Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Hangovers and Headaches December 30, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:48 pm



Going out tomorrow night? Ringing in the New Year with family, friends, and festivities? Much of those festivities will more than likely involve champagne and alcohol of some sort. New Year’s Eve is in fact the most popular drinking day of the year, followed by Christmas and not far behind is Thanksgiving. That’s a whole lot of alcohol in two short months. Cheers!


But, as we celebrate saying good-bye to 2016 and hello to 2017, we may also have one , or two or three or four, drinks too many and will regret doing so come Sunday when we wake up with a doozy of a hangover. Growing up, I had a friend who had a Bassett Hound named Hangover, which today is so funny to me, but real hangovers are anything but funny and in a word, blow. So, how best can you avoid one this go round?



Water’s Your Friend

Naturally the best way to avoid waking up with an aching head and queasy tummy is to drink less alcohol. But, it’s New Year’s Eve you say, so maybe the question should be, what’s the best realistic way to avoid a hangover? Well, I’m here to help my friends.


First of all, eat before going out and eat something hearty. Having food in your stomach will slow the rate alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream according to Dr. Keri Peterson who was interviewed by “Good Housekeeping” magazine. Peterson also recommends drinking a glass of water between every alcoholic beverage you down, which will help prevent an electrolyte imbalance that is responsible for a hangover’s worst symptoms.


Other than that, it’s all about portion control and self-control. Unless they’re your favorites, avoid dark liquors like whiskey, as they are thought to contain more “hangover causing” toxins than lighter drinks and, as hard as it might be, especially on New Year’s Eve, you might also consider skipping the bubbly. The bubbles in champagne help your body absorb alcohol faster, causing higher alcohol levels and possibly leading to increased chances of a hangover.




Hair of the Dog?

So, you eat before, you drink water, and you avoid shots of whiskey but you still wake up with a hangover. What gives and what next? Sadly, there are no magic cures and most wives tales are just that: tall tales.


First of all, continue to hydrate. Your body aches and it needs hydration, which all that alcohol (and possible vomiting) decreased. After that, the best cure? Sleep! Yep, if you can, sleep as much as possible. But, what if you don’t have the luxury of sleeping in?


Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And hydrate more. Most experts believe that dehydration caused by heavy drinking is what leads to a hangover so it only makes sense to add hydration back into your bruised and battered body. Water, juice, and sports drinks like Gatorade that contain water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes are your best bets.


After hydrating, nutrition is probably most important. But, unlike many a popular myths, a greasy meal is not what you should go for. Instead, start with some easy-to-digest food like toast or cereal. There are also countless claims that honey sandwiches work wonders, but whatever you do, concentrate on getting calories back into your system and not on counting calories or carbs.


If you’re a regular coffee drinker, grab a cup of java but not for reasons you might think. The caffeine in coffee actually narrows your blood vessels and increases blood pressure, both of which make hangovers worse but if you normally have coffee in the morning, avoiding it will only add a caffeine headache to your already pounding head. Start the Keurig and possibly start the healing.


Once you have something in your stomach, anti-inflammatory pain relievers may help some of your symptoms. Think ibuprofen or naproxen. A small amount of GENTLE exercise may provide some relief too, but avoid anything that requires a lot of nutrition or that will decrease your already dehydrated state. Many also reach for Alka Seltzer. The famous plop-plop-fizz-fizz is full of bicarbonate or baking soda, which may soothe your aching belly, but the aspirin and citric acid in it may do just the opposite.




Something that won’t help is the old “hair of the dog.” Yes, that early morning Bloody Mary may trick you into thinking it’s cured your hangover but it’s really only a temporary fix and may actually make things worse in the hours ahead. Your body may in fact be suffering from alcohol withdrawal so adding more to it is not the answer.


Personally I would think about going into one of my favorite places, a sauna, in hopes of sweating out all those toxins but don’t do it! In fact, the last thing you need is to cause dangerous blood vessel and blood flow changes in your weakened system, which the extreme heat of a sauna could do.


There are pills that purport to help you avoid getting a hangover and others that claim to cure a hangover, but most do so with questionable results. There are also multivitamins for drinkers that contain ingredients thought to replenish nutrients alcohol diminishes but they probably won’t cure a wicked hangover. Then there’s milk thistle, the herbal supplement many swear by and which studies show helps support liver function. I guess it couldn’t hurt.


Lastly, a current trend is something a little more extreme: IV drips. Voluntary intravenous drips. Insanity! Not happening! But, think back. Think back to the misery you felt suffering from a hangover. Wouldn’t you do anything to relieve your aches and pains? Okay, tell me more.


The normal, everyday drips are filled with somewhat obvious things like ibuprofen and anti-nausea supplements in addition to B12 and B complex, vitamin C, and something called glutathione. Okay, tell me what all that means.


B vitamins are depleted by alcohol and at the same time, they protect your nervous system. (One reason heavy drinkers often exhibit mood swings and suffer anxiety and depression.) Getting a boost of them in an IV may speed-up your hangover recovery and help you feel energized and revitalized. Vitamin C supports your body’s immune functions while glutathione is thought to detoxify the liver and is an effective antioxidant. So, more glutathione in your body the more you can drink? That explains it!


Year by year, you don’t seem to be able to drink as much as you used to, right? In college you may have been the life of the party but by your 40s you’re more often the party pooper. This is in part because your body produces less glutathione as you age. Bingo!


These on-demand infusions may also contain electrolytes and other vitamins to ease hangover symptoms but they aren’t cheap. Averaging $200 a pop…or poke…iv hangover drips are gaining popularity and are often administered by doctors or nurses themselves. In fact, one group of ER physicians now have permanent residency at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Shocker.


So party on tomorrow night but party smart. Drink that water, don’t drink and drive, and wake up in 2017 with a smile, not a hangover!










Lessons and Wisdom December 24, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:43 pm



Encourage people to BELIEVE in you.


Always remember who’s NAUGHTY and who’s NICE.


Don’t POUT.


It’s as much fun to GIVE as it is to receive.


Some days it’s okay to feel a little CHUBBY.


Make your PRESENTS known.


It never hurts to ASK.


Bright RED can make anyone look good.


If you only show up once a year, make it SPECIAL.


Whenever you’re at a loss for words, just say

“Ho, Ho, Ho!”



Pass the Cheese Board Please December 22, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:32 pm



Tis the season for entertaining and any season screams “cheese!” to me! There are lots of parties to attend and lots of friends to host, and in between the meatballs and Christmas sweets, there’s nothing better than a solid cheese board. Filled with so many delectable flavors and delightful to look at (have you seen Instagram lately?!), a cheese board can please almost any guest. They are also easy to put together and in a pinch, you probably have enough items on hand to throw one together at the last minute. But, if you want to make a picture perfect one, what should you include? That, my friends, is half the fun and entirely up to you, although there are some guidelines. You don’t want to plop down a nut-covered orange cheese ball but you also don’t want to offer your guests overly fussy pairings. So, here are some go-to tips.




Choosing the Cheese

This is most important. But, before you head to the store, ask yourself how many guests you expect and whether your gathering is more formal or more on the casual side. From there, you can start thinking about cheese.


Tia Keenan, author of “The Art of the Cheese Plate,” (yes, there is a book on the subject and it is fabulous!) recommends “building flights,” just like you would for beer or wine. I’ve always heard to choose a cheese from each of the four basic categories of aged, soft, firm, and blue, but Keenan also says picking cheeses around a theme can be fun like choosing cheeses made from the same type of milk such as goat, sheep, or cow, or cheeses based on the region they’re from like Normandy in France or Somerset in England.


Personally, I like the first option and the variety it offers both in textures and flavors. For aged, I’d probably choose an aged white cheddar or smoked Gouda. If most of the other cheeses chosen are white though, I’d stick with a regular cheddar to add color to the plate. A nice soft cheese I like is Camembert and most, but not me, like a creamy Brie. Hard-wise, I love both Manchego and Parmigiano-Reggiano but I’m not a big blue fan, so I would offer either a mild Gorgonzola or mildly-strong Stilton. Roquefort will not be found on any cheese board I create!


Whatever you do, be sure to serve at least one familiar cheese. Not everyone is a cheese fanatic but almost everyone loves a good cheddar. Amount-wise, figure on offering 3-4 ounces of each cheese per person.


One thing most experts agree on is that a cheese plate should never include a flavored cheese or cubes of cheese. Sorry friends, I love a good flavored cheese as much as the next person and I adore the ease of grocery store packaged cheese cubes, but ixnay on the cheese tray.


Now, the set up.


Remove cheeses from the refrigerator one hour before serving. No one wants a cold piece of cheese and the flavors, aromas, and subtleties of each will be enhanced by keeping them at room temp. Keep in mind that cheese is actually a preserved food, so there’s really no need to refrigerate hard, aged cheeses unless you purchase them way in advance, which isn’t recommended anyway.


Once you have selected your cheeses, it’s time to put together the board. Always, always, always cut your cheeses before putting them on the board and do so on a separate board. Don’t leave it up to your guests to cut as some may not know what cutting utensil works with what cheese and you don’t want a mess on your board.


For soft and crumbly cheeses like chevre and blue, “Bon Appetit” recommends using a wire and for harder cheeses, think about their original shape and use a good cheese knife to slice them with while maintaining that original shape. Slice into wedges or strips that can be eaten in one or two bites. Throw in a few sprigs of Rosemary for adornment, and you’re good to go! It’s also a nice idea to label each cheese on the board. There are so many clever ways to do so. When in doubt, check Pinterest!



Pairing and Plating the Cheeses

Part of the beauty of a cheese board is what’s plated in addition to the cheeses themselves. Basically, your board should include something hard, soft, salty, nutty, and sweet. Most people I spoke with recommend a combination of any but not all of the following: crusty bread, baguettes, crackers in different sizes and shapes (but never seasoned), spicy mustards, roasted red peppers, Marcona almonds, raw honey, prosciutto, salami, figs, apples, pears, chutney, and cornichon pickles. If you like, you can also offer some good dark chocolate with sea salt. I’ve also served mini caramel apple bites and they were a hit!


But, don’t go crazy with pairings and just like the cheeses you choose, offer a variety. Choose things both sweet and savory but don’t overload the board. “Bon Appetit” suggests one bread or cracker, one in-season fruit, a jam or compote, and two savory options like pickles, salami, or mustard.




So, you have the ingredients, now what do you put them all on? That one’s easy.


Any wooden cutting board that’s in good shape will do, as will a pretty marble slab, a slate board like the rope-handled one pictured here, or my newest gem, a Himalayan Salt Block given to me by a dear friend. Once you choose the serving vessel, place the cheeses all the while making sure to separate strong ones from mild ones, and then add the pairings much like you would accessorize an outfit. Be sure to provide small plates and cocktail napkins nearby, as well as nice liquid pairings such as a good Sauvignon Blanc or subtle juice.


So there you have it: the perfect cheese board. They may look pretty and pretty complicated on Instagram, but they really are pretty simple! Have fun and bon appetit!






1 Corinthians For Christmas December 18, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:11 pm



It is one of most popular readings from the bible and is often quoted in both secular and non-secular worlds. It talks about being patient, kind, and honest and not being envious, proud, or rude. It was read during my wedding and I had to memorize it to be initiated in my college sorority. It is, 1 Corinthians:13. So many of us have heard it, know it, and love it. But, did you know there is a Christmas version? It’s not found in the bible, but it’s well worth a read. Enjoy!





1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Version


If I decorate my house perfectly with strands of twinkly lights and shiny balls

but do not show love to my family, I am just a decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen baking dozens of Christmas cookies and arranging on a beautifully

adorned table but do not share the true meaning of Christmas, I am just another cook.

If I volunteer at a soup kitchen, carol in a nursing home, and donate to charity

but do not demonstrate simple kindness to strangers, it profits me nothing.

If I attend holiday parties but do not go to church, I have missed the point.

Love stops cooking to hug a child.

Love sets aside decorating to kiss a spouse.

Love is kind during the holidays though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china,

perfectly strung outdoor lights, or a flawless tree.

Love doesn’t ask family to get out of the way but is thankful they are in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return or those on our lists,

but rejoices in giving to those who can’t and those who aren’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails, even at Christmas.































Strike A Pose

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:27 am



This blog post is most likely too late to be of benefit for your Christmas card photos, but hopefully it’s not too late for holiday party and family get together photos. In either case, fasten your phone cam seat belts; it’s photo season! The stockings are hung with care, presents have been bought using much thought, but what about photos? You want to be ready for them too. What’s your best angle? What’s the best way to pose? It’s all right here. Just read on!


Everywhere you go people are taking photos, mostly with their phones. Group photos, scenic photos, food photos, and of course, selfies. Sometimes I look at photos of me and think, “Eeeww. That was a horrible way to pose!” Other times I think, “Hmmm…not too bad!” So what gives? What makes that all important “to post or not to post” difference?



In a nutshell, you might say half of it is your body type and what you wear and the other half is how you angle that body and clothing toward the camera. It goes without saying that you should try to face a light source (rather than have it directly overhead for example) and that whatever is closest to the camera will look the biggest, but there are also other tips you can bank on, including these simple rules of thumb:


  • Stand tall and stand up straight. Slouching is both unflattering and makes you appear unsure of yourself.
  • Relax! Unless you’re a model or a millenial, you probably don’t like having your picture taken, but when you do, relax. Don’t tense up or try too hard, and don’t forget your hands. Keep them soft and natural.
  • Put your hand on your hip. Yes, those millennials were onto something when they patented this move as it really does slenderize your arm (as long as that arm is either thin to begin with or covered up if on the bigger side) and creates that relaxed feeling discussed above. But, as with anything, don’t overdo it in every photo you take. Pick and choose. Here are some examples of celebs of all shapes, sizes, and ages doing it best:

blake-at-2014-cannes octavia-spencer1 taylor

merly  xreese  charlize-theron-oscars

  • Twist your body slightly to the side. I have trouble with this one, as I don’t want my backside in a photo and unless I do the twist just so, I am anything “butt” happy with the shot. Still, remember that straight-on shots show you at your widest so practice this move and get it down.
  • Angle your chin up and out, which will help elongate your neck.
  • Pull your shoulders back. This will make you look taller and also more polished and poised.
  • What you wear matters. Dark clothing can slenderize you but bulky clothing won’t. You may think your hiding your flaws but you just might be making yourself look heavier than you really are.
  • If sitting, cross your ankles, not your knees and if standing, place one foot slightly in front of the other and turn one hip out just a smidgen.
  • Keep your arms away from your body. The goal is to create space between your arms and your torso. This is something you really need to practice as you don’t want to look unnatural.
  • Practice your smile. You don’t want to look silly and you want to look natural. This is another area that’s hard for me. If I smile too big, my eyes squint and appear too small but if I “soft smile” I feel I look a bit put off. I’m working on this.
  • Stand in the middle of a group. This way, you can slightly turn into or lean behind someone next to you and essentially crop out some of your body. Another option is to stand at the end, which I’ve discovered allows the cropping out of what you don’t like. Here’s me doing both on my annual college girls trip last year:





Smile! It’s a Selfie!


You can thank selfies and Instagram for much of this. I still cannot take a good selfie for the life of me, but I do love Instagram. I also love all the filters Instagram offers! Don’t like the lighting or color of a photo you take? There’s a filter that can fix that. Trust me, most of those fabulous photos you see on-line have been filtered and doctored and doctored some more. If it’s a celebrity pic, it’s also more than likely been photoshopped. No star is that perfect, no plate of lasagna looks that great, and in no group shot does everyone look that fabulous. Filters help, but apparently an old school product does as well.




Does anyone remember Corn Silk powder? The ‘60s classic is making a comeback, all because of its ability to make women “selfie ready.” Right in line with Ponds cold cream and Dove beauty bars, Corn Silk is all the rage. It’s kind of ironic that an inexpensive beauty product from 50 years ago is revolutionizing the latest and greatest in technology.


Make-up artist to the stars Aimee Adams swears by it and told London’s “Daily Mail” many of her peers are also obsessed with the product because “it takes all the oiliness off but it gives you a real glow. It never goes on cakey.” This apparently is similar to the flattering soft-focus Instagram filter and proves once again the more things change the more they stay the same as Corn Silk’s ads claimed to “keep you looking great long after ordinary pressed powder lets your make-up go all melty and muddy.”


Made with supernal walnut powder and real silk, Corn Silk powder comes in both loose and pressed powder versions. Fans of it say it’s super soft and absorbs oils, reduces shine, and doesn’t leave your skin looking over-powdered or cakey. Perhaps best of all is that Corn Silk is way more affordable than high-end alternatives, which is just one reason it’s one of Amazon’s best-selling face powders. Adams, who has worked with the likes of Elle Macpherson, British royals, and Helen Mirren, says “It looks like you’ve been filtered. It’s the kind of look people now try to get by using filters on Instagram.” Sounds picture perfect to me!


Put Your Coat On! December 6, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:46 am



In most parts of the country right now the weather ranges from somewhat mild to downright cold. In either case, you may not need a North Face  but some type of jacket is both a comfort necessity and a style element so why not be fashionable in your outerwear rather than frumpy?


coatThink about it, your coat makes a major first impression for you and of you. When you enter a room, office, store, airport, or wherever, your coat basically tells others a lot about you. Are you traditional, funky, chic, casual, trendy, or maybe even flirty? What you wear over your clothes will answer that question, and more.


The legendary Diane Von Furstenberg was once asked how to freshen up a boring wardrobe without replacing it in its entirety and she replied, “A statement coat. Try something in a bright color or print to wake up your entire look.”


I’m a big fan of double-breasted wool coats, quilted car coats, barn jackets, trench coats, pea coats and any coat with toggle buttons. Most of these are basic, traditional pieces, especially the trench.




In The Trenches

Trench coats are great light weight choices for those of us in non-frigid areas. Most are warm enough and many are waterproof. They are also timeless.


“A cocoon silhouette or tailored trench that hits at or below the knee works for day or night,” Von Furstenberg told “InStyle” magazine. “It’s such a versatile piece. You might even want to splurge a little on one.”


If you can splurge, think Burberry.


London-based Burberry is credited with creating the first trench more than a century ago. Its original version, known as the Sandringham, is still around today and through the years other versions have been seen everywhere from battlefields to Hollywood.





Back in 1879, Thomas Burberry invented a revolutionary breathable and waterproof fabric called gabardine. Although lampooned in the 1980s, the much-maligned fabric is still the material of choice for trench coats and was a key reason they were given to British officers during WWI. Burberry supplied British troops with half a million of them over four years of battles and the coats returned to the frontlines in 1939 during WWII. America’s Douglas MacArthur was often photographed wearing one, as shown above.




marlene-dietrich-xln bogart-in-maltese-falconPractical yes, but they became fashion staples thanks to Marlene Dietrich and Humphrey Bogart in the 1940s and again when Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard donned his and her versions in the final scene of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” From screen royalty they achieved real life royalty status when none other than matching Burberry trenches were worn by Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1983. More recently Kate Middleton sported a stunning white wool Burberry trench in 2011. The version sold out in one day.


So what’s so great about a trench coat? Many of the qualities that protected soldiers make for civilian comfort and durability. Take for instance the collar, which can be “popped” to keep the cold out or kept down for style. Then there’s the “gun flaps” right above the breasts. Originally designed to keep moisture from flowing into the coat after a soldier fired his rifle, today they serve mere civilian in much the same way. Epaulets originally used to display rank insignia today keep your shoulders looking square and sharp while the sleeve’s belted buckles can easily be tightened to keep out the elements. Belts are a trademark as are back vents, which allow for movement and comfort. How you tie the belt is up to you but here’s a little help from “InStyle.”


                        trench-front        trench-back


So, what should you look for in a trench? The right cut and proper shoulder fit are essential. If you think you’ll be wearing the coat over blazers or heavy shirts, choose a trench with a raglan sleeve. Length is also important. Coats cropped just below the hips are best for more petite figures while taller ladies can easily get away with versions that fall below the knees. Double-breasted is the classic cut, but curvy women might want to go for a more streamlined single-breasted silhouette. Finally, make sure the coat fits you well in the body and in the sleeves. Trenches that are to big will make you look sloppy and sleeves should fall about half-way down the hand.


Something else that makes the trench coat stand alone is that, even though there are many colorful and patterned varieties available, the classic coat has remained true to its khaki heritage and has never really gone out of style. Whether it was welcomed by women wearing trousers for the first time in the 1940s, taking on First Lady chicness in the 1960s, or easily mixing with today’s blend of feminity and masculinity, it is still considered by many a stylist as the go-to outerwear piece for women of all ages.


All Puffed Up

puffer-coat-heels-street-styleA style that is somewhat new and trendy is what is dubbed “puffers.” Although I remember wearing down coats back in the ‘70s, today’s versions are more fitted and less dough-boyish. The down or synthetic-filled channel style coats filling racks and magazines everywhere have been steadily gaining popularity and even recently graced runways, essentially sealing their fashionista status. Everyone from Chanel to Balenciaga showed them and you are sure to see them everywhere this winter.


Puffers are, for the most part, casual toppers. You may find versions that could perhaps go over a dress and knee-high dress boots, but you’re more likely to see them worn with jeans or leggings. What’s great about them is that they are warm and waterproof but also lightweight and packable. Many even come with their own little pouch to pack them in!


puffer-jackets-runway-embedSo, how do you choose one to fit your needs and budget? First, decide what those needs are. Do you need water resistant but mildly warm or do you need something to keep you both dry and warm in even the coldest of temps? Whatever the case, consider what your puffer is filled with. Then decide how much you can spend. There are many affordable options so don’t break the bank if the bank is on a budget.


As “InStyle” magazine recently reported, when it comes to insulation, natural isn’t always better. Most people will say they prefer superfine goose or duck down but wool and cotton may offer more warmth for the weight. They also pack nearly effortlessly. Synthetic materials can also prove the better choice in wet conditions, as down often loses its ability to insulate in damp conditions. Down will also more than likely be the more pricey choice.


You also want to pay attention to the coat’s “fill power rating,” which is basically how many cubic inches one ounce of down or filler occupies in the jacket. The lower the number, the lighter weight the coat but also the less warm.




You’ll find puffer coats everywhere, from Target to Costco, Nordstrom to Neimans. You’ll also find them in every color and in various lengths. Details are as important as filler. Look for fleece-lined pockets, a tall collar and maybe even a removable hood, and pay close attention to what the outside of the coat is made of. Polyester, cotton, and nylon are usually windproof and you’ll want a water-resistant coating to keep you dry.


Caring for your puffer is a matter of what you buy. Some are machine washable but others aren’t. Check the tags! If, or should I say when, your puffer loses its puff, simply put it in the dryer and run it on no heat with a tennis ball for around five minutes. When you’re done, go ahead and throw your feather pillows in for a quick puffing too!


Sales are everywhere and Christmas is just around the corner. Shop the sales, shop wisely, and maybe even ask for a fun but good coat from Santa. We all know how much he likes and depends on a good coat!







Advent, St. Nick and Why Do We Give Gifts? December 4, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:52 pm



In many Western Christian churches, including most Catholic and Lutheran parishes, today marks the second Sunday of Advent. On this day, a second candle on an Advent wreath is lit. The purple candle is called the “Bethlehem Candle,” demonstrates Faith, and reminds us of Mary and Joseph’s treacherous journey to Bethlehem.


The word “advent” comes from the Latin word that means “coming.” During Advent, Christians patiently await the coming of their Savior, Jesus Christ. An Advent wreath is made up of various evergreens, representing continuous life, as well as four candles that symbolize the four weeks of Advent. Legend has it that the four candles and the four weeks each represent 1,000 years and together total the 4,000 years between Adam and Eve and Jesus’ birth. Three candles on the wreath are purple and one is pink. They signify Christ being the light of the world and the contrast between darkness and light.


On the first Sunday of Advent, which begins the season of Advent four weeks out from Christmas, a purple “Prophet’s Candle” is lit as we focus on Hope and Jesus’ coming. Today’s purple candle will be followed by next Sunday’s pink “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding us of Joy and the birth of Jesus. On the last Sunday of Advent, the “Angel’s Candle” of Peace is lit. Some Advent wreaths also add a fifth white “Christ Candle” is the middle, which is lit on Christmas. Advent officially ends on Christmas Eve.


Growing up my family didn’t really celebrate Advent and my childhood home never had an Advent wreath or the other popular item, an Advent calendar. We basically had Jesus and Santa.



Jesus, Santa, and St. Nick

Last year I attended a meeting during which we learned “How Santa preps us for Christmas.” It was so interesting and really stuck with me. By comparing Jesus and scripture with Santa, the following associations were made:


Scripture: Jesus asks us to prepare the way for his second coming and to repent.

Santa: Santa keeps a “naughty and nice” list.


Scripture: We are asked to listen to the Word and to be attentive.

Santa: Santa listens to each child as they sit on his lap and write him letters.


Scripture: Our faith and hope consist of joyful expectations

Santa: We count down the days until Santa arrives


Scripture: We are asked to give abundantly with love

Santa: Santa brings presents to all



From there, we were asked to apply all of these to our daily lives. I immediately thought of yet another comparison, that of St. Nicholas and Santa. Considered the “first Santa” by Catholics, good ole St. Nick wore a red coat like Santa, had a beard, and loved to share and give. He’s also mentioned in the classic “The Night Before Christmas.” Who knew?!


A very rich and generous man, St. Nicholas heard about a family that didn’t have enough money to buy food so he snuck onto their roof and threw some gold coins down their chimney. The coins landed in their stockings, which were hanging over the fire to dry. This, my friends, is why we hang stockings on fireplaces and put treats in them!




And why do we give presents? Well, think of the 3 Kings. They brought gifts to the infant King and by giving to others, we model their generous act. Our daughter Kristen only gets three presents at Christmas, which has been our family tradition all her life. If three gifts were good enough for Jesus, they are certainly good enough for the rest of us!


All of these things explain some age-old traditions and also demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas. It breaks my heart to see the real reason for the season become increasingly “offensive” and secular, and my hope is that by sitting back and understanding exactly why we have days off in December and why stores love this time of the year, we will realize that there is so much more to it all than just time off, shopping, and Santa. I have hope.