Check out the November/December 2012 issue of Smart

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When my little sister was about 9 years old, she started to get suspicious of who was filling her stocking.

But rather than asking Mom, Dad or me to read her the “Yes, Virginia” New York Sun editorial, she launched a full-on investigation into the jolly old elf.

Brittany began to keep a close watch on the plate we left for Santa and his reindeer.

She kept a tally of how many baby carrots and chocolate chip cookies remained in the fridge and cookie jar Christmas Eve.

Then, on Christmas morning, she’d count the carrots and cookies again.

When she realized the midnight snacks we left for Santa and his reindeer were mysteriously reappearing in the kitchen, the gig was up.

But she didn’t say anything for a few more years. She later confessed that she didn’t want Santa to stop visiting our house after she’d blown his cover.

Thankfully, Father Christmas kept up his yearly trek to Northeastern Pennsylvania for years to come. But when we were finally grown and the gifts only came from mom, dad and our Old English Sheepdog Elwood, we discovered new holiday traditions that didn’t revolve around waking up at the crack of dawn to peek under the tree.

No matter what you’re celebrating this time of year — Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa — they all share the same purpose. ‘Tis the season to be with your family — large or small, near or far, kooky enough to count cookies and carrots or not.

Yes, each year we all struggle to trim the tree, bake cookies and manage an overflowing calendar; but we need to not lose sight of what’s important in the quest to have it all. Get inspired by the stories of area women who find balance with a little help from their loved ones on page 12.

Remember, it’s not about presents on one morning or eight nights, but if you’re looking for what gifts not to give, check our list of bad toys on page 46.

It’s not about the turkey — though you can survive even “A Christmas Story”-level disaster in the kitchen with tips on page 22.

It’s not even about running yourself ragged to visit everyone on your Christmas card list when you roll into town, but if you could use a few tips on how to stay sane while traveling, check out page 40.

Open your family, home and self this season to just enjoying those around you and the traditions you embrace.

The happiest of holidays to you and yours.

April Trotter

Editor of Smart. NEPA transplant. Penn State and Shippensburg grad. Kickball and craft beer enthusiast. Collector of cardigans. "Bennie and the Jets" fanatic. Contact me at, at "Smart magazine" on Facebook, @SmartMagPA on Twitter or by phone at 717-771-2030.

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