Early December highlights

December was a whirlwind of activity, as usual, and January 2010 shows no signs of slowing down. Before I know it I will be at the writer's conference in San Diego in February.

But for now I reflect back on the first half of December:

I am still impressed with the way autumn organizes itself in the US. With Thanksgiving at the end of November, the holiday season seems to launch into full celebration and last for a month. This year we decorated our tree before December 1st, and it didn't seem early, like it used to when we lived in Canada. The children loved plugging in the tree each day, and unwrap the little decorations on our wall advent calendar, lovingly made by Grandma. We experienced a relaxed, but busy first couple weeks as we prepared for the holidays without the last minute stress that I've felt some other years.

In Canada, where I lived until 2.5 years ago, Thanksgiving is in October, before Halloween, so is it's own event. It signalled the cooling of autumn and brought family together after a hectic start to school. Thanksgiving in Canada is something to look forward to each fall, but I admit I'm partial to the timing of the US Thanksgiving, which kicks off the winter holiday season.

The US Thanksgiving weekend has holiday sales before Christmas. In Canada, boxing day sales are the day after Christmas. Thanksgiving weekend seems to bring the chill of winter as well, so wrapping recently purchased gifts under the glittering lights of the tree seem to be a good excuse to stay inside during early December. This creates a less hectic holiday preparation than starting mid way through December, as I sometimes had the habit to do.

Starting holidays early seems to make time without family easier as well. When we moved from Canada we left all our close family and lifelong friends. We love the move we made, but we also miss seeing those we left. This is our third winter away from "home." However, creating early celebrations in our new cities means we could celebrate with our new friends and enjoy our time with them, before returning home for Christmas.

For the past three years, I purchased and wrapped before we left our new home so that we could spend all our time visiting others once we arrived to see our family. The US Thanksgiving is like a little alarm clock. Time to buy, wrap, bake and send cards! With this, plus visiting with new friends during the first half of December, we extended our holidays and reduced our busy holiday stress.

We still miss seeing old friends and our family during the year, but having a full month of celebration with more people we know is a nice new tradition worth repeating!

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