Get ready for “A Very Trainor Christmas.”
Meghan Trainor will release the holiday album Oct. 30.
Get ready for “A Very Trainor Christmas.”
Meghan Trainor will release the holiday album Oct. 30.
It’s no secret I love the holidays (I mean, I did start a website called It’s Christmas 365).
But gift-giving is another story.
As I write this – a mere two days before my family exchanges gifts – I’ve not purchased one gift.
It isn’t that I’m in a frumpy Christmas mood.
Quite the opposite: This probably ranks among my favorite holiday seasons in recent memory.
I dislike the transactional feel of buying gifts – as though, we must buy gifts simply because that is what one does at this time of year.
I’ve never been one to hop into Target or Macy’s or go on Amazon to buy everything. I’ve made such an effort to think local – not necessarily small, but local. For instance, I usually give someone Eat’n Park gift cards. Last year, I gifted my parents a weekend stay at the Sheraton hotel on Erie’s Bayfront.
I like the gift of experience, but my family members don’t seem to be interested in those things. Several years ago, I bought my parents tickets to Kennywood Park. They’d been saying how they hadn’t been there, so I thought it would be great. My mom loved it when she opened it on Christmas Eve.
Fast forward to the summer and I kept asking when they were going. Mid-August rolled around and the tickets hadn’t been used. Someone on Facebook was seeking tickets to the park and I asked my mom if I could have them back to give them to someone who would use them.
My mother’s idea of gift-giving is very transactional: buy things people need. I’m sure I’ll get jeans because she thinks I need them, for example.
I encourage her to be creative. She explains how she’s too busy all month getting ready for one night that she doesn’t have time.
“So let’s change how we do Christmas,” I say. But that’s quickly nixed because she wants to continue the same idea of traditions she has known forever.
It’s hard to change mindsets – especially when people yearn for “the good ol’ days” (whatever those mean for people).
I’d prefer much more of a seasonal celebration – taking in the sights and sounds of events and activities that happen during November and December.
My mom, on the other hand, is a firm believer in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day being this huge production. She loves the entire season, but can’t see beyond Dec. 24-25.
A friend explained to me his family’s list-sharing experience, where they offer lists of items each of them want. So each family member goes and buys things from that list. There’s no element of surprise or room for creativity. While some of the items are useful, I’m hard-pressed to think opening many of the items on his family’s lists would be exciting.
Other friends have shared similar sentiments with me about their families. I recently told a friend (and fellow Christmas enthusiast) that I hadn’t started shopping. He was shocked, but when I explained why, he understood and then offered his own examples of family members buying practical gifts.
Not to turn this into a damn the corporations! post, but … big business wins when we believe the only way to celebrate Christmas is with gifts.
The gift-giving aspect isn’t what my Christmas is about. My Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, making memories, enjoying anything with peppermint in it!
And it isn’t that I dislike giving gifts. I buy gifts for some friends, getting them things I think they’d like. I don’t buy them socks (well, I did buy a friend socks this year, but they’re funny) or jeans.
If I was even the slightest bit crafty, I would make things for people.
Gifts certainly are a great way to show affection, respect, thanks to those we care about. Gifts can be small and inexpensive or whatever we want them to be.
It all goes back to the Grinch: “He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”
Look, not everybody can be outgoing. Heck, even outgoing people sometimes are introverts.
So, BuzzFeed put together a list of 44 gifts for the introverts in our lives, and, to be honest, some of these are pretty great.
Here are some highlights:
Check out the rest of the list here.
Pittsburghers love traditions – especially during the Steelers season and the holiday season.
And, as the years go by, the beginnings of holiday traditions that made Pittsburgh’s once-vibrant Downtown shopping district shine are nothing but a memory.
Horne’s, Kaufmann’s, Gimbels all had extravagant holiday season traditions: windows, tree lightings, amazing interior decorating, Santa.
While those landmarks and many of the events are gone, the memories will live on through a very special exhibit at the Heinz History Center: “A Very Merry Pittsburgh.”
It’s the second year for the unique display (it first appeared in 2017).
The display, which opens Nov. 16, features:
And, of course, Santa! The History Center welcomes Santa on select days and times.
I visited this exhibit during its premiere year in 2017 and took my mother, who fondly recalled so many toys and items from Kaufmann’s and Horne’s. I loved getting a chance to see old window display pieces up close and to learn more about those pieces.
This is a must-see exhibit for any Pittsburgher!
A Very Merry Pittsburgh opens Nov. 16 and continues through Jan. 5. The exhibit is included as part of a regular admission ticket to the Heinz History Center.
Santa will be at the History Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the following days: Nov. 16, 17, 23, 24, 29; and Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 24.
The History Center is located at 1212 Smallman St. in the Strip District. You’ll want to block off several hours to visit the History Center because of all of the wonderful exhibits, including pieces from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and the massive Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, and so much more! Or, just get a membership and return multiple times throughout the year!
Get event listings and more holiday fun in the It’s Christmas 365 newsletter!
If you don’t know who the Crafty Lumberjacks are, grab your jingle bells because we’re going for a slaaaay ride with these guys.
Dennis Setteducati and Andrew Boza are the awesome fellas behind the “Crafty Lumberjacks” brand. To be frank: they are among the coolest people I
stalk follow on social media.
They are fun, happy, full of laughs and, obviously, crafty (pardon the expression) af.
While H*lloween is a big deal for them, they also go crazy for Christmas – literally, it seems, turning their NYC apartment into a winter wonderland overnight.
These guys have been on a number of national shows, including “The Chew” (RIP!) and “LIVE with Kelly and Ryan.”
And they regularly share some amazing crafty projects, like this cool as heck Christmas tree board.
Check out their website for many archived projects they’ve done for past holiday seasons.
And one thing you’ll see if you follow them, they love their Cricut Maker.
If Kraynak’s Christmas Land doesn’t get you into the spirit, I’m not sure what will.
With its 300 feet of holiday displays, the garden center and year-round store delights children of all ages.
The displays change yearly (in fact, they also do displays for Easter).
Since 1963, the Hermitage, Pennsylvania, store has offered the Christmas displays. It’s free to walk through, but good luck exiting if you only go to see the display! (But more on that later.)
OK, so for some folks, the displays are a big deal reveal, so if you are someone who wants to be surprised when you see the displays, please tap here to skip the description and photos.
But if you’re someone who wants to see some of what’s displayed (with a few spoilers), read on!
My favorite part of this year’s displays is the nod to Pittsburgh’s favorite neighbor, Mr. Rogers. When I first saw Neighborhood Trolley in the corner of my eye from afar, I paused and started to slowly well up. Mister Rogers does that to me, and like to you, too!
It’s part of a make-believe theme of toys which includes classics (Care Bears and some of the old Fisher-Price toys) along with some newer surprises.
There’s also a K’nex roller coaster (talk about childhood memories!) with a sign honoring Kennywood Park’s latest coaster, the Steel Curtain.
Among the displays is one giving us a peek into Santa’s elves. And, of course, the “We Are Santa’s Elves” song from the claymation classic “Rudolph” plays for that scene.
I won’t spoil the rest for you, but I assure you, it’s worth the trip to see these amazing displays!
I’d love to one day do displays like this, so I get so geeked seeing the creativity put into these. The animatronics, decor and lights all are so intrinsically placed to offer such delightful displays.
But, if you’re going to check out Kraynak’s Christmas Land or just want to check out the wide array of holiday decorations, toys, gifts and so much more, you need a plan. The spot is a popular destination for people from all across the region. I spotted vehicles from Erie, from areas around Pittsburgh, from near Cleveland and beyond.
I waited about 15 minutes to get into the display, which I was told wasn’t too bad for a Saturday afternoon in early-to-mid November.
Here are some helpful tips to get you through Kraynak’s and its Christmas Land painlessly as possible.
Kraynak’s is located at 2525 East State St., Hermitage, PA 16148.
Note: Do not just type “Kraynak’s” into Google Maps. It will direct you to an area near the Shenango Valley Mall. You must search for “Kraynak’s Lawn and Garden Center” or use that address above
The store is open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Get events listings, holiday fun and so much more in the It’s Christmas 365 newsletter!