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Christmas is a season for all the senses. Sights, sounds, smells are all part of the delight. And Christmas comes in many tints and hues. Here's a consumer guide to some of the season's most prominent colors.


These days, green is in - particularly when it comes to concern for the environment. According to Fashion Place marketing manager Roger Brazil, there are lots of things consumers can do to have a greener Christmas - to cut down on the waste and to support nonprofit organizations devoted to saving endangered plants and animals. Here are some of his suggestions:

- Buy products that are minimally packaged, or try to minimize gift packaging by eliminating the box, or use gift bags or boxes that can be used again.

- Purchase products that are made out of recycled materials or that are recyclable. Items could include anything from gift wrap and Christmas cards to toys and socks and hiking boots.

- Purchase products that support ecological causes by donating a portion of your purchase to those causes. Don't buy products made from endangered species.

- Recycle holiday waste. There are recycling centers and drop-off bins throughout the state for plastic, glass, newspaper and aluminum. For information on locations, call the Recycling Information Office: 974-6902. Save holiday gift wrap to use again next year.

- Carpool when you Christmas shop, and try to accomplish one-stop shopping to avoids lots of running around.

When you think green, you naturally think Christmas trees. And you don't have to feel guilty for having a live Christmas tree, says Keith Jacob, president of the National Christmas Tree Association.

"Real Christmas trees are a naturally recyclable, renewable resource," he says. "They are no different from any other agricultural crop. These trees are raised to be cut as Christmas trees. If consumers didn't buy real trees, farmers wouldn't grow them, and there would be a million fewer acres of trees growing in the United States."

He notes that for every tree harvested, three new trees are planted. "And because Christmas trees are relatively young when harvested, they grow faster and release more oxygen than older trees."


One of the best Christmas reds is that of the poinsettia. Legend has it that on Christmas Eve in Mexico, a little girl named Pepita had no gift to present to the Christ Child. So, on her way to the church she gathered up some weeds she found along the road. As she approached the altar, the weeds blossomed into brilliant flowers and the poinsettia was born.

Despite strong evidence to the contrary, the myth persists that poinsettias are toxic, says the Society of American Florists. A recent survey found that 50 percent of American still think poinsettias are poisonous. But they aren't. (That's not to say they are tasty, or that you should eat them - they can cause some minor stomach discomfort. Keep all plants out of reach of curious pets or children.)

But don't be afraid to let the poinsettia brighten your decor. Choose a plant with small, tightly clustered buds in the center. Look for crisp, bright, undamaged foliage. Avoid plants displayed in drafty areas.

Poinsettias are one of the longest-lasting blooming plants available to consumers. Plants brought early in the season will continue to bloom throughout the holidays. Keep the plant away from hot or cold drafts (including the tops of TVs and radiators). Water it so the soil is moist but not soggy, and place in a room with enough natural light that you can read without turning on the lights.


Blue is the holiday color you want to avoid. During the holiday preparations, too much to do, too many expectations can cause stress. After the holidays, the potential for a letdown can be high. Depression can be a serious medical problem that requires professional attention. But there are some things to do to avoid a mild case of the blues:

- Work off stress. Physical activities like skiing, running or walking provide an outlet for mental stress.

- Learn to accept what you cannot change. There may not be enough time in a lunch hour to get everything done, but there's always tomorrow.

- Get enough sleep. Don't sacrifice rest to try to get more done. Lack of sleep will cause irritability, which can lessen your ability to deal with stress. And fatigue can weaken your resistance to colds and flu and other health problems.

- Feeling sad and melancholy? It's OK to sit with your sadness for a time. Sadness is the legitimate opposite of happiness. Give it its time, and it will pass.

- Try to connect with other people. Let family and friends know how you are feeling. They can be of great support.

- Plan activities and/or parties for after the holidays. Plan activities that will get you out of the house - excursions to the zoo or an ice skating rink. Maximize your exposure to daylight.


The idea is to have some gold left in the coffers when the holiday is over. And the key to that, says the Consumer Credit Education Foundation, is to spend more time planning your purchases. That planning not only involves watching your budget, but also starting early to get the best selection and sales opportunities. (Many people shop the after-holiday sales to get a head start on the next year. If you're not one of them, keep that in mind this year.) Other shopping tips include:

- Set a budget for holiday gifts and entertaining that puts a limit on what you can afford and stick to it.

- Make a list of all family members, friends and co-workers who will be receiving a gift from you. Put a dollar figure next to each gift and check the total to make sure it is within your budget.

- It saves time if you can decide on a "class" of gifts for groups on your list: T-shirts for all the teenagers, for example, or gloves for all the women.

- If you plan to charge some of your larger purchases, check with the retail stores about special credit plans that might defer payments without interest charges for several months. But be sure you can afford to make the payments at that time.

- Avoid last-minute shopping when you feel pressure to spend too much.

- Save all your receipts for gift purchases and keep them in one convenient place. If you have to exchange or return items after the holidays, this will make it easier. It will also give you a chance to see how well you stayed within your budget.


Brown paper packages tied up with string may be one of our favorite things, but if you're sending them through the mail, it's better to use tape instead of string. And if the box is sturdy and plain enough, you can dispense with the wrapping paper, too. Here are some other tips on sending packages:

- Line your shipping box with a large garbage bag so your gift will stay dry if exposed to elements during transit.

- Mail one large package instead of several smaller ones whenever possible. It keeps costs down. However, don't overpack your large box. Make sure it can be handled easily.

- To protect the addresses on your package from damp weather, cover the return and delivery addresses with transparent poly tape. Include an address and phone number inside the package as well.

- Place your gift bows in an empty, clean margarine tub or small, sturdy box to protect them during shipping. Include instructions telling the recipient to attach a crisp bow to each package.


One way to capture the all the colors of the season is through photos and videos. Here are some tips on taking better pictures:


- Keep the background simple so clutter doesn't distract from the picture. Don't be afraid to stage-manage the scene. Remove or arrange items for a more attractive setting.

- Include color. Look for large areas of bright color. Try giving your subject something to do or hold if necessary.

- For flash pictures, try to have each person about the same distance away so all will be lit evenly by the flash. Have your subjects stand near a light or brightly colored background so that light from the flash will bounce off the wall and make your picture brighter.

- To prevent red eye (reflection of flash in the subject's eyes) make sure the subject is not looking directly at the camera. Increasing overall light in the room can reduce the chance of red eye.

- Move in close to the action.


- Be prepared. Make sure your camcorder is easily accessible and be sure to keep plenty of extra batteries and videotapes on hand.

- Don't over-zoom. Too many people overuse the zoom function, making the videos annoying and almost dizzying to watch. Try to take a wide shot of a group of people and then slowly zoom in and pan across all of their faces.

- Be creative. Everyone has recorded the tree from six feet away - this year try recording it from underneath. Or try recording a few seconds of the wrapping paper strewn on the floor after the gifts have been opened.

- Listen to your subjects. Many people concentrate so much on the visual of a video they forget how interesting the audio portion can be. Set aside some time to interview friends and family members on camera. Try asking everyone to answer a question, such as "What is your funniest holiday memory?"

- Get on their level. The holidays are especially fun for kids, so make sure you include their point-of-view when recording. Bend down and record on your knees. Also, be sure to interview children about the holidays, so you can compare their thoughts and feelings as they grow from year to year.

- Record all the memories. Don't just concentrate on opening gifts or the holiday dinner. If grandma bakes special cookies, get it on film. You can even have her recite her recipe.


Be sure to sprinkle a little purple into your celebration - the passion and love that the season is all about. There is no one way to have Christmas. Do the things you love.