Paper crowns

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I mentioned yesterday that I can’t think of anything more fun than wearing paper crowns on Christmas.  Last year I cut out colorful tissue paper crowns to go in my homemade Christmas crackers.  We hosted family and a friend for the holidays last December, and paper crowns on every head made for a festive Christmas dinner.

This year, I went a little fancier and used gold watercolor paint on a large piece of rice paper.  The 21 x 18 inch sheet cut down perfectly into eight crowns, each of which got embellished with little golden star stickers.  The paper crowns are now all tucked away in Christmas crackers, which we plan to bring over as a gift to the friends who are generously hosting us on Christmas day.

Paper.crowns.1

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Making Christmas crackers

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I’ve always loved the idea of Christmas crackers.  One year, in an office white elephant exchange, a box of Christmas crackers briefly entered and exited my possession.  They were the real British kind, that made a cracking sound and were filled with prizes and paper hats.

Disappointed but determined to have my own crackers, a little googling showed me that they were pretty easy to make, and now it’s one of our traditions.  All you need is a few cardboard tubes (spent wrapping paper tubes are perfect), tape, string or ribbon, and wrapping paper.  For the prizes that go inside, I make paper crowns and add a few chocolate candies.  Traditionally small toys also go into the crackers, but since there aren’t currently any children in our family, I think it’s fun to throw in a few scratch tickets.

We had a lot of fun with these last Christmas when my in-laws were visiting.  This year, we’re spending part of Christmas day with friends and I’m planning to bring my homemade crackers along.  Hopefully everyone will be as excited to wear paper crowns as I am.

Materials: cardboard tubes, wrapping paper, paper crowns, scratch tickets, chocolates, and twine

Materials: cardboard tubes, wrapping paper, paper crowns, scratch tickets, chocolates, and twine

Place scratch tickets in the tube

Start by inserting a scratch ticket in the tube

Roll up the crown and slide into tube

Then, roll up the crown and slide into tube

Tie one end of the paper with string

Wrap the tube with a bit of Christmas paper and tie one end  with string

Add a few small candies

Add a few small candies

Secure the other end

Secure the other end with string.  Ready to go!

Caga Tió

Caga Tio

Caga Tio

Since we’ve been together, the Mister and I have adopted our own little hodgepodge of holiday traditions.  One of our favorites is Caga Tió.

I first experienced Caga Tió, or Tió de Nadal, while spending part of the holidays in Barcelona.  As I wandered the Christmas markets, I kept seeing these adorable wooden logs with smiling faces and red caps.  This was Caga Tió, which in Catalan translates roughly to Poo Log.  The tradition works like this: leading up to Christmas, children offer Caga Tió little gifts of food like nuts and candy, and cover him with a blanket so he doesn’t get too chilly; then on Christmas, they entice him to “poo” out presents by beating him with a stick and singing songs.  The presents “appear” under Caga Tió’s blanket.

Caga Tios at the Christmas market in Barcelona

Caga Tios at the Christmas market in Barcelona

Spanish children beating a giant Caga Tio

Spanish children beating a giant Caga Tio

While in Barcelona, I saw children lined up in the market square to take a turn beating a giant Caga Tió with a stick, much like other children line up to visit Santa.  I thought this was a pretty delightful tradition so I bought a small Caga Tió as a gift for my mother, who likes to fill her home with Christmas decorations.  She loved it and every year our family dutifully feeds it treats during the holiday season.

2011

2011

2011

2011

2012

2012

When I started to bring the Mister home for the holidays, he was equally enchanted with the idea of Caga Tió, so one Christmas a few years ago, he surprised me with a homemade Caga Tió.  We adore him, and he takes the place of honor in our little apartment that would normally be reserved for a Christmas tree.  Every year we feed him treats, and every year we give him a good beating with a stick so that he will “poo” out our presents under his blanket.  We’ve even gotten friends and family to participate, and it has become one of our fun traditions.

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Friendsgiving

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Thanksgiving 2011

We live in the District of Columbia, and it’s always a surprise to meet people who actually grew up in the area.  We and most of our friends came here from all over the U.S.–and from countries all over the world–to work in politics, government, education, advocacy, and a hundred other kinds of public service.  It’s a wonderfully easy place to make friends, and the people we’ve met are so fascinating and warm.  They have so many different beliefs, passions, educations, experiences and travels; even when I don’t agree with them politically, they are amazing people to know.

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Thanksgiving 2010

Coming from so many different parts of the country, few people stay in town over the holidays, and the few who do typically put out a call on Facebook or email to round up anyone else still in town for a Thanksgiving meal.  Some friends will even throw “Friendsgiving” a week early just to have a chance to eat with everyone before they head home for the holidays.  In years past we’ve rounded up friends in town (and from as far away as Philadelphia) and put together some fantastic meals.  Living here, with so many of us far from family, people like to emphasize “the family you make,” and as we get ready to head north and visit new family members, I’ve been thinking a lot about the friends I consider family and wishing I could be with them, too.

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