It is the most wonderful time of the year. Hot cocoa. Chestnuts on the fire. Family and friends and loved ones.
Kids around the world have begun shouting at commercials, “I want that!” Toy catalogs are being circled with hopes and dreams of young and old.
But, for many, this year has brought heartache, fear, and darkness. Families and friends seem farther away than ever before. Fear clutches the hearts of even the most stoic.
But, it does not have to be that way. We can embrace the real and true meaning of Christmas – the greatest gift of all time. To celebrate this gift, my family has incorporated one of my favorite holiday traditions. I thought I might share with you how we have changed our house from a “Give me!” to a “Give them” household.
- Elfing: It is better to give than receive – especially when you go out elfing. This is similar to “Booing” (a Halloween tradition). Many do this for friends and family, but my family likes to find those in need. We like to find the families struggling to get by, but would never ask for help. We like to find the families that feel so overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, that the simple act of love changes their life. Some years we choose a single-family and “elf” them weekly for the month of December. Some years we “elf” a different family in need every week. But, it is a weekly part of our Christmas tradition. All you need is a goody bag – or – stocking. Fill them with Christmas fun! Things like coloring sheets, crayons, candy, card games, elf hats, and ornaments are great. Cookies are a favorite of ours. **Tip: The Dollar Tree is a big money saver for small trinkets and fun children’s toys. Have the kids help choose the filling. Then wait till dark, load up the kids, and leave the gift on the porch. Ring the bell and RUN! RUN! RUN! The best part of “elfing” is no one “knows” it was you.
2. Christmas Caroling: Music is powerful! I spent years studying how music is used to create culture. But, of all music, there is something unique about Christmas music. The way it brings peace, hope, and love to even the darkest places is incredible. This year, with so many shut-ins, senior citizens, and families in quarantine, it is easy to think this tradition is out date. But, it doesn’t have to be. We have traditionally caroled with our Rotary Club and church groups, but this year, we are doing things, well, differently. We are caroling via the internet. Simply record yourself singing and send it to the same places you would normally go in person. If possible, make this a family event – my family loves singing together.
3. Give: This time of year is always a bombardment of “give me” from charities the world over. Having spent more nearly 15 years in the non-profit sector, this is often the time of year where most of the budget comes in. It can seem like everyone wants something. We have learned to use that as teachable moments. We present the different ways to give to our son, then we let him pick which ones should be a part of our giving. He also saves all year a tithe (see my article on finances for more) and this time of year is when he chooses where to put it. I highly recommend you look at the charities and non-profits in detail to know how they will spend that money – we ensure a majority of giving goes to the need (not the CEOs). Charity Navigator is a great place to start.
4. Out with the Old: As a military family, we move a LOT. In 15 years alone I have moved 13 times. We have discovered in moving, there is a lot we don’t use or need. So, about five years ago we started a new practice (partly out of wanting to make moving easier and not having to purge a lot). We decided that for every Christmas and birthday, for every 1 thing in, we donate 1 thing out. This helps keep our house manageable but also allows our little to understand that the needs of others are year-long – not just once a year.
So, whatever way you celebrate this beautiful time of year, I hope you find these simple ways to give away to remember what Christmas is all about. May it help take off some of the “keeping up with the Kardashian” mentality at bay and bring us back to the heart of Christmas.