This article brought to you by Seek Visibility.
The jack-o-lanterns have rotted away and the cornucopias are on every table, which means the holiday season is upon us once more. Already, my kids have started developing a serious case of the I-wants: Their lists for Santa cover two notebook pages ― front and back ― and they don’t miss any opportunity to mention their must-haves.
However, despite their childish greed, I have noticed a slight difference from their behavior during holiday seasons past. While they “oohed” and “ahhed” over this year’s new toys and gadgets, they also seem to be more aware of other people’s wants and needs. Already, we have a box in the kitchen collecting canned goods for a Thanksgiving donation, and they have asked more than once when we can start caroling at the children’s hospital. This giving attitude is relatively new ― and I believe it’s due to a few changes I made to last year’s holiday celebrations.
While we still engaged in our regular holiday gluttony, I also scheduled a few opportunities for our family to give back. Little did I know that these good things would also bring our family closer together and make us better and stronger as a whole.
Decluttering and Donating
Every year before the last, after the chaos of unwrapping on Christmas morning, I was dismayed by how difficult it was to find space for all our new stuff. Our closets were packed to bursting, our cupboards were overflowing, and even our spacious attic was stuffed to the gills. Therefore, last year, I conveyed Santa’s message that he wouldn’t deliver any new presents this holiday season unless we got rid of our old junk. Every other weekend starting in November, we would devote one day to cleaning out the storage spaces around the house so Santa would stop by on December 24.
Though the kids were reluctant at first, it didn’t take long for them to recognize how little they used most of their belongings. One weekend, we spent sifting through closets and toy chests. We devoted an entire weekend to the garage and another to the attic. After each decluttering session, we would make a trip to our local donation drop-off ― or we’d place a call to a charity to make a pick-up, as we did with our old boat that sat unused for years in the garage. By the end of the holiday season, there was so much space that Santa rewarded everyone with a few extra gifts each. Now, my kids understand that cleaning up has definite rewards, and come holiday season, their rooms are spic-and-span.
Volunteering and Visiting
Nowadays, American families are busy, and mine is no exception. My kids have all sorts of extracurricular activities ― and both are still younger than 10 ― and my spouse has a job that forces him to travel at least twice a month. When the holidays hit, there seems to be even less time to spend with one another, which makes organizing family time especially important.
In years past, I’ve planned Christmas light-viewing trips, gingerbread building crafts, tree-hunting expeditions, and more, but none have been as important or exciting as the volunteering we did last year. In the little spare time we had last December, I took my family to a senior living facility to bring joy to those without visiting families. Because my little ones don’t often see their grandparents ― who live closer to my sister’s family than mine ― they enjoyed hearing old stories and playing games with the seniors in the home, and I’m certain the residents enjoyed the opportunity to laugh and sing, too.
Not everything I did last year revolved around helping the community. I also instituted a nightly story time. Storytelling and wintertime have gone together for eons, and there is nothing like a cold night and a warm tale to bring the family closer together.
Initially, we cuddled together to read a holiday-themed picture book or watch a short movie like “Frosty the Snowman” or “Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” However, it didn’t take long for my kids to start writing their own holiday tales, and not long after that they began performing them for us with costumes and music. This year, I have started organizing a neighborhood holiday talent show, so we can use the magic of storytelling to bring not just our family but our community closer.
Listing, Listening, and Loving
Perhaps the change that made the biggest difference in my family’s holiday season was small and simple: I listened more and I loved more deeply. By paying attention to what my loved ones said, I could give them the attention they most appreciated ― such as inquiring about trumpet practice or helping with vocab homework. In turn, they began to copy me, and for the holiday season at least, our home was calm and full of love.