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The holidays are full of beautiful, fun, symbolic and sometimes wacky traditions. Where else can you find a military Santa tracking operation and an elf hidden on a shelf? Read on for the origins of these traditions, and more.
What’s with that Elf on the Shelf? It seems like it’s been around forever, doesn’t it? That little elf, sitting on the shelf, watching (and taking notes on) your behavior so he or she can report back to Santa. But Elf on the Shelf sprang into this world in 2005, when Christa Pitts and twin sister, Chanda Bell, joined forces with their mom, Carol Aebersold, to market their own childhood tradition: Elf on the Shelf. It was a hit, to put it mildly. Today, the incarnations of elf include multiple elf dolls, figurines, elf clothing and accessories, books, a DVD and more. It’s become a multi-million dollar franchise, wowing people as much as—if not more than—a certain flying reindeer with a glowing nose.
When did NORAD start tracking Santa? Nothing says Christmas like watching the military track Santa. The origins of the NORAD Santa tracker are actually quite sweet. In 1955, a Sears Roebuck ad inviting kids to call Santa Claus had a typo in the phone number. Rather than routing them to a man with a belly like a bowl full of jelly, they routed them to a top-secret air defense emergency phone at The North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs (at the time it was called CONAD). After a few disarming calls from earnest children wishing to speak with Santa, the guys in uniform decided to create a Santa tracker, showing Santa’s path across the world. Follow on Twitter at @NoradSanta.
Why is this the season of eggnog? This drink of merriment and richness dates back to the 14th century. Back then, it didn’t contain eggs. Rather, “hot milk curdled with ale, wine, or the like, often sweeten and spiced,” according to Mental Floss. In the 17th century, “nogs” were a drink for celebrations, hence, the ties to the holidays. The recipe morphed through the years, making its way over to the American Colonies, and eggs were added for that drink-able custard goodness we know today.
Strolling through your hometown mall, it’s easy to forget that the holidays aren’t just commercial. This season, be sure and remind your kids that the holidays are a time of gratitude, giving back and embracing family. Want a season to remember? Here are 12 ideas to get you in the true holiday spirit.
- Volunteer. Take the family and spend a few hours at a non-profit that’s meaningful to you. Homeless shelters, kitchens, family-centric charities and others could all use a helping hand this season, and throughout the year.
- Make a meal—or even just muffins—for another family. We all have someone in our lives who could use a little extra TLC. Let them know they’re on your mind by baking a spontaneous treat.
- Shop local. When you’re checking things off your list, keep your money in your community by shopping at an independent, locally owned store.
- Host a card party and help a hero. Have some friends over and get crafty, making holiday cards to spread cheer to servicemen and veterans. Learn more about Holiday Mail for Heroes here.
- Shop with a heart. Look for buy-one-get-one-free deals when shopping for holiday gifts, and donate the bonus gift to charity.
- Try something new. Always wanted to check out that Ethiopian/Indian/Chinese/Fondue restaurant? Curious about a new park or shop? Excited to sign up for one of those girl’s-night-out painting classes? Make a list of all of the places you’ve wondered about and start checking them off.
- Phone a friend. We’re all so preoccupied with texting and email these days, it’s easy to forget how touching it is to have a real, live conversation. Call someone you’ve been thinking about and catch up.
- Put your skills to use. Do you have a knack for knitting? Are you keen on quilting? Think about your talents and put them to use by donating the fruit of your labor to a local charity. Or offer to teach a friend or family member how to do the craft you love.
- Unplug and enjoy family time for a full day. That’s right, we said it. No TVs, no iPads, no phones. Just you and the kids for a whole day. What will you do? Whatever you want, as long as it’s centered around humans, not technology!
- Visit a museum. When’s the last time you visited your town’s art/history/children’s/science museum? Holiday break is a great time for an educational outing.
- Learn a new skill. It can be anything. Maybe you always wanted to ice skate or ski. Perhaps it’s time to teach the kids to cook or make their own lunches. Maybe that old harmonica needs dusting off. Use this time to master a task together.
- Host a movie marathon. No holiday season is complete without viewings of “A Christmas Story,” “Elf,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and the list goes on. Pop a tub of popcorn and settle in for a night of holiday cheer.
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To learn more about our party packages and themes, check out the party section of our website.