December 26 is National Thank You Note Day. The idea is to thank people for their gifts, hospitality, and generosity. This doesn’t have to be related to Christmas or other holidays. Last year, I sent out cards thanking people for all the help they had given me during the previous year. It was an important step for me to not only appreciate others but for me to show more gratitude. That’s not something I had done well before. Gratitude is another part of being kind to others. They say it’s better to give than to receive. And it’s better to give gratitude and appreciation than anything else.
Many people will complain they didn’t like a gift from someone. Others will say it’s the thought that counts. Even if you didn’t like a gift, write a thank you note anyway. Thank the person for thinking of you. Thank them for the thoughtfulness. You don’t have to mention whether you liked the gift or not. But don’t be a Negative Nancy. Appreciate the person’s kindness. Appreciate getting a gift at all. Some people don’t have families or friends. They don’t receive gifts or celebrate. So, thanks others for gifts they sent. And keep an eye out for those who might feel alone. Thank them for being around.
December 21 is the first day of Winter or the Winter Solstice. This is also celebrated as Yule. Yule is the final celebration for the Wheel of the Year and the cycle ends and begins again. This is also when the Holly King is celebrated during the peak of his power and reign over half the year. He will lose the battle to the Oak King who reigns over the other half of the year in the Spring. Yule celebrations involve bonfires, decorating with holly, mistletoe and the boughs of evergreen trees, ritual sacrifices, feasts, and gift-giving. I don’t recommend you participate in the sacrifices because I don’t recommend killing anything.
Many of the traditions of Yule were carried over into Christmas celebrations. The midwinter feast usually lasted 12 days (the 12 days of Christmas). Vikings decorated evergreen trees with gifts, food, and carvings (Christmas tree). In Norse tradition, Old Man Winter visited homes to join the festivities. Odin was described as a wanderer with a long white beard and is considered the first Father Christmas. These are a few examples and chances are many of you already celebrate Yule believing it’s Christmas. I think it’s time for the world to admit that Christmas has never been about Jesus. Also, let’s just call it Yule from now on.
Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated worldwide on December 6, the anniversary of the death of a third-century saint known as Saint Nicholas. He is the inspiration of the modern-day Santa Claus but don’t confuse this celebration with Christmas. Though they have similarities, the tradition of leaving gifts in stockings or shoes is believed to have been started by Saint Nicholas and later incorporated into Christmas. St. Nicholas is known for selling all his possessions and giving his money to the poor. Raised as a devout Christian, St. Nicholas dedicated his whole life to serving the sick and suffering.
Sailors, travelers, clergy, school children, and thieves, to name a few, all claim Saint Nicholas as their patron saint. He was born in what is now modern-day Turkey. This holiday is sometimes called the Feast of Saint Nicholas. This is the day to offer small, meaningful gifts. These could be candy, chocolate, or even a note to someone special. It need not be something elaborate. Start the holidays early with little mini gifts tonight. I’m down for this idea of a feast. Thanksgiving was recent but I’m hungry again. Perhaps that’s what I’ll start calling Thanksgiving from now on. The US celebrates the Feast of Saint Nicholas a couple weeks early. That sounds like an easy way to explain to foreigners what Thanksgiving is all about.