Ahhh … the holidays. Traditions sure have changed.
I know it’s the season to be jolly, but that’s tough when traffic jams and multiplying “To Do” lists are far more prevalent than mistletoe or chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
What’s a harried 21st-century multi-tasker to do? Here are three ways I’ve found to make the holidays brighter (and a bit less stressful).
Have each member of your family (or work group) research a favorite cause or charity. Then hold a meeting where each pitches his or her best idea for a combined contribution. Vote on the winner and then either donate time or money (or both) – together.
WNED participates in the AIDS Community Services’ “Adopt-a-Family” program, giving gifts -- along with hope, joy and a sense of stability -- to a family facing the harsh reality of HIV/AIDS.
Any nonprofit will appreciate whatever you can give. You might want to check with the United Way for some ideas. But be sure your selection represents a cause your group is truly passionate about – whether that’s a health-related foundation, an arts organization or your local parks system.
Speaking of parks, nature is a spiritual gift to be enjoyed regardless of the season. I always find a quiet, contemplative joy in natural, wintertime settings, especially when I bring the camera along and take the time to observe closely. One of my favorite spots is Tifft Nature Preserve just south of downtown Buffalo, where you can walk trails, climbs mounds, take in awesome views of hulking grain elevators, and get right up close to the friendly, resident deer.
If you’d rather not bundle up and brave the cold, there’s some eye-popping nature programming on television, perfectly suited to those brilliant HD TV sets. One of the best is PBS’s “Nature” series (airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on WNED-TV).
The dramatic “Christmas in Yellowstone” episode airs Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. on WNED-TV. The national park’s vistas and geological wonders are stunning in winter. But the animals are the real “stars:” bison, red foxes, wolves, elk and a grizzly bear with her newborn cubs.
Savor the Music
There’s no doubt about it: holiday music – whether campy, jazzy or deeply inspirational – is downright infectious. And there’s nothing like it to get me in the spirit. I think all the big-box stores and malls should require customers to sing (something like “Let There Be Peace on Earth”) before they officially open for business during the holidays.
The Western New York area offers a wealth of live holiday concerts -- many for free or low cost. At St. Paul’s Cathedral in downtown Buffalo, the Girls Choir will perform “A Ceremony of Carols” during a free Friday recital on Dec. 16. The dynamic a cappella ensemble, Harmonia (one of my favorites) will perform two Christmas concerts at area churches.
Of course, some of the best holiday music comes directly to your living room from WNED-TV. This season’s exceptional line-up includes:
Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Featuring David Archuleta and Michael York
Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 3 p.m. on WNED-TV
Pop sensation David Archuleta of “American Idol” fame and Grammy Award nominee Michael York join the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir in an energetic celebration of magnificent proportion. Elegant dancing … masterful performances … storytelling … and more!
Christmas Carols with the Priests
Dec. 24 at 9 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 4 p.m. on WNED-TV
The Priests [Fathers Eugene and Martin O'Hagan (brothers) and Father David Delargy] bring the festive season alive with a collection of holiday favorites — delivered with a " little priestly twist." This ultra-talented trio earned the Guinness World Record for "fastest-selling UK debut for a classical act" in 2008.
Watch a snippet of a previous performance at St. Paul’s Basilica in Toronto.
Dec. 24 at 10 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 5 p.m.
This festive concert of holiday and traditional classical music from an historic church in Norway has become an international tradition. The concert features world-renowned musicians:
- Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman, who delighted millions when she sang at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Olympics;
- Siblings Mari and Håkon Samuelsen, superb young musicians and organizers of this annual event; and
- the Grammy-nominated Trondheim Soloists.
So enjoy the holidays! And remember to unwrap the really important gifts.
What’s your one best tip for relieving holiday stress?