This Friday REI, the outdoor recreation and sporting goods retailer, is doing something rather extraordinary. Instead of participating in Black Friday, they are closing all of their stores and paying their 12,000+ employees to spend time outside, and they are inviting everyone else to join them. While some folks probably can’t imagine a store not being open on the biggest shopping day of the year, this campaign [appropriately called #OptOutside] fits quite well with REI’s belief that “a life outside is a life well-lived,” and I can definitely appreciate them practicing what they preach!
In the midst of holiday busyness, taking some time to go explore the great outdoors sounds like a fantastic idea. All of us could benefit from pausing and enjoying the beauty of nature—whether it’s a snowy mountain, scenic state park, metropolitan botanical garden, or your favourite campground.
Some parks in the USA are even offering special discounts and events to help encourage people to #OptOutside this Friday. Here are just a few of the participating park systems:
For a list of additional park systems, organizations, and companies that have partnered with REI on this campaign, please visit REI’s website. Or, go here to find places to have fun skiing, hiking, cycling, or paddling. You can also check out the hashtag #OptOutside on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to see how others are spending their Friday out in the fresh air!
Personally, I plan to #OptOutside on Black Friday by exploring a marsh and a beach with my fiancé and my dog. How will you be spending the day? Will you be fighting the crowds at the mall? Hiking with your children at a state park? Sleeping in late and then putting up your Christmas tree? Going for a run around a lake? Let us know in the comments!
Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! Tonight Santa will make his big trip around the world, and I’m sure many of you are spending today wrapping your last few gifts, cooking a delicious meal, or perhaps spending some time with loved ones. Whatever you’re busy with today, if you need a short, festive break, check out the videos below of Christmas lights synchronized with songs—some with Christmas carols and some with songs a little less traditional, but fun nonetheless 🙂 These awesome videos will have you tapping your toes and wondering exactly how many lights these folks have on their houses!
I think the Star Wars house is my favourite with the “Carol of the Bells” house a close second. Let me know which video you liked best in the comments!
Christmas is just 12 days away! In the days leading up to Christmas, most of us still have many things to do, such as cookie decorating, holiday shopping, planning Christmas dinner, making trips to the grocery store, and more. With so much to do in a limited amount of time, it is easy to get swept away in the business of it all, neglecting the true meaning of Christmas.
Hopefully you’ll find these 12 ideas practical to implement into your daily routine in these 12 days before Christmas. If you like, you can choose one idea a day. To help you remember your “daily duty,” add a reminder to your calendar, phone, or write the task out on a sticky note.
Pay for someone’s drink at a coffee shop, meal at a restaurant, or drive-thru order. Do it anonymously and ask the server to give a message to the recipient. You could say something like “Merry Christmas!” or “Enjoy the coffee!”
2. Be Cheery When Waiting in Line
No doubt you’ll be standing in line somewhere: the grocery store, the mall, the gas station, or even the post office. Instead of anxiously standing in line, wondering why the cashier isn’t moving faster, take a moment to notice the people around you. Ask a simple question to the person in front of you, such as “I’m so excited about the holidays. What’s your favorite part about Christmas?” Even a smile can help brighten someone’s day.
Take a box of cookies or a gift basket to your local fire station or police station along with a note thanking them for their service to the community. If you’re health conscious, give them a fruit basket instead.
4. Let Others Go First
Hold the door and allow someone to go ahead of you when you are boarding an elevator or entering a store. When entering or standing in a checkout line, allow someone with fewer items to go ahead of you. These simple gestures may mean a lot to someone. All you need is a bit of patience and a smile.
5. Sing Christmas Carols
Buddy the elf says it best: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Spread Christmas joy by singing to your kids—or if you have the courage, grab a few friends and start singing in the middle of a shopping mall. Maybe you’ll get the crowd to join in!
6. Give an Extra Tip
If you are dining out anytime soon, give your server an extra tip. Write a quick, kind note on the receipt like “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”
Show kindness to other drivers on the road. If you have tendency to speed, slow down and be considerate, letting other cars ahead of you instead of speeding ahead of them. Likewise, don’t get grumpy when other people cut in front of you. Your negativity affects you, not the other driver. Choose to let it go and enjoy the rest of your day.
8. Pack a Lunchbox Surprise
If you have kiddos, put a note in their lunchbox or even their backpack. You can write a riddle, joke, encouraging words, or a simple “Have a nice day!” (You can do this for spouses, too!)
Pack your spouse’s or your kid’s lunch with a hug and a kiss—a Hershey’s Hug and Hershey’s Kiss, that is! You could also tuck the sweet treats inside a coat pocket, briefcase, or backpack. Place the chocolates inside a small Ziploc bag if you’re concerned about them melting before they are discovered.
12. Give Unexpected Gifts
Give gifts to miscellaneous people, such as your hairdresser, vet, or pharmacist. Something as simple as a ribbon-wrapped chocolate bar can brighten someone’s day.
As evidenced by some of my Etsyselections and by my own personal Christmas tree, I LOVE julbocks [Swedish yule goats]. So it should come as no surprise that I also adore Gävlebocken, the massive julbock that is constructed each year at Castle Square in Gävle, Sweden. And when I say “massive,” I mean it—Gävlebocken weighs 3.6 tons and is 13 meters tall!
A holiday tradition since 1966, Gävlebocken is erected each year at the beginning of Advent, and he is made of straw and adorned with red ribbons, similar to his smaller counterparts. Gävlebocken is usually accompanied by a shorter goat, referred to as his little brother or Lillbocken.
For some weird reason, Gävlebocken is a favourite target of vandals, particularly arsonists 🙁 The poor goat has been burned down or otherwise destroyed 27 times in his history. The organization who creates the goat each year [Southern Merchants] has taken measures to try and ensure Gävlebocken’s survival, including installing a 24-hour webcam, coating the goat with ice, and soaking the straw with a variety of anti-flammable liquids.
Speaking of Gävlebocken’s webcam, you can view the live feed yourself here!
Screen capture of Gävlebocken’s webcam from the middle of the night
Besides watching Gävlebocken’s webcam, it’s also fun to follow him on social media—he has a lot of personality for a straw goat. Check him out on Instagram [gavlebocken] or Twitter [@Gavlebocken]. Gävlebocken even has a blog, which is particularly amusing. For example, yesterday he wrote about his little brother and said “[He] is the cutest little strawgoat you can imagine, and sometimes we play hide and seek or tag the Goat. Great fun!” Oh, and don’t fret—he posts online in Swedish and English, so you can keep up with all the goaty goings-on.
Listening to music is one of my absolute favourite pastimes—be it while I’m working, hanging out at home, or seeing a band live. So during the holiday season, I certainly enjoy turning on the festive tunes. Below are some of my favourite winter songs, perfect for when you’re baking, trimming the tree, or just enjoying the company of your loved ones during this special time of year. Give ’em a listen!
What’s your favourite Christmas song? Let me know in the comments!
We’ve all seen Disco Dancing Santa, but what about a surfin’ Santa? Apparently in Varazze, Italy last week, a man dressed as Santa Claus decided to go surfing when the bad weather made for good waves. Don’t believe me? Check out the video below:
You can also see some photos of Santa catching some waves here.
For those of you who enjoy the scent and look of a fresh Christmas tree, but hate the hassle of hauling the tree home, have you considered having the tree delivered? No more fighting holiday traffic or worrying about the tree’s needles scratching your car—simply order the tree and have it delivered while you’re cozy at home.
Check out the companies below located around the United States and the world that will deliver Christmas trees straight to your home or business.
Green Valley Christmas Trees – Continental USA
Offering a wide variety of Christmas trees—such as Fraser fir, noble fir, balsam fir, and Nordmann fir—Green Valley delivers all across the continental United States. [Free ground shipping on all products!] Besides trees, they also sell live wreaths and garlands.
Contact Green Valley at 888.48.TREES [888.488.7337] or head over to their website for more info.
Tree Elves – Atlanta
Based in Atlanta, GA, Tree Elves will bring you a small, medium, or large Fraser fir, along with 4 King of Pops popsicles [yum!]. After the holidays, Tree Elves will pick up your tree and take it to a farm where it will be turned into compost and added to the soil to help grow fruit. For every tree purchased, Tree Elves will plant a native Georgia tree, such as red maple or eastern red cedar.
For more info, ring Tree Elves at 678.732.9321 or visit treeelves.net.
Christmas Trees Delivered – London
Selling trees for more than 30 years, London-based Christmas Trees Delivered distributes Norway spruce, noble fir, and Nordmann fir to the inner postcodes. They also offer table top trees, poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, and fresh garland. For an additional £15, Christmas Trees Delivered will collect and recycle your tree.
Questions? Call 020 7529 8161 or check out their website.
Tyler’s Trees – NYC
Located in New York City, Tyler’s Trees offers Fraser firs from 5 to 9 feet. Every tree order includes delivery, installation, a tree stand, and tree skirt. For additional fees, they will even decorate your tree or come remove it after the holidays.
Servicing the Greater Toronto Area, EZ Tree delivers Fraser firs from 5'-12' in either #1 grade or premium grade. Also available are protective floor mats and tree stands, as well as a tree disposal service.
Contact EZ Trees at 416.358.3923 or check out their website.
One thing I look forward to every Christmas season is the music that you can hear on the radio, in stores, just about everywhere you go! Here are a few songs that I favor above the rest. I like some funny, some upbeat, and some with a slower tempo. Happy listening! 🙂
As I’ve mentioned before, we elves love any sort of creative project—from crafts to films to technological experiments, we love it all. So, just as last year, I would like to highlight some fabulous festive projects that are currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, a website whose mission is “to help bring creative projects to life.”
If you’re looking for a unique spin on Christmas cards, then consider backing the campaign for these holiday cards. Not only are the cards made of wood, but the fun designs are also laser engraved—extra spiffy!
A young girl from Lincolnshire wishes to travel around England in order to photograph the Christmas lights in all of the major cities, and her mother is helping her run a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to cover transportation and printing of the photographs. The 8-year-old plans to exhibit her photos in a local venue the week before Christmas. It’s awesome to see a child excited about photography and Christmas!
Farmhouse Fudge produces fudge with real butter, real cream, and real chocolate, and they have quite the assortment of flavours: butter pecan, red velvet, cranberry walnut, peppermint bark, and the list goes on. They have been selling fudge in Utah for more than three years, and they are hoping to expand their customer base with the help of their Kickstarter campaign.
The rewards for backing this campaign are different types of fudge, so I’m sure you’re tempted to donate to this project!
The Harpoons—a classically-trained harp and bassoon duo—are hoping to release their first ever Christmas album this year with the help of the Kickstarter community. Their album will includes perennial favourites, such as “White Christmas” and “Silent Night.” Based on the music in their Kickstarter video, it sounds like the tunes will be lovely!