22 December 2012

Simple Pleasures: Holiday Edition

This post is written by contributing author Vanessa Williams.

Greetings from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania - Christmas City USA! We are in full swing holiday mode here. (We have to be, the Christmas trees decorating our lamp posts start going up around Halloween!)

I have a confession - I am a Christmas kook. I just LOVE the holiday season and all the festivities that go with it. It is one of my favorite times of the year. It seems like everyone is in a cheerier mood - just happy and friendly.

Like many of you, I am busy this time of year - but only because I want to be, not because I have to be. This requires some careful planning and coordination on my part (like shopping for Christmas all year round and finishing by Veteran’s Day weekend), but that allows me to take in some of the many, many activities and holiday shows that happen around here.
Lehigh University Vespers by Lehigh Valey

Perhaps my favorite thing in town is to walk around and see the beautiful windows of all the independent shops that have been decorated to the hilt. Christmas music plays in the air, tourists bustle about, and friendly shop owners offer a cookie and a smile. Last year there was a welcome addition to our quaint downtown - a pop up village of crafters inspired by the markets in Germany. With the clip clop of horses pulling carriages of visitors through the historic neighborhood it’s a magical time to live here.

But outside of all of the hubbub some of my favorite activities are the simple ones that all of us can have no matter where we live - activities that we do with friends and family. Annual traditions that grow and change over the years, but hold a special place in our hearts.

For me, this means two things: a holiday craft and cookie baking both with my mother (and growing up, with my sister). Over the years we have made a lot of things - ornaments, stuffed snowmen, even garland. My mother and I were reminiscing about making gingerbread houses the other day and how a “simple” project ended up taking all day. Three batches of royal icing and god knows how much candy later we were finished and my mother swore we would never do that again!

Other projects, like the wonderful cinnamon ornaments that made the whole house smell fantastic, were a hit and will be repeated in the future as the new addition to my family, my daughter Cora, grows older. Cora has brought a new level of excitement and magic to the holiday season in a way that only children can.

This year the holiday craft made a comeback, after being shelved for a few years. I am obsessed with vintage Christmas anything, so we made vintage inspired bell ornaments with little snowy dioramas in them. They turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. (This is a big accomplishment for me since for all my mother’s talents, the artsy gene skipped me.)

Cookie baking we got brave this year and tried not one, but three new recipes. They all ended up being absolutely delicious and we agreed they will be kept in our ever-growing repertoire. Cora supervised.

Other things I love to do this time of year are just stay home, get a fire going, and watch one of the many holiday shows, with Rudolph being my absolute favorite. What’s not to love? It’s quirky (an elf dentist?!), it’s retro, and it has a great message (being different is ok).

These simple memories are the ones I cherish most despite going to countless light displays, shows and other holiday activities over the years. So I hope you take the time to slow down and spend some time how you see fit. Relax and enjoy the holidays. Much love to you and yours from my little corner of Pennsylvania.

Vanessa Williams is the author of A simply good life where she explores how lower standard of living doesn’t mean lower quality of life. After her decision to  get off the beaten track and forge new paths she has found that living with less actually means living with more. Vanessa explores the luring and dangerous grounds of the consumerism trap and offers a solemn and wise account of her real life experiences on the quest to finding what truly matters in life. Connect to Vanessa via twitter and facebook.