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Holiday Traditions That Never Grow Old

This time of year always makes me nostalgic for my childhood; building snowmen (okay, one year we got to build snowmen around Christmas – I live in Texas…it is a rarity), getting together with family, doing little things with my mom and dad, making lists, shopping, wrapping gifts, and on and on.  Holidays of any kind tend to do that to us – they bring us back in touch with our past, and we should use that nudge as more than simply a nudge.  Consider it a shove.

If you have children – of any age – there is no better time than the present to create memories and traditions of your own.  Years from now, your children will reflect upon the corniness, the hilarity and most likely the sentimentality of it all and realize that moments such as these are what bind us together.

So, in light of this, here are my family’s traditions.  Not my family that includes my parents and my brother, but my family NOW – the kids and my husband.  Here’s what we do to create that feeling of togetherness and routine every December.

  1. You Can’t Count Down Without A Countdown Chain!  This is, quite possibly, my son’s favorite activity.  We take red and green construction paper and cut it into 1.5 inch strips.  We then staple each strip into an interlocking ring with another, creating a paper chain.  We put enough links on it to count down until December 25th (but you could do this with other holidays and events in December as well), then each day we pull off a link from the chain.  He loves to create patterns with the colors in the chain, and this year, we’re adding a phrase or activity to each link, which will help us focus on our family a little more each day.
  2. Let There Be Light(s) – And More Lights!  Our neighborhood is exceptionally well-decorated this time of year with lights, deer, scenes and designs.  We usually choose a couple of nights to walk around the neighborhood, taking in everyone’s decorations.  It is great exercise, the kids get a chance to burn off some energy, and our pace is such that we can truly appreciate each display.  On chilly nights, though, we pack into the car and make our way around.  Bring hot cocoa and a few cookies along for the ride to really set the mood!
  3. Fa La La La La…along with our light-looking, we enjoy stopping at neighbor’s homes and treating them to a few songs.  Sometimes, we get our next-door neighbor’s kids to join us and make it a little choir.  The older residents of our street LOVE to see our kids come around, and it is a wonderful way to reach out and contact those who live near you.  We also like to pair this activity up with the next one…
  4. Cookies And Candy And Cake – Oh My!  The kids help me choose about five or six of our favorite holiday recipes, and we spend a few days putting them together.  Then, we bundle them in colorful bags, pretty plates or holiday boxes and deliver them to the neighbors.  It is a gift from the heart and our kitchen, and each year is a bit different, depending on the choices the kids make!  Stay tuned for holiday recipes to be posted in the near future!
  5. Tis The Season To Be Giving.  The main lesson we drive home in our children during this time of year is to share with those less fortunate than us.  We do this in several ways.  We typically give food to our local food bank via our church, but during December, the boys and I make a special purchase of food for the food bank, and then they help make the delivery with me to see where the food goes.  It is an eye-opening experience for them and is a lesson that they carry for a good long while.  We also participate in Toys For Tots, Salvation Army Angel Tree or Blue Santa.  We allow each child to choose an angel or Santa from the tree that is about the same age as they are.  Then the children shop for the child.  It means a lot to our boys to give back, especially when it is someone like them.  Another activity we do is to sit down as a family and create cards for nursing home residents.  Then, on a Sunday afternoon, we make a trip to the local nursing home and deliver our cards.  To watch the faces of the residents light up is enough to put me in the spirit any time of year!
  6. And Speaking Of Cards…another favorite tradition of ours is to take our old Christmas cards from the prior year and turn them into placemats!  I cut posterboard down to placemat size, then the boys have a ball digging through old cards to make a collage of holiday cheer on their placemat.  When the pictures are all glued down, I cover the mat in contact paper to protect it, and our table is ready for the holidays.

What are your favorite holiday traditions?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Ready, Set, GIVE!

There are certain qualities I want to see developed in my boys.  I want them to grow to be respectful of others.  I want them to practice tolerance and patience.  I want them to learn our beliefs as a family and in our church.  And, I want them to be givers.

There are so many opportunities today to develop young philanthropists.  Our church offers so many ways for children to be involved, but not everyone is as active in church as we are, nor does every church offer the opportunities ours does.  Sometimes, you have to seek out your own.

Teaching children to be “givers”, or philanthropists, is quite simple.  During the holidays, participate as a family in a local Blue Santa program or the Salvation Army Angel Tree.  Let your children see the value in creating a nice Christmas for someone they don’t even know.  If you pass by a Salvation Army kettle during the holidays, let your child put in a few coins.  Food donations are a great tool throughout the year.  When you are at the grocery store with your child, let them pick out several canned goods and deliver them together to the local food pantry.  Help them clean out their closet of clothes that don’t fit and toys they no longer play with, then let them make a donation to the local Goodwill or thrift store.  Explain to the children not only what you are doing but WHY.

A more simple and very local way to teach giving is to share with your neighbors.  Bake a batch of cookies and share with an elderly neighbor or a new family.  If you have a garden, share your crop with someone on your street.  Sharing your time is equally as important…help a neighbor with a chore outside, offer to gather their mail or newspaper if they are going out of town. 

Just remember the value in learning to give is to understand the “why”…that we are here to take care of each other and help each other, and we can do that in so many ways and on so many levels.  Let children participate with you in your own charitable giving, and they will learn a lesson that will last a lifetime.

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