31 Ways to Make Christmas Meaningful
by Julie King Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The holidays are so full of things to do: presents to buy, goodies to bake, cards to write. We get wrapped up in accomplishing so many things that a lasting feeling of joy and happiness never takes hold enough to sink in. But you can make this holiday season one to remember for all of the right reasons. Here are 31 ways to make your holidays a little more special this year.
1. Declutter and donate. Help your kids go through their clothing and toys and donate them to a local charity. Also, go through your holiday decorations and donate any you no longer use or love.
2. Forgive someone. We only end up hurting ourselves when we hold onto grudges. Give yourself a gift this holiday season and forgive a person who has wronged you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone their actions, but allows you to let go of the pain. We may think of forgiveness as a sign of weakness, but it shows strength of character.
3. Take a day off. We often get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget to enjoy this time of year. So give yourself a day off from shopping, gift-wrapping, and baking. Take a walk and breathe deeply the crisp air. Or call a friend and enjoy a leisurely lunch.
4. Call someone you love. Our days are often filled with piano lessons, carpools, and field trips. Take time out to call a loved one that you haven’t talked to in a long time. Let them know how much you truly care about them.
5. Write a thank-you note. I’m not talking about a “Thanks for the pink sweater, Aunt Esther,” but a from-the-heart letter full of gratitude. Maybe you want to thank your mom for enduring your rebellious adolescence or finally write your third-grade teacher who sparked your love of science.
6. Find a way to serve others. This could be a year-round goal, but we often feel more charitable around this time of year. Do something that you enjoy to help others. Read aloud to an elementary school class. Knit scarves to donate to a homeless shelter. One friend of mine who is Jewish volunteers at a soup kitchen on Christmas Day so that the regular volunteers can celebrate the holiday at home with their families.
7. Start a new tradition. This doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Make a gingerbread house with your kids. Take a drive to see all the lights in your neighborhood. Go ice skating. Have your kids help you make Grandma’s famous hot fudge recipe.
8. Introduce yourself to a neighbor. Many of us may not know some of our neighbors because we become consumed with our busy lives. Take a plate of cookies and go meet a neighbor you don’t know.
9. Apologize. Maybe you forgot to RSVP to a friend’s elegant birthday bash or maybe you did something you are ashamed of. We all make mistakes. We often fail to apologize due to our embarrassment over our insensitive actions, or fear that our apology will be rejected and forgiveness denied. Swallow your pride, do the right thing, and clear your conscience.
10. Downsize. The holiday season can easily become about things instead of people. Downsize your holiday by using the money you would have spent on one present for your child and donate that money or a gift to a program like Toys for Tots. At a certain point the holidays can become a cross-country exchange of gift cards with your adult siblings. Pool the money you would have spent on gifts for each other and sponsor a family for Christmas instead.
11. Give yourself the gift of peace of mind. Over the past couple of years we have all seen the devastation and destruction unleashed by the wrath of Mother Nature. It generally takes about 72 hours after a disaster strikes for relief agencies to arrive, but we all saw with Hurricane Katrina that 72 hours is no guarantee. You are on your own for the first three days. So, what do you need for a 72-hour kit? Go to ready.gov or redcross.org to get a list of essentials. Put a kit together for each person in your immediate family and know that you are prepared for whatever may happen.
12. Hit the after-Christmas sales for others. December comes and goes and so can that feeling of generosity and good will to all. Stock up on scarves, mittens, and hats when they are discounted after Christmas. Donate these items to a local domestic violence or homeless shelter.
13. Grieve with someone. Maybe a neighbor lost a baby, or a friend’s mother passed away. The holidays can be difficult as people celebrate the holidays while knowing a loved one is no longer there to share in the joy. Let someone know you are aware of their grief and be ready to be a shoulder to cry on.
14. Cut down your Christmas card list. Often we will continue to send Christmas cards to people we don’t really keep in touch with. Keep track of who sends you holiday cards for a couple years and then allow yourself to cut your first college roommate off the list when you don’t hear from her for five years.
15. Drink a lot of hot chocolate. I am a big chocolate fan and I don’t think anything beats coming in from a really chilly day and sitting down with a big mug of hot chocolate. Have fun and don’t scold your kids when they fill theirs to the brim with mini marshmallows.
16. Let someone cut in front of you in line. Lines at stores can seem to stretch on forever during the holiday shopping season. Notice the stressed-out mom juggling a toddler and an infant, or the elderly gentleman who seems tired from standing so long. Offer to let them move ahead of you in line.
17. Invite someone over who doesn’t have a place to go. One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is when my husband invited a co-worker and her fiancée over for Thanksgiving dinner. They are both from India and it was their first American Thanksgiving. It was great learning about another culture (they were having an arranged marriage) and we discovered how much we all had in common (like playing hopscotch as children).
18. Decorate your home with snowflakes. Cut snowflakes out of white paper and let your child make their room into a winter wonderland. Make a winter scene with a shoebox, some cotton balls, and their favorite plastic animals.
19. Say prayers of gratitude. So often our prayers are full of requests and demands. This is a time of thankfulness and we should let that feeling flow into our hearts and prayers.
20. Memorize all the verses of a Christmas carol. Too often we only know the first verse of Christmas songs. Let each child pick their favorite one and work on memorizing all the verses during Family Home Evening.
21. Have a snowball fight. Use bread pans to make snow bricks for a fort, or get out all those sand toys and use them in the snow.
22. Make homemade wrapping paper. Use the Sunday comics to wrap gifts or use white paper and have your kids use washable paint to make their own wrapping paper with their handprints and footprints. Grandma will love it and it’s a great way to see how much your children grow each year if you can save a piece for a scrapbook.
23. Show your gratitude for your home by helping someone else’s home become a reality. Contact your local Habitat for Humanity and volunteer to decorate a bedroom or stock a linen closet with new towels, soap, and toilet paper. We should not only say we are grateful, but show it.
24. Gather stockings and fill them with goodies. Homeless shelters are always in need of things like socks, deodorant, shoes, razors, and gloves. Fill some dollar store stockings with these items and donate them to a shelter. Or fill a stocking with things like perfume, pantyhose, gloves, scarves, socks and take them to a shelter for abused women.
25. Make a nativity from clay. Often nativity scenes are off-limits to small hands that can smudge and drop fragile pieces. Let your kids make their own nativity scene with clay so that they can have something to touch and something they can be proud of.
26. Focus on the feelings. The holidays have become extremely commercialized and the focus is often on spending money. In August, I was surprised to see Halloween decorations already on display. Instead of focusing on the spending, focus on the spirit you want to have in your home. Come together as a family and discuss ways to bring a spirit of peace into your home.
27. Consider a homemade Christmas. Now, I am no craft connoisseur, but homemade gifts can be simple and beautiful at the same time. Maybe your teenager can make an ABC book for your preschooler. Your preschooler can glue pictures on paper to make a reverence book for her seven-year-old brother. You can create a family calendar together highlighting your favorite memories from the year. Or create coupon books that include coupons like “Good for a free night of babysitting” or dad can create one with “Good for baking a batch of cookies together.”
28. Buy an ornament for each child. Have a tradition of giving a new ornament to each child on Christmas Eve to add to the Christmas tree. By the time your kids are old enough to leave the house and start their own tree, they will have a great collection of ornaments.
29. Go sledding. If you don’t live in a cold climate, get ice blocks and go riding on them down hills. It will give you a rush and remind you of the joys of being a kid.
30. Journal the year as a family. Pull out a family journal and have everyone write a few things about the year. Maybe it is the best and worst things that happened to them that year. Maybe it is the things they have learned in school or new sports or activities they have tried. This will be a great time capsule as children get older.
31. Ring in the New Year by watching home movies. Put some home movies on and leave them running throughout the day. It will remind you of some great times and might also give you some good ideas for activities to do in the upcoming year. Maybe you have forgotten what fun you all had on that trip to the zoo or wish you could go back to that corn maze again.
LDS Living, Nov/Dec 2008