Making the Holidays More Meaningful

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I was fine, content with what I had, but then I created my wish list for my family and felt a nagging feeling of greed grip me. Now suddenly I was thinking that would be nice…and oh that would be great. Ideas of things to add to my life tumbled into my mind. Wait. I thought I was content with what I had. Then on Christmas the presents awaited but in ten minutes the unwrapping was over. I felt hollow and I didn’t want to. This was a day to celebrate, to be with loved ones, and relish in annual traditions. So I wrestled with the idea of Christmas. How could I incorporate more meaning into the holiday?

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, a grand gathering or a small affair, with friends or with family, at your house or someone else’s, there are ways to feel content during the holiday season.

Simplify Gift Giving

You want to give your friends and loved ones things they’ll like and use but what? This causes so much stress for so many people.

Change the Number of Gifts You Give

As a family you can discuss a gift giving philosophy. I liked this simple idea: want, need, wear, read. It simplifies the gifts for all involved and you can also get a small list of ideas too. I think I would make it: want, need, do, read, because I love gifts of experience. You don’t have to even use these terms, you could make it fit your family. Some families do a three gift policy to go along with the idea that Jesus received three gifts.

Change the Type of Gifts You Give

If you really want to go simple but still exchange gifts you could do just stockings, just specialty food items, or just gift cards. This article talks about how expectations play a role in gift giving for both children and adults, very interesting.

Another way to look at gifts is to give gifts of time. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it could be something to try. Some of my favorite gifts were gifts of experiences from my husband like a baking class we did together, a sip and paint I did alone, and a hockey game we went to. He gave me the gift of a special memory and that’s more meaningful to me than a tangible gift. Here’s how you can apply the idea to children.

Have a Conversation

A lot of articles talk about eliminating shopping or gift giving all together. That may be what relieves the stress for you and your loved ones and restores meaning to Christmas for you, but I don’t think it has to be all or nothing. Showing someone you care about them by giving them a gift is a wonderful thing. I always feel so uplifted by people’s thoughtfulness.

Gift giving can be challenging, whether you’re close to the person or not, so having a conversation around gifts with your loved ones might be a worthwhile conversation. You might find everyone’s been thinking the same thing but no one’s said anything.

You might find something that works out even better and sets a new tradition. For example your friend who loves to cook may love the idea of just getting one cooking gift or food item from you each year and it ends up being something she looks forward to each year. Maybe you establish a tradition with your husband to only get that special coffee he likes once a year on Christmas. He may know what he’s getting but you’ll know he’ll love it. Maybe you can wrap it in a crazy box and try a new variety each year. Maybe your dad loves a particular type of wine and knows each year he’s going to get that special wine and enjoy the first glass with you and movie.

Start a Tradition

Holiday are meaningful because they include special activities: things you do once a year. So make it more meaningful by starting traditions both big and small that happen just once a year.

Maybe it’s the type of food you eat: a special meal mom or grandpa only makes a once a year. Maybe it’s a special drink of peppermint hot chocolate you look forward to with Christmas cartoons, wearing Christmas pajamas. Maybe it’s going to buy gifts for a charity and serving at the local church holiday dinner. Maybe it’s about reading the nativity story on Christmas Eve and watching a spiritual movie.

Whatever it’s just you or your whole family, you can make Christmas more meaningful by doing something unique over the holidays. You’ll create memories that will last a long time. I still remember the traditions we did only on Christmas growing up: presents, omelets for breakfast, card games in the afternoon, and a turkey dinner in the evening, topped off with chocolate cream and lemon meringue pies my gram made every year.

Now I have a little one and I’m looking forward to starting my own traditions that he will remember for years to come.  Here are some ideas on Christmas family traditions

Make the Holidays About Others

For some people focusing on doing good deeds and random acts of kindness during the holiday seasons adds meaning to the holiday because it takes the focus off the gifts. Then the holiday becomes more about ‘do unto others as you would have done unto you.’ Some of my most poignant memories are ones where I volunteered to help a charity or organization. The feeling of knowing you made a difference is revitalizing and rewarding.

This could be as simple as baking for a neighbor or singing carols for the community. Many charities need help during the holiday season to make this time special for those going through difficult times, contacting your local nonprofit can get you all sorts of ideas on how you can help.
The holidays are a time of good cheer and giving, but sometimes people find themselves feeling more hollow and stressed than cheerful and grateful.

Whether you celebrate alone or with a large gathering, the holidays are a time when we slow down our lives and think about others and show we care. I hope you can find ways to do this that works for you so that you can feel full at Christmas: content.

May your holidays be filled with magical memories and lots of love.

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