Keep Love & Magic In Your Holidays

Traditionally, the holidays have been a time for family and friends to celebrate in whatever spiritual beliefs they hold. Holidays have been a time of joy and festivity. Yet in some segments of our culture, it often looks like commercialism has replaced tradition. While many families look forward to the holidays, just as many dread them. Regardless of which camp you fall into, the key to keeping joy, magic and love in the season is simplicity.

Focus on People

Holidays are about people. Too often we forget this and focus on creating a festive environment, buying the right (or enough) gifts, and attending holiday events. Balancing all of this with a job and effective parenting can wear us down. There are ways for families to refocus on people, and they begin at home.

  1. Have a family story time. All spiritual traditions have holiday stories, and many families have their favorite secular ones. Reading together creates a bond that children remember.
  2. Sing holiday songs. Sing the songs of your tradition as a pre-meal ritual. Or have a song night. Kids love to sing – even older kids. Take turns choosing songs. All family members have their favorites. Invite neighbors or a few friends over for a sing-along. Don’t worry about making fancy refreshments … a bowl of popcorn, a pitcher of apple juice, and a pot of spiced tea are enough.
  3. Reach out. The holidays are a fine time for teaching children the art of giving. Call a relative whom you don’t often contact. Donate canned food to a homeless shelter. Give some good used clothing to a rescue mission, a half-way house, or a church. Choose one project – don’t feel like you have to do it all. If giving doesn’t come from a feeling of joy and abundance, it becomes a burden. Children get the message that we give because we have to and not because we want to. Teach by example that giving creates good feelings.

Keep Cooking Simple

Holiday cooking can get out of hand. We cook and eat too much. Keeping meals simple gives the cook time to enjoy the festivities with the rest of the family.

  1. Instead of cooking a meal with all the trimmings, just choose a good protein, vegetables, and a starch like rice or potatoes. Finish the meal with a simple dessert. If you have traditional holiday recipes include one … you don’t have to prepare them all. Use holiday napkins and a colorful centerpiece to add to the festivities.
  2. Let your children help bake or make treats. When done in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming, the cooking together creates memories. Remember that children have more fun when cooking projects don’t take long and aren’t complicated.
  3. Use ready-to-bake mixes, fillings and pre-made cookies. There are healthy ones available.
  4. Make colorful fruit and vegetable kabobs.
  5. For older kids, mix popcorn with M&M’s or gumdrops and peanuts.

Decorate with Simplicity

  1. Instead of stringing up outside lights, take family drives to see neighborhood lights. Many newspapers list the most-decorated neighborhoods in your community.
  2. Decorate with ornaments your children make at school. Displaying them gives children a way to contribute to the season, and they receive the message that what they offer is important.
  3. Use decorations that children can touch. Holiday decorations are enticing, and if they can’t be touched, part of the joy of having them is lost.
  4. Only put up as many decorations as you can easily take down. Keeping decorating simple makes post-holiday time less busy.

Keep Gift-Giving Reasonable

In many families, the gift list grows each year. Shopping takes a toll on time and can become a financial burden. Changing the gifting pattern may be challenging the first year, but it becomes easier.

  1. For extended-family giving, have each person draw the name of one other family member and give just to that person. Agree on an upper-limit dollar amount.
  2. Carefully consider how many gifts each child in the family will receive. More does not mean better. Set a budget for gifts, and stick to it. If there is to be a change in the gift-giving practice, be sure to talk it over with the children.
  3. If it is within your financial means and belief system, consider giving your children a reasonable holiday allowance to spend on gifts for family, friends and peers. Help them determine how best to spend the money. If they want to spend more than the amount you have provided, they will need to use their own money.
  4. Discuss gift-giving to peers with your children and help them decide who to give to and how much to spend for their entire gift list. Suggest that they and their peers determine a dollar limit per gift.
  5. Shop with the children at price-friendly places like stores that buy overstock and sell at discount prices.
  6. Give homemade gifts.
  7. Above all, help your children understand that the spirit of giving is far more important than what is given.

It is not easy to rethink gift-giving. It takes courage to move beyond our materially focused society. It is especially hard for older children and teens to not overspend on their gifts to friends and peers. They want acceptance and believe that they will be judged by their gifts. If you model wise giving, and support them as they learn that the thought truly is more important than the gift, they will be able to make choices that are caring and prudent.

Magical, Loving Holidays

Taking the risk of keeping holidays simple requires the knowledge that you can have more fun when you are not overwhelmed. It requires understanding that your children are the most fulfilled when they have your full attention as they participate with you in holiday activities. It also requires the belief that whatever meaning you place on the holidays, the most important value to share is love and caring. That is the true magic of the holidays.

Carolyn Warnemuende
About Carolyn Warnemuende

Author Carolyn Warnemuende has two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives with her husband in Redding. She writes parenting and educational articles, sponsors a school in Uganda, and visits Africa twice a year. She receives great joy in taking daily care of her four-year-old granddaughter who was adopted from Ethiopia.

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