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Do you want to have a holiday you’ll never forget? Then start with making new meaningful holiday traditions!
For many people, Christmas has become mostly about stress, chaos and “stuff”. But for our family, it was important to move away from that and get back to the true meaning of Christmas….giving to others and sharing love. It’s about so much more than giving presents, but giving of your time to others, both strangers and those you love. Giving of your time to others is the best and most meaningful gift you can give….not only to them, but to yourself as well.
Giving to others actually reduces your stress levels and can help you to stay healthy this holiday season. When you give of yourself to others, it feels downright good! It releases endorphins, the feel good chemicals, which lower cortisol levels (the stress hormones).
Meaningful Holiday Traditions
Volunteering at a soup kitchen, food pantry or animal shelter are ways that you can truly give back, not only as an individual, but as a family. There is no greater feeling than the feeling that you get from giving your time to help those who are less fortunate….and that is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your community.
Read a holiday classic
Take time as a family to pick out a great holiday classic and read it aloud together. A few good options are A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Grinch that Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, Gift of the Magi by O’Henry, Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore or the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus. This time with family or friends is sure to become a cherished memory for all!
Pick out the Perfect Christmas Tree
If you love real Christmas tree, then getting the family or friends together to go tree shopping. And instead of going to the tree lot on the corner, find a Christmas tree farm where you can choose your own tree and cut it yourself, or have it cut for you. Once you’ve brought the perfect tree home, have a decorating party! If you have an artificial tree, then have a decorating party!
In my family every Thanksgiving weekend, my father and I put up my parent’s artificial tree and put the lights on. Then the next night all of the rest of the family comes over and we decorate the tree together, bake some fresh cookies and make some homemade hot chocolate. Once the decorating is done, we settle on the couch and watch a Christmas movie. The kids are always so excited when we make our plans for our annual tree decorating party!
Create a Christmas jar
A Christmas jar can be any kind of jar…a pickle jar, a mason jar, whatever type of jar you choose. The idea of the Christmas jar is to fill the jar with loose change throughout the year and one week before Christmas give it anonymously to a family in need. This is even the type of tradition that can be done in your office or with your scout troop. Decorate the jar any way you wish….or leave it plain. This idea is based on the novel Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright and can be an incredibly meaningful gesture to a family who is struggling during the holiday season.
Take a family walk around the neighborhood to look at the lights
This is a great way not only to spend time together as a family (or go as with a group of friends), but it gets you out walking to reduce stress and getting some much needed exercise during the holiday season!
Make Christmas cards for military
You can do this for those stationed overseas or for those who have been wounded. This is a great way to support our military men and women who are either currently serving our country overseas, and away from family for the holidays, or who have been wounded serving our country. Get the whole family involved in creating cards for these heros. There are two organizations that work to provide cards to our military.
The American Red Cross has their Holiday Mail for Heros program and you can find out more about that here: http://www.redcross.org/support/get-involved/holiday-mail-for-heroes and the final deadline for cards is early in December. The other great program is Operation Christmas Card whose goal is to put a Christmas card in the hand of every service member who is deployed. Because of the longer mailing time for those stationed overseas, the deadline for this program is November 25. Any cards received after that date will be saved for the following year. You can find out more at their website here: http://www.operationchristmascard.org/
Make a special ornament for your tree
One thing that can be very meaningful is to spend a little time with family or friends each year making a special ornament to go on your tree. You can get your kids involved and have them design and decorate their own ornaments (that can be given to them as special gifts once they have grown up and are ready for their own Christmas tree). My tree is covered with ornaments that I’ve made with my family and each year is a different design. There are a lot of memories in those ornaments and they are so much more special than the generic store bought kind. I’ve included a handout with links to some websites that have great ideas of ornaments you can make for your tree….or to give as gifts!
Do a memory jar
Find a jar that you can use, and set it out between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Put out a pen and some pre cut slips of paper. Have each family member write down a few of their favorite family memories. Then when the family gathers for Christmas, take time to read those memories aloud. This is guaranteed to bring out some laughter and well as provide great family time. If your family is a new blended family, you can instead write down what Christmas or family means to you.
I’ve always loved caroling and this event is great, especially if you get a large group of family and friends together to participate. My parent’s church has someone who attaches an open trailer to the back of his pickup for the carolers to ride in…then they drive from neighborhood to neighborhood, stopping to carol at members homes. You can also do this in an apartment complex or walk from place to place in your neighborhood. Follow up with some cookies and cocoa at a predetermined location! Always lots of laughs and lots of fun for all ages!