12 Weeks of Christmas **Week 7**

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Today’s guest blogger is Jaycie from The Coupon Geek. Along with these fabulous Holiday ideas Jaycie is one of the BEST deal posters I know. Check out her blog for good deals, good recipes, and great ideas for frugal family fun!

Christmas: All about Family

Growing up, Christmas was very different in our house than the average family. You see, my parents operate a Salvation Army. So from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, it was non-stop motion raising money for the needy and handing out food baskets and toys. All of us at one point in time had to stand in the bitter, freezing cold, “ringing bells” so people would drop some change in the bright red kettles. For those of you whom have never done this, it is pure torture on the body. (So, please drop in some change!) By the time Christmas Day rolled around, my parents were beat and in dire need of a vacation. BUT, they pushed forward and we always had the best family Christmases.

On Christmas morning, we’d head off to church and Mom would always get a cake for us to sing “Happy Birthday” to Baby Jesus. When we got home, we were allowed to open one present before dinner. That evening after presents were opened, we’d all pile into the van and Dad would drive us around so we could all awe over that year’s Christmas light displays.

As we got older and started families, the presents to each other ended and we started a “Gift Exchange Game.” We all have to find a present for $15 or less and wrap it up. We use a deck of cards to see who goes first. You can pick any present or steal one that is already opened. We put a limit on how many times the last round can go. It’s a lot of fun!

Another tradition that started about 7 years ago is my Mom will buy a “Christmas Angel” for all her daughters. Each year, we wait in anticipation to see what she’ll find for our collection. We now each get her one, too. I love this special tradition with her.

Last year, I started a new one for “Nana.” I saw in a magazine how to make a Christmas Photo Advent Calendar. I put hers up on a sheet of foam board and every day in December until Christmas, she was able to come home from work, open up an envelope and find a new picture of Nathan to make her smile. She put all the envelopes back into a Ziploc bag and gave them to me at Christmas saying, “Looks like a new tradition to me! I looked forward to coming home every night!” They got so busy that it ended up being their Christmas tree for the year!

In the end, presents mean very little to our family. We really do focus on our time together and enjoy the little traditions we’ve been sharing for years. We do our best to stress the real reason of Christmas to our children and downplay the whole Santa bit. My favorite Christmas item is my figurine of Santa kneeling to Baby Jesus. :)

Here’s hoping your family has some traditions to pass down through the generations, too!

To create Advent Calendar, you’ll need:

~25 Envelopes
~25 Photos
~Ribbons, Pom-poms, round gift tags, etc to decorate
~Glue Sticks
~Foam Board / Push-Pins

Label each envelope from 1-25. I used round gift tags for mine. Lay them out in the shape of a Christmas tree. Decorate as you wish. Ribbons can be glued across to appear as garland. Glittery Pom-Poms make great light bulbs. And a big, red bow could be used as the tree topper. To hang it up, use push-pins and attach them to foam board. Or, you can use just tape it to the wall. J These make great gifts for Mamas and Nanas! This year, I got her a special photo album to put all the pictures in.

Melomacarona

This is a Greek Christmas cookie..it was always one of my dad’s favorites. These make ahead and freeze well with only baking and dunking to be done when you are ready for a treat! They taste the best if you make them the night before you need them, giving the syrup a chance to sink in.

2 Sticks of Butter (Paula would be proud)
1c. sugar

Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2oz. brandy
1tsp. vanilla
4c. flour (appx)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Finely chopped walnuts

Cream together butter and sugar. Add juices, brandy and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add gradually to the creamed mixture. This will make a very soft, smooth dough. Shape into ovals (I use a soup spoon to shape these). **Freeze now if making ahead. Place in freezer on parchment lined sheet for 12 hours then pop into a freezer bag** Bake on ungreased pan @ 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Syrup:
2c. sugar
1c. honey
1 1/2c. water

Mix together and bring to a boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly (if you don’t stir…you will be cleaning your burners!).

Dip baked, cooled cookies into the syrup and sprinkle with nuts

**Tip** I find dipping 3 cookies at a time works well. You don’t want the cookies to get soggy…but you want the syrup to get in them. Place a cookie rack over a piece of waxed paper and set them there to sprinkle…makes clean up a breeze!

On a side note: I did a quick search to make sure I was spelling this correctly…we always call them “Those Greek Christmas Cookies” :) I found GreekCuisine.com and I am SO excited!!

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