Customary treatment: prepping for the holidays

John
John Gushue
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The Christmas season kicked into gear this week at our house: the Santa parade downtown Sunday, and Tuesday, a multiple number of things: the opening of the advent calendar, a hectic, but tasty Festive Special at Swiss Chalet (a true marker, for our family) and the first chapter of Kevin Major's "The House of Wooden Santas," an advent calendar in its own right, albeit in hardcover.

Many of the social cues in our house are made by our nine-year-old son, who already has a list of things needed for a complete Christmas.

Surf's up -

The Christmas season kicked into gear this week at our house: the Santa parade downtown Sunday, and Tuesday, a multiple number of things: the opening of the advent calendar, a hectic, but tasty Festive Special at Swiss Chalet (a true marker, for our family) and the first chapter of Kevin Major's "The House of Wooden Santas," an advent calendar in its own right, albeit in hardcover.

Many of the social cues in our house are made by our nine-year-old son, who already has a list of things needed for a complete Christmas.

I'm not sure if the weather will co-operate with one of them, but his snowman-in-a-box kit stands by at the ready.

Christmas customs and traditions

www.whychristmas.com/customs/

From a site called Why Christmas? comes this collection of explanations of many of the things - from poinsettias to pudding - that we find around us at this time of the year. Curious young minds (and, yep, the older ones) will learn plenty of things here. There's more to be found, too: check out the navigation bar on top to see how Christmas is celebrated in dozens of countries, as well as some fun and games, such as a drag-and-drop way to virtually decorate a tree.

Christmas in France

tinyurl.com/francexmas

The above link will tell you about Christmas in plenty of countries (including, to my surprise, China), while this one focuses at length on French customs and traditions, including a history of the Christmas tree that's pretty detailed.

Woodland's advent calendar

tinyurl.com/woodlandscalendar

The Woodland junior school in Kent, England, has earned a reputation worldwide for offering an annual online advent calendar that is as engaging as it is fun. Each day, a new fact about Christmas around the world will be unveiled, so bookmark it for repeat visits.

My musical advent calendar

johngushue.typepad.com/blog/advent2009/

I like online advent calendars so much, I started my own. Each day through the season, I'll be writing about some of my favourite Christmas albums and songs. Check it out through the season, and send me your suggestions!

Cookie sheet advent calendar

tinyurl.com/cookieadvent

You can make your own advent calendar, of course, with simple materials. I saw one online made with matchboxes and fabrics that looked surprisingly fancy. This one is appealing for families with busy kitchens: decorate (and sacrifice) a cookie sheet, and use metallic objects for the fun. You've missed a few days, but you can still have a blast with the kids.

Brainfroth advent calendar

brainfroth.wordpress.com/

Lots of websites are adapting the advent calendar theme this year, as always; I'm going to be following this science-minded blog's revelation of information (starting with an explanation of caffeine) through the month.

HGTV decorating ideas

www.hgtv.ca/holidays/

Got a bag of red candies, some glue and a Styrofoam wreath? (Don't worry: I have none of those things, either.)

The decorating maniacs at the specialty channel HGTV have that and many other ideas for sprucing up the house, with step-by-step galleries to guide the way.

Elsewhere this week

Muppets' Bohemian Rhapsody

tinyurl.com/muppetbohemian

A good sign that the Muppets still have a huge following?

Their hilarious take on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" attracted eight million views on YouTube in its first week, largely through word of mouth. Gonzo & Co. make the song family friendly, too, by having Animal handle (well, skip over by way of mangling) the more contentious lyrics about Mama, a trigger and such.

In other words, something even the youngest can enjoy, including Beaker's high notes, and Sam the Eagle handling the line "No, no, no, no, no!" that almost seems to have been written just for him.

John Gushue is a writer in St. John's. Blog: johngushue.typepad.com. Twitter: @johngushue.

How do you know when it's, say, 3 p.m. in London? This Twitter feed tells you, like so: "Bong. Bong. Bong." Genius. (I've spared you the all-caps treatment it uses, but the most famous, and one of the loudest, clocks in the world is entitled to get your attention.)

Organizations: Swiss Chalet, House of Wooden Santas, Queen's

Geographic location: France, China, Kent, England St. John's London

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