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Relax and enjoy the holidays

The heart of the holiday season is upon us, and if you're not careful you'll blink and miss it.

So don't forget to take a break from holiday stress. Watch a favorite Christmas movie. Bake cookies with the grandkids. And take an hour or two enjoy some of the activities going on around the area.

The Washington Square Mall is offering "Photos & Wishes with Santa" every Saturday and Sunday during the first three weekends in December, from noon to 4 p.m.

Proceeds from sale of the photos will be given to the Mount Tabor Masonic Lodge, for distribution to area families in need of assistance during the holidays.

There will also be free sleigh rides leaving from the mall parking lot on the first three Saturdays in December, from noon to 3 p.m.

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will stop in Detroit Lakes at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14, for a special holiday concert. Donations will be collected at the concert for the Becker County Food Pantry.

Other "Light Up the Lakes" events this holiday season will include a series of concerts at the Historic Holmes Theatre, including the Lakes Area Community Concert Band performing its annual holiday concert on Sunday, Dec. 12, at 4 p.m.

The "Rock & Roll Christmas Spectacular" will wind up the schedule on Thursday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m.

Christmas is all about giving, and it's great time to give to the Salvation Army, United Way and other local charities.

Mahube Community Council's Adopt a Family program has 13 more families this year compared to last year, with a total of 45 qualified for assistance.

"There is just more people that have exhausted all their resources, still don't have jobs and they're just really struggling," said Mahube Community Council Family Development Director Marcia Otte.

To adopt one of the remaining families, call Mahube at 218-847-1385. The deadline to purchase gifts is Friday, Dec. 17. The presents will then get picked up by the families or dropped off after the deadline.

Mahube has also been organizing the "We Care" project every year for more than two decades.

We Care allows all Head Start children and their siblings to participate, giving them the opportunity to receive Christmas gifts.

This year, the community can help 532 children. Each child's name, sex, age and a Christmas wish is written on a card that's been placed on one of the Christmas trees now at various locations around the area.

The trees and names of children can be found at the State Bank of Lake Park-Audubon, Walmart, Kmart, Bremer Bank, the Lakes Area Parrot Heads, the Becker County Environmental Services and the Lakes Area Vineyard Church.

And don't forget about the Damien Mitten Tree drive, in which local residents donate hats, scarves and mittens to give to children in need during the holiday season.

The "mitten trees" are set up at various locations around town, so that residents can bring in their donations and hang them on the tree, to be displayed until they are distributed a few weeks later.

Cash donations are also welcomed. The cash donations enable the Damiens to make last-minute purchases as needed.

Locations of the 12 Damien "mitten trees" set up for the 2010 holiday season include: Wells Fargo Bank, First Security Bank, Bremer Bank, Midwest Bank, American National Bank, State Bank & Trust, Central Market, Detroit Lakes Newspapers, Midwest Bank, American National Bank, St. Mary's Living Community, Lakeshirts, Speak Easy, and the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center.

Donations can be dropped off at any of these locations until Tuesday, Dec. 21, when the items will be collected and distributed.

"Tis the season -- take time to stop and smell the poinsettias.