Holiday Stress Stirs Your Perfect Storm

Many creators find December, the holiday season, particularly stressful. You want your holiday to be perfect. The list of things to do during the holiday season can be overwhelming and exhausting. You are on deadlines at least to get your holiday shopping or meals or decorations done. Most likely you are also on deadlines for your creative business or you’ve got holiday gifts to create. And it’s not done yet. Holiday stress stirs a perfect storm to derail your creativity.

Photograph of holiday stress caused by a storm--in this photo appears a person in winter outerwear walking through a snow storm. In near white-out conditions you can see a once shoveled sidewalk covered in snow and large pine trees lining the long snowy walk.

So Many Holidays

December many, many holidays. Woman’s Day lists more than one hundred. My December Celebrations posts discussed thirty-seven holidays.

Some holidays hold deep meaning. If that’s adding to your stress, step back. Breathe. You don’t have to make light of your holiday.

Being a creative means being flexible. If holiday stress stirs your perfect storm, take a moment. Remember that you are creative, even if you have to put aside your work for a while during this crazy month. Allow yourself to focus on the most important things and let some things go. Most importantly, destress, have a little fun so you don’t burn yourself out. Reset your mindset. Holiday relaxation can feed creativity and make you feel better too. Too stressed-out to know how to have some fun? Maybe one of these suggestions will give you an idea.

Have Fun With Krampus

Krampus is a scary creature from folklore who punishes kids who misbehave at Christmastime. But don’t be a Krampus because you’re stressed. Decrease your stress with a fun Krampus gift. This one is available on Amazon.


image of black t shirt with Krampus image and the words "You might not believe in Krampus but Krampus believes in you!"

Relax on St. Nicholas Day 

This day is a feast day honoring the saint. Take a few minutes to relax and reset. Print out one or two of these online coloring pages and use fat crayons or markers and color. Scribble if you need to get rid of some excess emotions. Don’t worry about keeping color inside or outside the lines. Focus on making it colorful and having fun.

If you are an artist,Trick yourself into a more child-like state of mind. Use your non-dominate hand. Close your eyes and pick a crayon. Use that color on the object least likely to be that color in reality. Have fun.

St Nicholas Center.

Get Coloring Pages.

A Meditative Bohdi Day

Buddhists celebrate this day of awakening or enlightenment. Even if you aren’t a Buddhist, take ten minutes and forget about your list of to-dos. Light a candle and meditate. Or take a stroll among the trees. 

Mitten Tree Day 

Image of a colorful, hand knit mitten ready to be hung on a mitten tree. Giving to others and counting our blessings can reduce holiday stress.

This holiday didn’t make it on the December Celebrations posts. But it reminds us to count our blessings. Buy a pair of colorful mittens or two or three and hang them on a tree for anyone who needs them. If you don’t have mittens to spare, volunteer a few hours to your local soup kitchen or food and clothes pantry.

Feast of Immaculate Conception

This one can be easy. Take the day off—at least refrain from unnecessary work and feast on your favorite foods.

National Cotton Candy Day

Image of a woman at a candy cotton machine, spinning pink cotton candy onto a paper stick. Even imagining taking a bite can reduce holiday stress.

Guess what? Go get some cotton candy and dig in. Get messy. Lick your fingers. Enjoy yourself.

Your Perfect Storm

Don’t let holiday stress create your perfect storm. Don’t let it cause burn out. Take time out to enjoy a little fun, relaxation, exercise. Creativity is a gift. And your time is a gift. Be generous with your gifts, but remember to nurture them as well.

How do you relieve holiday stress?

Image Credits:

Snowy Day Photo by Gary Ellis on Unsplash

Mitten by dooneling, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cotton Candy by Joseolgon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mixing Holiday Traditions With Science

Putting up the Christmas tree is one of my beloved holiday traditions. For many years, I went to a tree farm a couple of weeks before Christmas. We’d cut down a tree, bring it home, and decorate it. I wasn’t mixing holiday traditions with science back then. But the science of Christmas trees is fascinating. 

image of a red Christmas bulb ornament on a green Christmas tree--is mixing holiday traditions with science a good thing?

The Traditions

The Romans decorated their temples with fir trees for the festival of Saturnalia. Christians used fir trees as a sign of everlasting life with God. Many people credit the Germans with bringing the Christmas tree into their homes. 

Records show that Martin Luther, a 16th century preacher, was one of the first to bring a Christmas tree into his house and put lights on it.

Read more about the first Christmas trees.

Oh Christmas Tree

image of a pine tree branch with a pine cone frosted with snow

When shopping for a Christmas tree, we want the right shape, the right height, and color. We want the tree to hold on to its needles as long as possible. And we want the tree to look fresh for weeks. These are the traits Christmas tree growers want to foster in their trees.

Fraser and noble firs are the most popular species for Christmas trees. Christmas trees are grown on tree farms in all 50 states and in Canada. Oregon is the number one state in the US for harvested trees. North Carolina is second and Michigan is third.

It can take 5-15 years for a fir to grow to 6-7 feet tall. Not only does it take years to grow, the grower must remove all pine cones by hand. And each tree can grow hundreds of pine cones. The grower also must be wary of root rot. 

Applying Science to Christmas Trees

Image of branches of a green fir tree--are we improving the planet when we are mixing holiday traditions with science?

Scientists are helping Christmas tree growers create a better Christmas tree. They want to improve the growth rate and durability of the trees. And they want trees that are resistant to root rot. 

Root rot is caused by the water-mold genus Phytophthora, a tree stricken with it can die in a matter of days./ And once the fungus is in the soil, it’s impossible to get rid of.

The Scientists

Bert Cregg

Cregg is a forest researcher at Michigan State University and a renowned expert on Christmas tree production. Wired reported on his work to reduce coning in Christmas Trees using growth regulators. His method works but is not yet a financially feasible technique.

John Frampton

Frampton is a professor in the department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. He is an expert on Fraser firs. Frampton is helping growers fight root rot. 

He tested 32 of the world’s 50-odd true fir species and found a Japanese tree called the Momi fir strongly resists phytophthora invasion. The Momi fir is not a Christmas tree, so Frampton helps growers make chimeric trees. He shows them how to graft seedling Fraser firs to Momi seedling roots. It works, but it’s a time-consuming process.

“We are doing DNA sequencing to understand the DNA of Christmas trees, and in the long term, this may lead in the future to genetic engineering,” Frampton said. “But there is still more knowledge and techniques we need to develop before we’re to the point that agriculture is now.” 

John Frampton as quoted on

Dr. Rajasekaran Lada

Dr. Lada, a professor and founding director of the Christmas Tree Research Center at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro, is working with the hormone (ethylene). It is the hormone that triggers the tree to release its needles. 

He discussed two methods to slow or prevent needle release on a December 2010 episode of Science Friday In that episode; he revealed that his team discovered that trees that drink the most water after you bring them home, lose their needles the fastest. His team also discovered that the types of lights we string on the trees also affect how long the tree keeps its needles. (Hint: using white spectrum lights are best.)

Mixing Holiday Traditions with Science

image of vintage red car with Christmas tree tied to the roof--maybe we shouldn't be mixing holiday traditions with science.

Science fascinates me. But sometimes scientists take things too far. Genetic manipulation of food animals, of animals facing extinction, and of plant foods are all being attempted. 

Reactions to science also fascinates me. My reaction is mixed. I think creating better Christmas trees is good for survival of the trees. And I fear that commercial desires drive the science and worry about future consequences. Are we improving the planet when we are mixing holiday traditions with science? I don’t know? What do you think?

Does the DNA sequencing, experiments, and possible future genetic manipulation of and on Christmas trees bother you? Is it the idea of mixing holiday traditions with science that is most disturbing? Messing with nature? Or are you okay with genetic manipulation of plants we don’t eat? Should we be mixing holiday traditions with science?

Do You Know Rudolph Like I Know Rudolph?

Welcome to the second installment of holiday fun and an interview with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Do You Know Rudolph Like I Know Rudolph? 

image of the cover of Robert L. May's book available on Amazon--Do You Know Rudolph?

Rudolf’s Birth

In 1939, the Montgomery Ward Company asked their ad man to create a story for a Christmas promotion. The ad man, Robert L. May, wrote catalog copy for the company, but he had a way with limericks and parodies

May’s life situation depressed him. He was heavily in debt trying to pay for his dying wife’s medical care.  And his failure to be the novelist he dreamed of haunted him.

But May believed in his story. He had a friend illustrate his manuscript. Together, he and his friend convinced his boss to publish the story. 

Rudolph’s Q&A

1. Who is your role model?

Santa Claus. He’s always jolly and kind. Unlike certain reindeer. Not that I hold a grudge.

2. Who knows you the best?

Santa Claus. He knows when I am sleeping. And he knows when I’m awake. He knows when I am bad or good. 

3. What would your friends say about you?

They used to laugh and call me names. Now they say I’ll go down in history.

4. What is the question people ask you most often?

It’s alway the same. Where did you get that nose?

5. What is the thing you’d never say to another person?

I would never ridicule a reindeer or a person for their looks.

6. What is your greatest achievement?

Saving Christmas one foggy night.

7. What is your greatest failure?

white space image of reindeer horns with ornaments hanging from it, two black eyes and a red nose. Do you know rudolph?

Hating my nose and not believing in myself. 

8. What did you learn from your greatest failure?

That we all have a purpose in life. Sometimes it’s a big thing, but more often it’s a tiny thing to us but a huge thing for someone else. Sometimes we never know who that someone else is, and that’s okay.

9. What is the thing you are most proud of?

Helping people who look different feel better about themselves through my story.

10. What would you like to change about yourself?

Not one thing. I used to hate my red nose, but it helped Santa more than once now. I learned that sometimes our imperfections are our greatest assets.

The Rest of the Story

Read the original story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a bit different from the versions we see today, but it remains delightful. 

The Montgomery Ward Company sold more than 2 million copies of the story. But apparently the company thought of the story as nothing more than a promotion. They gave the rights back to May.

May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, was a songwriter. May talked him into writing a song about Rudolph. Harry Brannon sang the song first. Then in 1949 Gene Autry picked up the song. And it sold more than 25 million copies and the rest as they say is…history.

Do You Know Rudolph?

Image of an outline of Rudolph and a Christmas tree on a blue background--do  you know rudolph

Learning about Rudolph and interviewing him was fun. I hope you enjoyed it, too. If you missed my interview with Frosty, please take a minute to read it. 

Do You Know Rudolph? If you didn’t before, you know him better now. Happy Holidays!

A Merry Christmas Wish and Music

It’s Christmas Eve as I write this, the twenty-fourth of December. Tomorrow is Christmas. A religious holiday for some. A pagan holiday for some. Part of a week or two or a month of holidays for some. And just another day for some.  Whether or not you celebrate a December holiday, my Merry Christmas wish is that you find a bit of charity, peace, and love on this day and each day for the rest of your life. In that spirit, here are a few of my favorite versions of Christmas carols. 

Deck the Halls


I love a cappella music so it’s no wonder I’m a fan of Pentatonix.

Deck the Halls“ (originally titled “Deck the Hall“) is a traditional Christmas carol. The melody is Welsh, dating back to the sixteenth century,[1] and belongs to a winter carol, “Nos Galan“, while the English lyrics, written by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant, date to 1862. Wikipedia

Carol of the Bells (for 12 Cellos)

Piano Guys

This version is a clever use of technology to create a beautiful version of this old carol. 

 “Carol of the Bells“ is a popular Christmas carol, with music by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1914[1] and lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky. The song is based on the Ukrainian folk chant “Shchedryk“.[2] Wilhousky’s lyrics are under copyright protection (owned by Carl Fischer Music); the music is in the public domain. Wikipedia

Joy to The World

Von Smith & Tambourine Guy

An energetic and fun version of this old favorite presented by Postmodern Jukebox is sure to help create a Merry Christmas.

Isaac Watts wrote Joy to the World in 1719 based on Psalms 98:4.

As of the late 20th century, “Joy to the World” was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.


O Holy Night

Native American(Jana)

This YouTube video of one of my favorites sung in Navaho has become a new favorite. It gives me the chills. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this one. 

O Holy Night“ (French: “Minuit, chretiens” or “Cantique de Noël”) is a well-known Christmas carol composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem “Minuit, chrétiens” (Midnight, Christians) written by wine merchant and poet Placide Cappeau (1808–1877). 



It’s been a long and difficult year, but you have been a bright spot in that year. Thank you for reading, for your comments, and for your support. I value each and everyone of you. And no matter your circumstances or your religious and holiday preferences, I pray that you each have a wondrous and joyful day.

White and gold ornaments against a dark background with gold dots and the words Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas Is More Than The Sights

I had an experience early in my high school career that began to open my eyes about how other people see the world. As a freshman, I wanted to fit in. And somehow I seemed to gather all the weirdos around me. I didn’t want to be one of them. But one of them, one of the weirdos I met, made a profound impact upon me. She taught me that Christmas is more than the sights.

Image of a Christmas tree and packages--but Christmas is more than the sights

The New Girl

My homeroom teacher assigned me to show the new girl around. This new student stood out from everyone else. It embarrassed me for her. But she was blind. She couldn’t see that her messy hair or her mismatched clothes or that her eyes moved two different directions. She carried a cane and only needed a ‘guide’ for a few days. I escorted her through the push and shove of teens rushing through the halls until she’d memorized the way to her next class. 

Selfish & Embarrassed

I was a selfish sixteen-year-old. It never occurred to me to wonder how she felt being in a new school. Not being able to see. Relying on total strangers to help her. But in the few days we walked to class together, I began to wake up to the fact that she was a nice girl. Like me, she was trying to find her place in the school and the world. But she was a weirdo. But we didn’t have much in common and embarrassment at her appearance still ruled me. So when she’d memorized her way, I stopped walking with her to her next class. 

The Dilemma

When Christmas rolled around, the class did a gift exchange. We drew names from a bowl and were to buy a small gift for that person. The gift exchange happened during the Christmas party. (We weren’t enlightened enough to call it a holiday or winter party.)

You guessed it. I drew the blind girl’s name. I went into a tailspin. What the heck do you buy for someone who can’t see? Music? I didn’t know her well enough to know if she had a record player. And I had no clue what kind of music she might enjoy. So after browsing through records, I gave up on that idea. 

A Shopping Nightmare

Drifting through the department store I rejected idea after idea—because she was blind and she couldn’t enjoy the item.  And I became annoyed. Shopping for the blind girl had become a chore.

image of perfume bottles and flowers

Then I passed the perfume counter. That was it! She could smell. And every girl I knew liked perfume. So I sampled perfumes. I found a scent that was pleasant and the cost was within the limits imposed by the school. It was a tiny bottle. A pretty bottle in a pretty package. That part would be wasted on her, but at least she’d enjoy the smell.

Christmas Is More Than The Sights

The day of the exchange, I watched her fingers find the folds of the wrapping paper and delicately unwrap the gift. She opened the box and pulled the bottle out. “Oh!” Her excited exclamation made me smile.

Her fingers traced every edge of the bottle. “What a beautiful bottle!” 

“It’s perfume,” I said helpfully.

“I know,” she said, smiling. She opened it and sniffed. “It smells good. But this bottle…” Her fingers ran over the diamond-shaped edges again and again. “Such a wonderful shape! Thank you!” Sheer delight radiated from her. And I stood, gape-mouthed, and watched. Stunned at how blind I, the sighted person, had been. She had a whole different world at her fingertips. A world that delighted her with its shapes and textures. A world that I had not seen or felt. 

I will always be indebted to that girl. Every Christmas since that time, I remember that girl. She taught me that Christmas is more than sights. It’s more than the sentiments and the music and the gifts I received. She taught me to look deeper, that lighting up a person with delight is the best Christmas gift of all.