Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Spirit of the Holidays

All too often, in our house, the picklets are consumed with the gimmes. This time of year it is especially bad. New video games are released, ads galore are in the paper and the TV commercials are geared toward brainwashing the kids into thinking they need this or that. This year we are focusing on the "spirit" of the holidays. The "Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" type holiday. Here are some ideas for you.

Create a countdown chain. On each ring of the chain have some activity for the kids or family to accomplish. I have a list I will post once I actually make the chain and hang it up today.

Make the time to spend together. Cool is taking a week off both jobs for this purpose. Reconnecting with one another is a big deal.

Remember giving is a greater joy than receiving. Clean out the old toys and clothes and give them to a needy family. Make some baked goods and deliver them to a nursing home. Ask a local church about some elderly shut-ins and prepare a meal and homemade cards. Deliver anonymously through the church. Offer to sing at a senior pot luck or just go around and say Happy Holidays to people. Buy some old fruit and veggies from the local grocery (or ask if they have some to donate), go to a wooded area and decorate the trees with the produce. Your furry, cold friends will thank you. Giving doesn't have to be expensive but is so rewarding.

Remember family traditions and create new ones. This is so important. For example, my parents always let me open one gift, of my choice, on Christmas Eve. We have continued this tradition with one difference. The picklets get to open one gift on Christmas Eve but it is the gift of our choice. They know they get a brand new, special pair of pj's on Christmas Eve. So, in carrying on the tradition from my youth, we formed a new one.

Shake things up and observe traditions from other countries: Make pavlova and celebrate New Zealand style. Make rice pudding and leave a bowl out for the barn elf so he will continue to watch over the animals as is done in Norway. Place cotton on your Christmas tree as they do in Argentina. Learn the legend of the Christmas Spider (Germany and Ukraine). Make a Christmas pinata, fill it with nuts and candies and have a Mexican Christmas party. Have children place their shoes outside their bedroom door on Dec. 5th. It is possible that St. Nicholas (with helpful parents) will fill them with treats. (This tradition is celebrated in many different ways all over the world.) Have an adult hide a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. In the Czech Republic the child who finds the pickle on Christmas Eve gets to open the first present the next morning. Leave your stockings out on January 5th in hopes of La Befana, the Italian Christmas witch, leaving small presents.

Make the season fun: Go look at Christmas lights. Sing to Christmas music. Go caroling with a group of friends. Go to festivals and parades. Practice saying Merry Christmas in different languages. Deck the halls with popcorn and cranberry strings. Make homemade stockings from dad's old socks. Make homemade hot cocoa and watch a Christmas movie. People watch at the mall. Have a ginger bread man decorating contest. Bake cookies together. Use your imagination and then share your ideas with others.

Recycle. In our family the only new gifts come from Santa. Gifts given to each other are either handmade or used. It's cheaper, stretches our imagination and often means much more.

Lastly, don't stress. The holidays don't have to be stressful. It isn't about keeping up with the Joneses. It is about being with family, observing traditions and making your own. Growing up, my dad stressed about Christmas and I never knew it. As an adult I found out he does not have great childhood holiday memories, but he always made the holidays good for me. He still stresses over the season but now makes it fun for his grandchildren. For that I am grateful.

I hope some of these ideas will help spread the holiday cheer in your piece of the world. Happy memory making!

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