Happy Holidays!

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This is my favorite time of year. Not so much the chill in the air or the fact that it gets dark way too early for my liking, but the heartwarming feeling of being home with my family, enjoying comfort food and doing lots of baking. No other season can compare to the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. I love it all — Christmas carols on the radio, holiday decorations everywhere, shopping for gifts and wrapping them.
 
For me, a December day is complete with a cup of hot chocolate and sitting by a roaring fire, and if A Charlie Brown Christmas is on, even better! Linus’ “what Christmas is all about” speech and how the Peanuts gang works together to fix up Chuck’s poor little tree get me teary-eyed every time. I don’t even mind the crowds in the stores (although I’ve learned to deal with long lines, I could do without trying to find a parking spot).
 
This issue is filled with tips to help guide you through whichever December holiday you celebrate, from affordable home decor ideas (page 23) to gift-wrapping ideas (page 33) to how to choose the best bottle of bubbly for your budget (page 34). Our gift guide (page 28) offers suggestions for great gifts that are less than $50 — most are under $20 — guaranteed to please whoever is on the receiving end.
 
I love gift giving and have gotten pretty good at it. I love the anticipation of knowing they’re going to love it as soon as the ribbon and paper come off. But I’ll let you in on a little money- and time-saving secret ... I keep track all year of hints my family and friends drop about things they like, want and need, and I shop year-round. Chances are you will find a perfect gift for your mom in March, your significant other in June and your best friend in August. I keep a large container in the closet filled with gifts, so by now my shopping is done except for a few things. I also buy new wrapping materials, holiday cards, decorations and other odds and ends during the after-Christmas clearance sales.
 
Ultimately, I believe the holidays are about giving and sharing, good will and kindness, and above all else, love. Spending time with family and friends, embracing them and letting them know how much they mean to you, and doing something nice for someone you don’t know — donating a toy or a coat to a child, giving some change to the bell ringer, or providing a meal to a family in need.
 

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