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Mendo Lake Family Life

10 Ways to Share Holiday Love with Family and the Earth

By Denise Yearian

I n the midst of holiday hooplas, children often lose sight of the significance of the season. Here is a list of a dozen ways to create a more meaningful celebration.

1. Grassroots giving. One of the best ways to make your holiday more meaningful is to adopt a family from a local charity. When you call, ask for a family with children your own kids’ ages. Then if you normally give your child five gifts, suggest giving three and letting him or her pick out two for each needy child.

2. Aspiring ornaments. Have each family member secretly write one non-monetary thing they want to work and/or wish for in the coming year. Then put it in a decorative envelope or ornament and attach it to the tree or place it by the menorah. On Christmas morning or during a Chanukah celebration, share it with the other family members and discuss ways everyone can help fulfill the goal.

3. Go green. Reuse holiday wrapping paper to cover another gift, line a drawer, or draw on the reverse side. Christmas and Chanukah cards can be recycled, too. Cut them in half and use the blank side to jot down reminder notes, or let your kids cut them up and make new cards for next year.

4. Multicultural merriment. Every year pick one country and find out about a major holiday celebrated there. Find out what the culture and traditions are like, learn a few words, and try traditional foods.

5. Family photo tree. Decorate your tree or home with individual photos of family members. Mount images on construction paper, felt or foam, write the date on the back, attach a ribbon and hang it on the tree or place it by the menorah or in another important spot in your home. When your children are grown, pass along the pictures so they can carry on the tradition.

6. Intergenerational experiences. Grandparents often have personal items—old dolls, a piece of jewelry, a book, or even a photograph—that they wish to give to their grandchildren, and the holidays are an opportune time to do it. Ask to learn the story behind each item. If the kids are old enough, they can video Grandma or Grandpa describing the history of the gift.

7. Warm fuzzies. Families so often forget to share positive and encouraging words with one another. Have your family sit in a circle and pass a fuzzy teddy bear around. As you do, have the person holding the bear say something she or he appreciates about the one sitting to her or his right or left.

8. Critter care. Decorate an outdoor tree with pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed; popcorn and cranberry garland; and orange and apple slices that have been attached to pipe cleaners or opened paperclips and then hung on the tree’s boughs. This is a way to take care of neighboring wildlife and wish them a happy holiday.

9. Family fitness. During holiday school break, decide on one activity you can do together each day to stay fit—walk around the neighborhood and look at lights, jump rope to a favorite holiday song, or play a round of basketball while the pie or kugel is baking. Then make it a family New Year’s resolution.

10. Family video newsletter. Each child can take turns being the anchorperson while you record, but make it more than just reading off news. Take footage from the kids’ bedrooms where they are showing a favorite stuffed animal or in the yard performing a newly acquired skill. Send copies of the DVD with your holiday cards, or attach the video to a holiday greeting email and donate the money you save on stamps to charity.

Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children and six grandchildren.