywood invited me to visit their park and studios and check out the Christmas themed events they had going on. To quickly sum up the experience into the word "magical" falls short of what I experienced. So here is where my love for Christmas, The Grinch, and Harry Potter come out.

As a child who grew up with the releases of the Harry Potter movies and Jim Carrey's The Grinch, it makes sense that they live in a dear part of my heart. When Universal Hollywood invited me to explore "Christmas in the Wizarding World" and "Grinchmas" (clever, I thought), I could not contain my excitement. After my friend and I spent the daytime exploring the rest of the attractions and taking the world-famous Studios Tour, we giddily ran to the entrance to Hogsmeade.

The enormous crowd we encountered seemed like it would just burst with excitement for Harry Potter alone, and then came the snow. In L.A., snow is definitely not common, so being in such an immersive locale with the feeling of winter and Christmas perfectly replicated was seriously magical. Once we entered, we were blown away by the lighting design on the ornate buildings from Rowling's novels. Those lights, including the incredible light show surrounding Hogwarts castle, reflected off the falling snow, radiating a beautiful glimmer throughout the crowd. Smiling faces abound and children laughing wrapped up Christmas in Hogsmeade with a wonderful bow.

On our way out, the centerpiece of the park was in full swing. Complete with the iconic bent Christmas tree and those recognizable houses in Whoville, my attention was snagged just as easily as in Hogwarts. Live performances featuring song, dance, and wonderful acting brought Whoville to life. I could just imagine the sweet Who-song featured in the movies ringing through the air and enveloping the crowd into its own imaginary world. While studying would be my parents' choice for spending a Sunday, I was ever so grateful to come to the park. Universal Studios Hollywood will be running Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter until January 6, and Grinchmas running until December 30, so grab the kids (or a best friend) and make the trip up to the park and immerse yourself in a world free from worry.

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The True Meaning Of Christmas And Gift Giving

Preparing for Christmas should be more about preparing the heart and less about the gifts.
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What many people think of when they think of Christmas preparations are the lists of presents they have to buy, the decorations they have to put up, the cookies they have to bake, and the cleaning they have to do. Although those things have become cultural staples for the holiday, they can sometimes conceal the real reason for the season. The Advent season is more about a preparation of the heart than a preparation of the hearth. In some ways, our society seems to be getting things backwards. This is a time of preparation for Christ's coming, but sometimes it seems like instead we are getting wrapped up in all the wrapping paper and consumed by the consumerism.

Why do we even give each other Christmas gifts in the first place? The custom of giving Christmas presents to one another comes from the example of the wise men, who traveled a long and arduous journey in order to present Christ with gifts to honor and adore him. Gift-giving is a symbol of love. During Christmas, it should remind us of the gift of Christ that we were given 2000 years ago and are continually given each and every day. These gifts symbolize our need to give the gift of Christ to others, as well as our need to receive him from others. However, the problem with giving gifts on Christmas is that the focus becomes on the gift itself, rather than on the gift we are celebrating–Jesus Christ. We get excited for Christmas, more often because of the excitement from opening gifts than from the joy that comes from celebrating the gift of our Savior.

The gift-giving custom has gotten way out of hand. Each year, the U.S. spends hundreds of billions of dollars on Christmas gifts, and I, too, am certainly a contributor to that number. We feel this need to participate in the practice because it is expected of us. Plus, it is difficult to deny the excitement of wanting to see others' desires fulfilled, while also satisfying your own. In the end, though, it is only surface-level. The happiness does not last. The presents are opened, and soon enough, the excitement and fulfillment fade, and next year, we only have new things we want in order to feel "fulfilled." The only thing that can truly fulfill us is Jesus Christ himself!

So what if instead of focusing on the presents we all focused on what will last, on something that will bring us all a deeper fulfillment? What if we all gave a gift to Jesus, instead, out of a grateful heart for the gift of himself that he has given us? What if we all committed to sacrifice a little bit more to give some time to others by volunteering more, perhaps at a soup kitchen or visiting the elderly? What if, instead of spending all that money on gifts for ourselves, we asked people to donate to a good cause to help someone who is in need? If we all decided to do this, just imagine how beautiful the world could be, filled with love that points toward everlasting joy! For Jesus says, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me"(Matthew 25:40). In giving ourselves to others, we are letting Christ reach out to those around us and are celebrating his coming, not only 2000 years ago but also today, in our own lives and within our own hearts.

So next time someone starts to ask you about your Christmas preparations, think about your heart. Is your heart prepared? Is there room in your heart to give to others, not materially, but spiritually, in a way that will lead them to greater fulfillment? Step aside from the presents, and take the time to draw near to adore the true gift of Christmas in beautiful thanksgiving.

May your heart be filled with the joy that can only come from him this holiday season, and may your heart be prepared so as to be able to let him give himself to others through you.

Merry Christmas!




Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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I'm Keeping My Christmas Tree Up All Winter And There's Nothing You Can Do About It

It's the WINTER Season... ;-)

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I think that my tree would not be considered Christmas-y if the ornaments are taken off and the lights are kept on. I think to just looks wintry. I am also keeping up decorations that say "let it snow", and I am keeping up any snowman without holly berries or presents in their hands.

The tree looks wintry in my opinion. It looks pretty with the lights and brings the room together. It gives off a warm ambiance, unlike that of fluorescent lighting.

I've taken all ornaments off except for gold snowflakes and I've left the silver tinsel garland on as well as the lights. It looks wintry to me still. I will probably be taking the whole tree down by the end of this month to prepare for Valentine's Day decorating. (Yes, I pretty much decorate my apartment for every holiday—sue me).

There's nothing like coming downstairs and seeing those lights sparkling.

Or coming inside from a dreary, rainy day outside and seeing them light up the room in a calm, warm, and comforting glow.

Or having a bad day, looking up, and seeing them shine.

It sort of makes me upset when I come downstairs and see that someone has unplugged them, to be honest.

I guess they don't see it as I do.

Pretty, twinkling lights forever!

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