I don't know what it is about this year in particular, but I could not wait to put up holiday decorations.  I may have even started before Thanksgiving with some of the greenery, made more convenient that I wasn't hosting Thanksgiving dinner and didn't need to keep the fall theme going.

This is my first Christmas in historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, so I wanted to learn more about how Christmas was celebrated in the colonial times of George Washington.  I did a little online research and learned that, unlike today with our decked halls with boughs of holly and piles of presents under the trees, colonial residents of Alexandria celebrated with balls, parties and feasts.  In other areas, colonists who were members of the Anglican Church observed the Advent season, which was a period of fasting and repentance ending with large meal on Christmas Day, while other religions banned celebrations all together.  The Colonial Williamsburg website has more entertaining stories of Christmas celebrations.

In case you were wondering, while some greenery may have been used in colonial times, the Christmas tree did not make its appearance in America until the early part of the 19th century, with a wave of German immigration.  Last year, I got a glimpse at the Civil War era holiday decor during the annual candlelight tour that demonstrated the period's more liberal use of greenery and ribbon to enliven the rooms with holiday spirit.

Anyway, with this Christmas theme in mind, here are my 5 things I'm loving right now:
1. Candles in the window

Actually lighting a candle in the window in colonial times was not something associated with Christmas, until Colonial Williamsburg took the liberty to use this tradition that symbolized warmth, family, and special events and made it a part of their Christmas celebration.  Of course, people now see the candles and falsely presume it must be historically accurate, when it really is a simple, beautiful 20th century addition to celebrate the holiday season.

2. Department 56 Snow Villages

Growing up, I always loved setting up my mom's set of Dept. 56 Snow Village houses on the dining room sideboard.  I may have even played with it a little bit as well.  When I got my first home/apartment, my mom made sure that I would be able to continue the tradition with my own set of Dept. 56 houses.  The set she got for me was one from the Dicken's Village collection.  I have since purchased a group of buildings from the Christmas in the City turn of the century collection, and I like to display one or the other every year - complete with the fake snow that never wants to stay in place and requires vacuuming every day!  You may also see in my house, separate on a side table, the Dept. 56 house of the A Christmas Story home, complete with the leg lamp in the window (no Bumpus' dogs next door, though).
3. Grandinroad Holiday Decor
If you've never heard of Grandinroad before, you should check out their website.  They have very tastefully designed holiday decor and accent pieces for your house.  And the prices are pretty reasonable.
4. TNT's annual 24 hours of A Christmas Story

Posting that photo of the Department 56 version of Ralphie's house made me think about how much I look forward to spending the day watching the movie over and over.  OK, not all day, but at least two viewings.
5. Starbucks Chai Tea Latté

It's Christmas in a cup.  Enough said.