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    For many, the holidays are a time of tradition. Sometimes you take joy in the traditions - and sometimes it's simply the tradition of putting up with your crazy uncle's wild antics. Holiday customs abound around the world. Some of the oldest holiday traditions we've found come from Europe.  Take a look at these holiday traditions and maybe steal a few for yourself! (We welcome you to share your favorite holiday traditions on our Facebook page.)

    Dresden, Germany
    Spending time in Germany this holiday season? If so, you'll be sure to run into one of their many Christmas Markets. These markets feature holiday crafts and treats for everyone to enjoy. The oldest market is in Dresden, Germany and dates back to 1434. Traditionally called Striezelmarket, it is located in Dresden's historical city center. Some of the best crafts can be found at Striezelmarket and include; hand-blow glass baubles, hand-thrown ceramics, and traditional local 'Blaudruck' which is white and blue printed cloth [1].

    Salzkammergut, Austria
    In Austria the holidays aren't complete without Krampus. Krampus is the devilish counterpart of St. Nicholas who scares children into behaving and doles out punishment to naughty kids. In the Salzkammergut region of Austria there is a huge Krampus parade that takes place. Crowds eagerly await the arrival of the Krampus processional, complete with gruesome masks and costumes. If that doesn't get you into the holiday spirit, we don't know what will!

    Nuremberg, Germany
    Who doesn't love spicy gingerbread during the holidays, especially decking the halls of your gingerbread house creation with all of your favorite candies? The arrival of that essential ingredient, ginger, can be traced back to Europe during the 11th Century when it was brought back from the Middle East by explorers [2]. Nuremberg, Germany quickly became known as the "gingerbread capital of the world" in the 1600's when expert bakers were employed to create elaborate works of gingerbread art, sometimes using gold leaf to decorate the gingerbread houses [3].

    Throughout the Ukraine
    Stories and legends go a long way towards influencing our modern day traditions. In the Ukraine there is a legend about a widow who lived in a small hut. One day a pine cone took root and began to grow. The widow and her children began to day dream about how they would decorate this tree, but being very poor, they had limited means. One morning the widow awoke to her children gleefully exclaiming the tree had been decorated! The widow saw that spider webs had been spun all around the tree, and as the sun rose and crept in through the window the spider web changed into gold and silver. And from that day forward the widow never wanted for anything more [4]. This story is why today no Christmas tree in the Ukraine is complete without spider web ornaments!

    [1]: Travel Intelligence Christmas Markets
    [2]: Kidz World Christmas Traditions
    [3]: Ferguson Plarre Gingerbread Men
    [4]: MSI Chicago Scrapbook Exhibits

    De-Stress this Holiday Season

    Story 2 Image December

    Life can be chaotic. Life over the holidays can be downright insane. Whether you are traveling this holiday season or staying home, try to take a moment for these stress relieving tips and make your holiday season a more enjoyable one!

    Learn to say no - Between cooking, holiday shopping, car trips, and other holiday essentials sometimes there just isn't enough time in the day. Learn to say no to some of the requests you receive and you'll find yourself breathing easier and truly enjoying those things you do participate in.

    Lower your expectations - No, we don't mean you should lower all of your expectations. But when your pumpkin pie crust comes out a little burnt or your house isn't up to picture perfect standards - relax. It's okay that everything isn't perfect. Imperfection is human and the holidays are a perfect time to remind oneself that it's okay to be human.

    Set a budget - If you are like so many people out there braving the holiday crowds you probably have what feels like an endless lists of gifts to buy. Before you even touch a shopping cart sit down and plan out your holiday shopping. Know in advance whom you are shopping for and what to get them. This helps in two ways; you won't leave with any unexpected items in your cart and you'll be able to do some pre-shopping recon to find the best prices.

    Take a break - The holiday season offers numerous opportunities for low cost fun. Drive around and look at holiday lights. Go outside and build a snow man. Listen to your favorite holiday music. It doesn't take much to take a break, but doing so can really save your sanity.

    Focus on what's important - Sometimes it can start to feel like all you are doing is shopping, decorating and spending money but that's really not what the holiday season is about. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed just take a minute and think about the true meaning of the season. Taking a moment to reflect on what's important can really bring everything else into focus.

    Where in the World?

    Where in the World December

    Where in the world can you find this snow capped mountain and what is its name?

    It is Mt. Etna and is actually an active volcano in Sicily, Italy. Throughout winter people can ski the volcano for the ultimate adrenaline rush. 

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