Monthly Archives: December 2012

A “Holiday Tree”?

I come from a home with a Jewish mother and Catholic father. We celebrated Chanukah and Christmas. I have been to Church and I have been to Temple. My sister had a Bat Mitzvah and my brother converted at an older age and is a practicing Catholic.

I, like most are on Facebook. This time of year for the past few years my feed is full of posts about the Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holiday feud, and the fact that some schools, stores, and other public places have “Holiday Trees”. I have very strong feelings about both of these topics.

Lets start with “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”. December is a month of holidays. Chanukah started on the 8th, Christmas is the 25th, and Kwanza begins the 26th. This is the Christmas season for some, but a holiday season for all. Why we wouldn’t wish everyone a “Happy Holiday”?

Now, the holiday tree. Really? A Christmas tree is a Christmas tree. A decorated tree is a sign of Christmas. I have a Christmas tree and a Menorah. Should I call my Menorah a “Holiday Candle Holder”? I think it is very important for all holidays to be recognized. I think it is important for our children to know that there are in fact different holidays for different people.

Now, I am going to walk past my Christmas tree as I go to light my Menorah! Happy Holidays!

About this author: Liz Pedrini is a Realtor at RE/MAX Legacy.  You can contact her directly through her website at

Are you going to a Yankee Swap this month? I always look forward to December and the numerous Yankee Swaps I will be attending.  Whether it is a swap with my office, the church ladies, or close friends, I always have a good time. And the more swapping the more fun!  Sometimes I go home with a worse gift than I brought, but sometimes I get the Number One and go home very happily.  BUT every swap is unique and I can’t bring the same gift to my church group (holiday decorations, candles, candy, jewelry) as my friends drinking party (scratch tickets, “racy” items, wine bottles).

Did you ever wonder the origins of a swap? Do you ever go to a Yankee Swap and the rules are different? Or you attend a new swap and at the beginning at least 3 people are arguing over the rules?


The game is said to have come from the civil war holiday tradition of trading prisoners of war with the enemy. It seems that the Yankees and the Confederates at some point swapped prisoners as a sort of game to lighten up the atmosphere. How the term was adopted to gift giving is up for speculation.

In most parts of the United States the game is called “White Elephant Gift Exchange”, but in the Northeast is is more commonly called a Yankee Swap. It is often played during the winter holidays, but can be played any time of the year. Every swap party determines the price of the gift. $10 to $25 parties are common, and also some parties only allow used items.


Yankee Swap rules vary widely, but here are some BASICS. Every guest brings a wrapped, unmarked gift and places it in a designated area, trying not to let the others see what they brought.  Everyone picks from a hat a number from one up to the total number of participants. The person who receives the number 1 picks a gift from the pile and opens it for all to see. The person who receives number 2 then chooses a gift from the pile and opens it. He or she must decide whether to keep it or swap it for the first player’s gift.  Each person in order then gets to select a present, open it and decide whether to keep it or swap it for any other gift someone has already opened. The game goes on until everyone has had their chance.  At this point the person who picked first gets to choose from all the gifts or keep what he/she has already received.


Some swaps allow the players to visually inspect the gifts, pick them up and/or gently shake them.  Other swaps have a rule that if you touch a gift in the pile you must open that one.

Place a limit on the number of times a particular gift can be stolen.

The person who brings the best Yankee Swap gift will be rewarded, i.e. the one that gets stolen the most, by letting them choose from all opened gifts after all the swapping is completed.

Leave all the gifts wrapped until the end. Stealing is still allowed but must be done while the gifts are still wrapped.

Do’s and Don’ts

 – Play the game with a sense of humor.  Swapping is fun!

– Don’t take the outcome too seriously.

-When the guests arrive have a place ready to keep the gifts. They shouldn’t have to walk through the party to hand over the gift. The idea is to keep their identity a secret.

-All unwrapped gifts must stay visible to everyone. No putting the gift back in the packaging and hiding it behind your chair!

-When everyone has opened a gift some trading can be expected.

-The gift you bring should be something you would be happy to receive.

Please share your Yankee Swap stories, do’s and don’ts and variations. Remember that a Yankee Swap is a fun gift giving party game and if you go home with the worst gift of the party, there is always next year!

About this author: Gale Spadafora is one of the broker owners of RE/MAX Legacy and loves to shop for and attend Yankee Swaps.  You can contact her directly through her website at

Holidays and traditions are celebrated around the world in different ways.

During this holiday period a lot of us celebrate by wrapping gifts with colored papers, sending greeting cards to friends and family, exchanging presents, making a Christmas tree, having a manger, and being visited by Santa Claus. Around the world a lot of other holidays are celebrated by different people that can be your neighbors.  Some are on fixed days and others vary.  Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, or January 6th   depending on your religion. (Egypt, Armenia).  Various holidays not to forget are: Hanukkah, Diwali, Ramadan & Eid El Fitr. Learn more about your friends and families tradition and don’t forget to wish them a Happy Holiday.

November 11th : St Martin’s day (Netherland)
December 4th : St. Barbara’s day (Czech Republic, Lebanon and more…). St Nicholas might be checking on you if you have been naughty or nice. (Belgium)
December 6th : St. Nicholas will be leaving some gifts, fruits, candies etc… and leaving them in your stockings, shoes or baskets. He is sometimes accompanied by the angel or the devil (Europe). But, If Black Peter knocks on your door then you have been naughty. (Luxembourg)
December 7th: Families in Colombia  light scores of candles and use them to outline streets, sidewalks, and parks so that entire cities are illumined
December 8th : Commemorating the Immaculate Conception during which more prayers and candles are offered to the Virgin Mary.(Colombia)
December 13th : St. Lucy’s day. Families plant wheat seeds in a plate of shallow water. (Croatia)
December 15th : Las Posadas celebrated by The Mestizo group in Belize. They have a ten-day procession commemorating Mary and Joseph’s search for lodgings before Jesus’ birth. During this ritual, statues are carried to different houses where they ask for and are granted food and shelter for the evening. The ceremony is repeated at a different home each night until Christmas Eve, when Joseph and Mary make their way back to the church.
December 16th : In Colombia Christmas trees are raised and decorated also starting the Novena, a ritual with a rosary said during nine days in anticipation of Christmas day. Mexican households are decorated with flowers, evergreens and colored paper lanterns. This is considered as the beginning of the Christmas season.
December 21st : St. Thomas’ day.  The holiday season in Estonia, often called Yuletide.
December 25th: Christmas Day.
December 26th:  Kwanza An African-American holiday based upon ancient customs of Africa. Takes place Until January 1st . Junkanoo, takes place until January 1st . (Bahamas, Caribbean)
December 28th: is the Feast of the Holy Innocents and is celebrated as a day of fooling friends and family. It is similar to April Fool’s Day (Philippine, Puerto Rico)
January 6th: Epiphany is the arrival of the three kings to the manger.
January 13th: St. Knut’s Day St. End of the holiday season in Puerto Rico.

 Hope you enjoy the holiday season with all your friends
and share your traditions with us…

About the author: Janine Elkhoury is a REALTOR at RE/MAX Legacy and is originally from Lebanon. You can learn more about her on her website