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The 2012 Holiday Almanac

Style Weekly's guide to the season, from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve.

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Two summers ago I visited what archaeologists believe to be St. Nicholas' original tomb on the small island of Gemiler off the coast of Turkey.

We anchored our boat and hiked up a craggy hillside past the ruins of fourth century Byzantine churches. At the top, I asked a Canadian chef who looked exactly like Zach Galifianakis to take a photo of us with the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.

Looking at that photo stirs warm memories. I wasn't thinking much about the origins of our Santa Claus that day. Not only was it too hot, but I was too busy making vacation memories. Because the memories are what count.

No matter how you feel about the holidays — whether you love them, hate them, find them too politically correct, too crassly commercial, or just too exhausting — chances are that your own memories of seasons past hold some sway.

Twinkling constellations of tacky lights at night. The sticky feel of sap from a freshly cut tree. Stringing popcorn or making ornaments. Going to see "The Nutcracker" for the first time. That funky fruitcake or hard candy at a distant relative's house. The time you yelled "Fuuudge!" while helping your grumpy father change a car tire. Or ending it all with a New Year's Eve party that never quite met your expectations, but still left you feeling like the next 365 days were a beautiful blank slate.

It's the shared memories and seasonal activities that last for most of us, not the physical gifts. In that spirit, here's a glimpse at the coming holiday season, including traditional and nontraditional holiday fun for making more memories — and yes, a few gift ideas as well. — Brent Baldwin

Click here for the 2012 Holiday Almanac

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