Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ho Ho Ho-Welcome guest Julie Miller

I mentioned earlier in the week how thrilled I am to have award winning (and my favorite) author here today to guest blog! Give a warm welcome to Julie Miller!!!
Thank you to Angie for inviting me to blog with her today about one of my family’s holiday traditions. I always appreciate hearing from readers (especially when they like my books!)
But she’s the first reader to invite me to blog with her, and howcool is that? Thanks, Angie!

I grew up with several Christmas traditions—my dad reading us “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve; my brothers and I each choosing a Wise Man to move a spot closer to the Nativity scene on the mantel each day in December (like an Advent calendar); being allowed to go through our stockings first thing on Christmas morning to appease our excitement—but having to stop and eat some breakfast before we could open the gifts because of a hypoglycemic brother who would snarl or pass out (both are mood killers ) if he didn’t eat early in the day; and so on.

But the holiday tradition I want to share with you today are “Ho-Ho” gifts. Ho-Ho gifts were
the brainchild of my mom’s fertile imagination. As our family grew and expanded with in-laws, nieces & nephews, grandkids, etc., we opted to draw names for gifts so no one had to struggle with finances to get everyone a gift—especially when we all live so far apart, and travel expenses take up a sizable portion of the Christmas budget. We set a price limit, talk to the person we have (or, more likely, sneak behind their backs to find out what they really want or need ;)) and buy or make them a really special gift or gifts. There is the added bonus of having fewer gifts under the tree, which means it doesn’t take four or five hours for all of us to unwrap our presents (we like to watch each other open gifts and ooh and ahh appropriately).

Ho-Ho gifts may have stemmed from my mom still wanting to shop for all of us and having the pleasure of finding the right something for everyone. At any rate, everyone in the family gets a Ho-Ho gift, no matter who has your name—sometimes Mom gets them; sometimes, I do; sometimes, one of us finds the perfect thing for another family member and steps in to present the gift that year.
Ho-Ho’s are small, inexpensive gifts (garage sales and flea markets are great places to find
these!) that are unique to each member of the family. It might be something we know will make the person laugh—perhaps reminding them of a childhood adventure. It might be something for a person’s collection (my hubby is into Star Trek, and his Ho-Ho gifts often have to do with the Enterprise and its crew). It could be a memento from a trip one of us has taken in the past year.
Usually, they’re silly. Sometimes, they’re sentimental. But they always require a minimal (sometimes free) cost, some clever thinking and a story to share with the family.

Some favorite Ho-Ho gifts over the years? My mom is a big fan of the movie THE CHRISTMAS STORY. My hubby found a string of lights made up of the “Fragile” leg lamp award for her. I have a couple of smart-alecky nephews (and a son!) with a terrific sense of humor—all bright young college men who tend to pooh-pooh the family’s downhome ancestry. I found them “hillbilly flashlights” at a craft fair—basically, they’re a stick with a match glued to the end. Not only did
they laugh, but they lit up their flashlights at the same time and searched the house for snipes—making the rest of us laugh, too. My son, the Star Wars nut, got a Yoda Halloween mask one year. I had a “dumb blonde” experience fixing a stopped up drain one year (I forgot to unlock the stopper—worked on draining the tub for hours—sigh). My brothers, more entertained than they should be by my misadventure, gave me a can of Drano as a Ho-Ho gift that year.

Get the picture? My family exchanges one gift that makes us go, “Aw, you shouldn’t have” or which fulfills a real need. And then we all get a gift that makes us laugh together and reminisce, and brings us together in the very best way. That, to me, is one of the very best parts of the holiday season!

So what’s a funny or sentimental gift that you’ve received? Share about a special gift, whether it’s
a Ho-Ho or not. I’ll give away a copy of my brand new release from Harlequin Intrigue,
NANNY 911, to one lucky commenter.

Happy Holidays!
Julie Miller
***Upcoming Books from Julie Miller***
NANNY 911--Dec 2011
ICE LAKE--Jan 2012
---Thanks Julie for that great post!! I think this is a tradition we need in our family!! Remember to take a moment to leave a comment telling your favorite gift to win Julie's new book, Nanny 911, straight from the author herself!!! Please come back Sunday to see the winner!


Jennifer said...

Thank you Julie for blogging on my daughter's blog. Our family has had great gift giving adventures over the years just like your family. From decorating our cabins at Mahoney State Park (each family cabin having a different theme) to decorating a tree with ornaments and then guessing which family member the ornament was bought for and by whom (i.e. football ornament for my nephew, farmer for my brother-in-law). I hope you and your family have a great Christmas!
Thank you,
Mom Jennifer

GayleC said...

Hi Julie. I like your Christmas giving idea of the Ho Ho gift. We try to keep the adult gifts under ten dollars, but usually we cheat slightly and go higher on one. I am going to use you idea of moving the wise men closer to the manager each day with my daughter.

Julie Miller said...

Hey, Jennifer--

I'm happy to be here. I was flattered to be asked to blog here by your daughter--always appreciate a loyal reader!

Another tradition we have (when we have the time!) are to put up theme trees. For example, my hubby is a huge Star Trek fan. One year we had a small tree devoted exclusively to his Trek ornaments. Now, they're more likely to hang from the garland in the living room so we just have one tree. But it's a fun idea I'd love to do again.

Thanks for stopping by!

Julie Miller said...

Hey, Gayle--thanks for stopping by!

Yes, the Three Wise Men was my mom's idea. A way to help us remember the reason for the season, as well as enjoy the excitement of the countdown to Christmas.

I have two brothers. Mom would set up the rest of the Nativity on our fireplace mantel. Then we'd each pick a Wise Man and start him from our bedrooms upstairs. So we had about 20 days just getting downstairs if we stopped on every step. Then we moved throughout the main floor until we got to the mantel on the 24th. My brothers and I were creative (competitive? ;)) about the route we'd take each year.

Megan said...

Loved the story! And ho ho gifts sounds like a lot of fun!

My favorite sentimental gifts are ones made by my daughter. Yes, they're usually pretty junky, and don't look like anything special, but I treasure them. One of the ones I like most is a little coffee mug, with "thumbprint flowers" and a little poem saying "it's special you see...because it was made from a part of me..."

Merry Christmas to YOU!

Debbi said...

Hi Julie! Thanks so much for the Christmas stories. I love the idea about the Wise Men! My kids are always messing with the Nativity (which is pretty fragile)and I'm glad they like it, but I just don't want them to touch it! I think I'll try to find one that isn't breakable, and use your idea. So fun! I love to start new traditions.

Several years ago, my family started doing the white elephant gifts for the adults. My mom had an ugly, brown, ceramic, pig piggy bank that she wrapped up. My brother-in-law ended up with it, and being the ornery turkey he is, hid it in the living room for my mom to find later (since he didn't want to take it home). So now, the pig is a tradition. He gets wrapped up every Christmas, but never stays in one place for long. He's always being left somewhere, for you to find. If Grandma comes over to babysit, you'll probably find the pig after she leaves. Having a big family birthday dinner? The hostess will more than likely end up finding the ugly pig (who is now missing an ear and his tail!) in a cabinet or drawer somewhere. It's the silly little things that make the best family memories!

Julie Miller said...

Megan--Thanks for stopping by! I agree--those handmade gifts and ornaments from our children are real treasures! My mom still has ornaments my brothers and I made when we were growing up (like I said, my son is in college now!)that she still hangs up every year.

I have various artwork by my son from throughout the years that I still put up to decorate for Christmas.

Julie Miller said...

I LOVE the ugly pig idea, Debbi! Sounds like a new tradition my family would have a lot of fun with.

Growing up, we spent a lot of holidays (4th of July and New Year's usually) with some good family friends, and there'd be a bunch of us in the house, staying up late, playing games indoors and out, etc. Somewhere along the line the dad of the other family got out a clothes pin and stuck it on the back of someone's shirt, shorts, bandanna, wool scarf, etc. It became a tradition to try to sneak that clothespin onto someone else during the celebration. Whoever had it on them at the end of the night took it home and brought it back to stick onto some other unsuspecting soul if they could.

Tammy Yenalavitch said...

Hi Julie,

I love all of your Christmas ideas. The best Christmas gift I ever got was my daughter. She was born on 12/16 and we spent her first Christmas in the hospital.

Sherry James said...

Hey, Julie! I love the Wise Men idea. Your mom is one WISE WOMAN! I now have my mom's Nativity Scene so I think we'll give this a try.

One thing my dad always insisted upon was the opening of the presents one at a time. It gave a chance for everyone to show off their gifts and say thanks before moving on to the next. It made for a nice, relaxed time, not chaotic with paper flying everywhere! I think as kids it gave us a greater appreciation for those gifts, and taught us some patience, too. To this day, one present at a time is still the only way we do it!

Happy Holidays!

Julie Miller said...

That's an awesome gift, Tammy!

Does she ever feel like she's not getting all the attention she deserves on her birthday since it's so close to Christmas? Or, I'm guessing you make a point to really distinguish/celebrate both wonderful events?

Julie Miller said...

I think your dad was a smart man, Sherry. For me, a lot of the pleasure that comes from exchanging gifts is to see the person's reaction (and hope you hit the nail on the head!). I think you're right--it's a good lesson to teach children, too, to appreciate the giving as much as the receiving, and to appreciate the efforts and pleasure of others.

It probably helps reduce the stress, too, by not diving in with a frenzy.

Forgiven said...

One of my favorite traditions is from Christmas Eve. While we're all at church, Santa stops by, leaves a gift for every child and note to remind them to all tidy up their rooms to make space for their new gifts, brush their teeth, leave carrots for his reindeer, and a Diet Dr. Pepper for him (hey...he needs caffeine, not cookies to last the night!). The gifts are always new holiday pajamas. The funny part for us is that either "Mr. or Mrs. Santa" has to come up with a believeable excuse to run back into the house, once everyone is loaded up and ready to leave for church. Mrs. Claus usually forgets that she has to turn off the iron, go potty, put the puppy in the kennel, etc. It's a tradition we created for our children and hope to see continue for our grandbabies...many years from now!

Julie Miller said...

I LOVE that idea, Forgiven. Great way to get kids interested in going to bed on Christmas Eve.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are so smart!