Tag Archives: Christmas

Happy New Year 2021!

Happy New Year, everyone!

We did it. We made it through 2020. A new year is now upon us.

Usually, New Year is just a formality. However, this time is different. I’ve already highlighted why. I don’t want to belabor it again. Most of us with news feeds already know why 2020 sucked so much.

Instead of harping on how rough the previous year was, I just want to look ahead to 2021. It’s definitely going to be a year of rebuilding. We have a long road ahead of us, but we definitely have the tools to make 2021 much better than 2020. The bar for improvement is very low, but let’s not settle for less.

Today, let’s all just take a step back, take a deep breath, and take some satisfaction in that we made it this far. Quite a few poor souls weren’t as lucky. Let’s acknowledge and honor those who didn’t make it by making 2021 the best year it can possibly be.

Again, the bar is very low. Let’s still put in the extra work. If every there was a year to overcompensate, it’s this one.

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My Day After Christmas Traditions (That I Encourage Everyone To Try)

I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful Christmas. I certainly did. After a year as bad as 2020, a nice Christmas with friends and family is just what I needed.

Now, it’s over. I know kids and adults alike often grapple with a mix of emotions once it’s over. In fact, I’d wager that December 26th is almost everyone’s least favorite day of the year, if only because it marks the longest wait until next Christmas.

As someone who loves Christmas more than most, I understand that. However, in recent years, I’ve found a way to make the day after Christmas uniquely enjoyable and I’d like to share it.

It used to be the day after Christmas was just a fog. We were all still buzzing from getting our presents and dining on so many Christmas cookies. It was always bittersweet and a bit jarring. Then, a few years ago, I uncovered a way to make it something worth looking forward to.

It starts with a good, hardy breakfast. When I began, I did it on my own. First, I would sleep in. I got up at least an hour later than I usually do. Then, I make myself a big breakfast, usually including bacon, eggs, and pancakes.

I don’t hold back. I make it extra big. The diet I usually maintain over the course of the year goes out the window, at least for one more day. I also drink only decaf coffee for reasons that will become obvious in a moment.

In more recent years, I’ve gone out for breakfast at a nearby diner. I often went with some siblings or relatives who were still in town. I know that may not be possible this year, but it achieved the same result. I enjoyed a big, hardy breakfast to start my day.

Once I finish that big breakfast, my day gets a lot slower. I make it a point to set everything aside, be it work, a certain chore, or a project I’d been working on. I take one day to just table everything so I can just take a step back, take a deep breath, and decompress.

It’s even more therapeutic than it sounds. Oftentimes, I’ll use this day to just sit on the couch, catch up on movies and shows, and basically do as little as possible. It’s a day in which all the work I did over the past year comes into perspective. It also helps clear my head for the year to come.

After a year like this, I think everyone needs a day like that. Given how eventful Christmas Day can be, I think it’s only fitting that we use the day after to balance things out. For one day, we don’t get overly active or push ourselves. We don’t obsess over how much we have or want to get done for that day.

Instead, we just use that day to catch our collective breath. However you do it, make the effort. One year, I took a long bath while comedy specials played on my iPad. It was magical. If you have something like that you can do today, I highly recommend it.

We all need this.

We all have to take a step back, take a deep breath, and just let our bodies catch up to our minds.

There will be plenty of busy days to come. For a day like today, let’s just make an exception.

I hope this advice helps all those who take it.

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Merry Christmas And A Special Message (of Hope) for 2020

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I know it’s 2020 and the holiday have been deeply affected by the overall awfulness of this past year, but it’s still here. It’s still something worth celebrating. So, in the name of sharing some special holiday cheer for such a uniquely awful year, I made this video to boost everyone’s spirit on this very special day. Enjoy!

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Christmas Eve: Sentiments And Reflections

It’s Christmas Eve.

All the holiday planning and preparation is about to come together, as it does every year on one glorious day.

When the year began, we probably had a good idea of how Christmas was going to look this year. We probably had a general idea of how the year would look in general.

Then, a once-in-a-generation pandemic struck and all those ideas collapsed.

However, I don’t want to spend Christmas Eve lamenting on how bad this year has gone. I’ve already done plenty of that. Instead, I want offer some insight and hope.

Yes, Christmas this year is bound to be different, but the spirit and sentiments of the season aren’t completely muted. Even a pandemic can’t stop that.

Like so many other things this year, we just have to adapt. That may mean less travel, less parties, and even less presents for those who are enduring serious economic hardship. It’s sad and disappointing, but that doesn’t have to ruin Christmas. It just means we’ll have to do things differently.

For me, personally, that involves relying heavily on video chatting and Zoom meetings to connect with family. We can’t have the usual extended get-togethers, which often start on Christmas Eve and go on days after Christmas. It also means a less elaborate Christmas dinner.

At the same time, I’m not letting it dampen my holiday spirit. I’ve already made the effort to share that spirit from afar. Last week, I took many of the presents I’d previously wrapped and mailed them out to various family members who couldn’t travel. I ended up having to send multiple large boxes, which held up a long line at the UPS store.

To those people, I apologize. I promise it was for a good cause.

I already confirmed that many of those packages arrived. I intend to be with them via Zoom as they’re opened. I also intend to do the same while I open their presents. Granted, it’s not the same as being there with them, but it’s better than nothing. We’ll still be together in the ways that matter.

It’ll still be difficult. I know some relatives would much rather get together, join the family, and share in each others’ company for the holidays. It’s just not possible this year. I keep encouraging them to make up for it next year. However, we have to get through this one first. We can make that process easier by simply making the most of what we have now.

I encourage everyone to keep that perspective in mind as they celebrate the holidays. The world will heal. This pandemic will end. Those are hopes for tomorrow.

Today, it’s Christmas Eve.

Let’s cherish what we still have before we move forward with what lies ahead.

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Recounting A Special Christmas Gift (And What Made It So Special)

The holidays are a special time of year. Even in a year like this, we should appreciate that. If anything, a year like this should help us appreciate it even more. Even if we can’t have big Christmas parties or shop in crowded malls, the spirit of the season is something to cherish.

I certainly have a fondness for the holidays. I’ve made no secret of that. I think a year like this has inspired me to get more personal and share more holiday joy than usual. If it helps distract us from how awful 2020 has been, I’m happy to contribute.

To that end, I’d like to share a personal holiday memory that is near and dear to my heart. It’s also fairly recent, so I won’t rely on the kind of child-like excitement that comes with getting your first bike or video game console.

That being said, I still rank my first Super Nintendo as the greatest Christmas gift of all time, but that’s a story for another time.

This particular story happened just last year, long before we knew 2020 was going to crush our spirits. It involves a very special gift that I received from my brother. I’m not sure if he reads this site regularly, but he knows better than anyone why this gift was so special.

To set the stage, I need to explain some of my family’s holiday traditions. Ours aren’t that unique. Me, my siblings, and their significant others all gather at my parents’ house. We all bring our gifts, put them under the tree, and make opening them this big shared event. It’s simple, but it hits all the right holiday tones.

Traditionally, my family knows what to get me long before Christmas. They know me well and they know my tastes are simple. Get me some comic books, some superhero apparel, or something related to football and I’m a happy guy. I like to think I’m fairly easy to shop for.

That didn’t stop my brother from going the extra mile this year. As it just so happened, his was one of the last gifts I’d opened. At that point, I was already a happy guy, swimming in new comics and clothes. This last gift, however, caught me by surprise in a very personal way.

I still remember holding the seemingly innocuous box. It didn’t look like anything elaborate. For all I knew, it was another comic or Blu-Ray movie. I just casually opened it. That’s when I saw it.

It was a framed picture.

Specifically, it was a picture of my grandmother, who had passed away just a few years ago.

Seeing her again, even in a picture, hit me in a way I didn’t respect. Even though she had been gone for years at that point, seeing her again reminded me of how much I missed her. It was somewhat jarring, but in a good way.

I just remember taking the picture out, holding it up, and looking at it for a good long while. I might have disrupted the overall jolly spirit of the room, but I think they understood why.

My brother, along with the rest of my family, knew how close I was to my grandmother. They also knew how hard it was for her during her final years. I visited her regularly and I watched as her health declined. It wasn’t easy, to say the least.

It helped that this particular picture that my brother framed was taken shortly before she fell ill. She was still smiling, as lively as any woman in her 90s could be at that point. Seeing that look on her face, even if it was just in a picture, was enough to make my heart skip a beat.

I almost broke down, but I managed to keep it together. It helped that my older sister came over and hugged me. She knew how much my grandmother meant to me, as well. It was a powerful moment, but one that made both that gift and that Christmas extra special.

That picture my brother gave me still has a prominent place on my shelf. As I write this, it’s right behind me. It still brings me comfort to this day, seeing my grandmother in that picture. For that, I’ll always be grateful to her and to my brother for giving me such a special gift.

Bro, if you’re reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for making that Christmas special and for going the extra mile in giving me that gift. You’re the best!

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Why You Should Watch “The Christmas Chronicles” This Holiday Season

It’s that time of year.

It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year, indeed.

The holiday season is upon us. That means putting up Christmas decorations, shopping for Christmas gifts, and drinking whiskey-laden eggnog will no longer earn you strange looks. As someone who often puts his tree up before Thanksgiving, I greatly appreciate that. Believe me, I’m tired of people looking at me strangely when I tell them I have my tree up already.

In addition to the usual festivities, this is also that special time of year when Christmas specials of all kind start to air regularly. From classic Christmas episodes to Christmas movies, they’re starting to air more regularly. It’s hard to avoid them. Depending on the strength of your holiday spirit, they can help or hinder the season.

Now, I have a soft spot for holiday media of all kinds. However, I freely admit that not all holiday specials or movies are on the same level. I’ll always love “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” but most are just too forgettable. They’re still fun to watch, but they won’t leave much of an impact.

That’s why “The Christmas Chronicles” on Netflix is such a breath of fresh air. Seriously, if you’re in need of a newer, more modern Christmas movie that gives you all the right holiday feels, this movie is for you.

It stars Kurt Russell as Santa. He’s probably not the first person you’d think of in terms of actors who play the big guy, but after seeing this movie, you’ll be convinced. This man is worthy of that famous outfit.

It came out in 2018, but it’s already a classic in my book. I actually stumbled upon it by accident a couple years ago. I have this yearly ritual where I put on a holiday movie while I wrap Christmas presents for my family. I just happen to see this in my Netflix recommendations and clicked on it without thinking.

I’m glad I did. This movie quickly captured my heart and my holiday spirit. In case you need a sample, check out the trailer.

The premise of the movie is fairly standard for most holiday dramas. It starts with two kids, Kate and Teddy Pierce. They have many fond holiday memories with their parents. We see that early on. It’s very sweet and sentimental.

Then, tragedy strikes. Their father, who was a firefighter, tragically passed away and now they’re celebrating their first Christmas without him. It’s sad, but trust me. It doesn’t stay that way. Kate and Teddy are in a bad place when Christmas begins. However, things get fanciful and adventurous when they encounter Santa himself.

Kurt Russell’s inherent charm and charisma takes it from there.

What follows is a fun and eventful exploration of a world where real magic, real elves, and true holiday spectacles unfold at every turn. It’s a story about two young kids coming to grips with the loss of their father and carrying on his legacy. There’s heart, family, and flying reindeer. If that’s not enough Christmas for you, then you’re just being difficult.

I won’t spoil the rest of the details. I’ll just say that this movie has already become an integral part of my personal Christmas traditions. It’s a movie I cannot recommend it enough for those whose spirit needs a boost. After a year like 2020, we all need that. It can only help us as we celebrate the holidays and gear up for 2021.

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Jack’s World: Jack’s Comic Gems: Klaus

The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s yet another entry into my ongoing Jack’s Comic Gems series in which I highlight special gems from the comic book world. I’ve been saving this one for the holidays for reasons I’m sure are obvious by the title. Enjoy!

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Why We Should End The Taboo About Giving Gift Cards

The holidays are here and we should not let the general awfulness of 2020 prevent us from celebrating. I just want to put that out there because I feel like it needs to be said. I understand we can’t celebrate the holidays like we have in previous years due to a once-in-a-century pandemic, but we should still celebrate.

If nothing else, we should celebrate having made it through this year. Regardless of your religious affiliation or traditions, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

I love Christmas and the holidays. I fully intend to celebrate in my own festive way with friends and family. I already have my Christmas tree up and I’ve had it up since the first week of November. However, this year may require certain adjustments from my usual holiday activities, but I’m willing to do that for the spirit of the season.

As I and many others do so, I think this is a good time to re-evaluate certain holiday taboos. I’m not referring to any of those associated with religion. There’s a time and a place to talk about that exceedingly touchy issue. This is not one of them.

This particular taboo has to do with gift-giving, which happens to be the holiday tradition I take most seriously. Ask any member of my family, from my parents to my siblings to even my former roommates, and they’ll say the same thing. I go the extra mile when it comes to Christmas presents.

I’ll spend more money than I should.

I’ll buy more gifts than I should.

I’ll put in extra time, thought, and effort.

I’ll often pester people in asking them what they want, making a point to tell me before Thanksgiving.

Getting Christmas gifts for my loved ones is a big deal to me. I take pride in my ability to go the extra mile and make my family feel extra loved during the holidays. It brings me a special kind of joy.

As a result of that approach to holiday gift giving, I tend to avoid the kinds of low-effort gifts that send the wrong message. That usually means I try not to get gift cards or cash for someone. To me, that’s just too impersonal. It implies I didn’t make the effort to show how much I love and care for the person I’m giving this gift to.

I’m not alone in that feeling. Gifting gift cards does have a bit of a taboo to it, even as more and more people shop online. If you were to give your lover a gift card for your anniversary, chances are they’ll be somewhat disappointed. It almost seems like a cop-out, as though you don’t trust yourself to get a meaningful gift for someone.

I understand that sentiment to some extent, but I also think that taboo is waning somewhat. After a year like 2020, when millions of people were stuck in lockdowns for weeks on end, I think it’s waning even faster. Honestly, I think that’s a good thing and we should use this holiday season as an opportunity.

For many people, including myself, it’s just not going to be possible to travel for the holiday. The big holiday gatherings that so many of us treasure just can’t be done safely during a global pandemic. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exchange gifts. We just have to be smart about it and gift cards could help.

These days, gift cards are a lot more useful than the traditional gift certificates of the past. I’m old enough to remember how limited they were. Before the days of Amazon, getting a gift certificate usually meant getting something for a specific store. You could only use it at that store and it usually had an expiration date.

In some instances, it worked out. If you knew someone went to a place like Best Buy or Wal-Mart all the time, a gift certificate could certainly be useful. It was still considered very impersonal. It wasn’t the kind of gift you gave someone for Christmas. It was usually a birthday gift and even then, it was often a gift of last resort.

Now, in an era where you can buy pretty much anything online, the time is right to flip the script. If you know someone has an Amazon account that they frequently use, then why should a $50 Amazon gift card be taboo? Why should it be a gift of last resort that requires an excuse?

Love them or hate them, you can buy a lot from Amazon with a $50 gift card. You could buy a movie you don’t have, both digital or Blu-ray. You could buy a video game, although not the latest releases. You could buy multiple books and be certain they’re books you want to read and haven’t read already.

From a practical standpoint, that gift card is very useful and there’s a near-certain chance it’ll get used. You can’t always say that about a traditional gift. I’ve gotten people gifts that I was certain they’d use frequently, but they never made it out of the box. That’s the chance you take with any gift exchange.

It’s still a great feeling when you get someone that perfect gift. I can attest to the joy that comes with that accomplishment. I also don’t deny that the perfect gift is not always possible. I’ve got plenty of relatives and family members who are hard to shop for and often tell me they really don’t need anything from me.

However, I know that even those hard-to-shop-for relatives would get use out of an Amazon gift card. That may not make it the perfect gift, but it would still be incredibly useful and sometimes that’s the most you can hope for.

In a year like this, when traveling and shopping have been incredibly restricted by the pandemic, I think a simple Amazon gift card should be acceptable. Even if you don’t like giving or receiving gift cards, this is the year when we should all be willing to make an exception.

That doesn’t mean it has to be impersonal. You can still make giving someone a gift card feel festive.

One year, I got an $50 Amazon gift card for a relative. However, I didn’t just stick it in an envelope or bag. I actually put it in a standard 14 by 9.5 box and wrapped it in shiny wrapping paper. To hide the contents, I even put some washers inside to make it heavier. The relative loved it and I know they used that gift card.

You could either do that or find some other festive way to present it. You don’t have to be overly elaborate with wrapping paper or packaging. You just have to show a little extra effort, which will go a long way towards making a gift card feeling less impersonal.

In the future, long after this pandemic has passed, we may get to a point where that kind of gift-giving is no longer taboo. It may even be the norm, if only to ensure that your loved ones get something useful on the holidays.

There will always be a place for more personal gift-giving. I don’t doubt that. However, I think certain practices and taboos need tweaking. We already live in a new era where shopping from home has never been easier. Let’s use that as a way to supplement our holiday spirits moving forward. After a year like 2020, we’ll need it.

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Thoughts On A (Bittersweet) Black Friday 2020

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

If you did it right, you’re still digesting dinner and desert. I sure am.

However, as fun as it is to enjoy food, family, and football on Thanksgiving, Black Friday has become an extension of sorts for the holiday. For some people, it invites even bolder traditions than Thanksgiving. I’ve known people who will immediately camp outside of major stories almost immediately after Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m not one of them. I prefer enjoying Black Friday shopping on Black Friday. I always have. It’s not that I’m a sucker for sales and excessive consumerism. I just genuinely enjoy the Black Friday shopping experience, from the crowds to the holiday decorations to the various festivities.

I know that makes me weird in the eyes of some. I understand that. Black Friday is one of those events that you either love or hate. You love it because it’s the best shopping time of the season. You hate it because it’s the pinnacle of rampant consumerism. I can appreciate both positions. I still enjoy it.

That’s why this year is so difficult. This is the first year where I won’t partake in any Black Friday shopping sprees of any kind. Thanks to a global pandemic and a massive spike in cases over the past few weeks, pretty much any hope of salvaging this event, even in part, is gone.

For some, it’s no great loss. Not being able to go on a shopping spree in crowded stores probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of people. It means a lot to me.

It’s not just for the shopping part. Like many others, I do most of my Christmas shopping online. I finish nearly 90 percent of my holiday shopping before Black Friday. To me, just getting the gifts I want for my family isn’t the point anymore.

It’s the experience I’ve come to appreciate. That experience is what matters to me. It’s an experience that comes partially from my mother’s fondness of shopping.

She has told me on multiple occasions that her favorite activity with me, when I was a baby, was going shopping at the malls. I feel like I inherited that fondness for the experience from her. It’s one I even shared with my ex-girlfriend years ago. Some of our most memorable moments came while shopping on Black Friday.

Now, it’s just not possible to have any of those moments in a year like this.

It’s not surprising, given the current state of affairs, but it’s still disappointing. It’s yet another indicator that 2020 is a year in which we’ve lost so much. Between major movie releases, major sporting events, and beloved celebrities, the losses just keep accumulating. This is just the latest.

I don’t doubt it’ll come back at some point. Depending on how rapidly we recover from this pandemic, I have a feeling people will be eager to make up for lost experiences next year. I know I will.

Until then, I just want to take a moment to appreciate the past experiences I’ve enjoyed with Black Friday shopping. The experience of just going to malls, being around crowds, and taking part in holiday festivities are some of my favorite aspects of this time of year. I won’t let 2020 ruin my holidays, but I intend to appreciate future Black Fridays even more.

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Happy Thanksgiving 2020!

To everyone out there, no matter how jaded you might be after this past year, I wish you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

I know this year has disrupted many plans, holiday and non-holiday alike. They’ve certainly disrupted mine. I can attest that Thanksgiving this year will be very different for me compared to previous years. The large family gatherings that I’m so fond of just aren’t possible to do safely.

As disappointing as that is, I won’t let it stop me from enjoying Thanksgiving with my family, nor should it stop anyone else. It may require some frustrating adaptations. It may also require a working knowledge of video chatting and Zoom. It’s still worth doing.

That’s what you do for family.

That’s what you do for the holidays.

It’s part of what makes you thankful to have them in your life.

That’s worth celebrating and I encourage everyone to do so.

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