Creating Lasting Christmas Memories - the gifts that transcend a lifetime

AlyzSE

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Alyza LeBlanc

I have a friend that puts so much pressure on finding just the right gifts for everyone at Christmas. Much thought and care given toward each recipient’s likes and dislikes, all with the desire to convey how very special those individuals are. Of course, when those hand selected items are later found pushed aside, buried or worse yet, re-gifted or donated, it feels as though all those efforts were in vain.

I grew up in a family of modest means, but my parents always made Christmas special. There was excitement surrounding Christmas morning with multiple packages for each of us to open. However, aside from a bike I received one year, I can barely recall any of the gifts received throughout my entire childhood. What I do recall are all the very special things our family did together only during this time of year. I do not propose abandoning presents, they most certainly play a role in the season, I simply suggest putting just as much thought into creating traditions because it's these memories that draw me into the holiday season each year.

Life is so busy, most families spend limited time together just enjoying each other. We are focused on work, school, sporting events and responsibilities. Growing up with three kids, we literally had something going every day of the week from dance and gymnastics to music lessons and concerts, to drama and youth group outings, not to mention keeping up on schoolwork and household chores. There were obligations around the holidays as well with Christmas performances and functions, but more than anything I remember our cherished family traditions.

Precious time shared together is what we hold on to when our loved ones pass on. The most wonderful part is that most of these activities are low or no cost. Perhaps you will adopt some of these ideas to incorporate into your own family traditions:

Christmas Light Tours - my parents would load up the family in our station wagon and we would drive around neighborhoods admiring and rating house decorations, all the while playing Christmas music and singing along. Now there are many town parks and churches that have free light shows as well complete with synchronized music through your radio.

Caroling – we would gather a group of friends and family to circle the neighborhood singing holiday choruses for each house. While it was about sharing holiday cheer, it was always exciting to see if we would score cookies, hot chocolate or candies. Sometimes our group would grow in number as we travelled.

Christmas Cookies – one Saturday leading up to Christmas our kitchen would be turned into a full bakery. We typically baked a wide variety of cookies, made competitions out of decorating the sugar cookies and had a blast while absolutely destroying the kitchen in the process.

Salvation Army Volunteer – last year my daughter and some of her girlfriends volunteered a block of time to ring the bell and collect for Salvation Army. They rang, sang, waved, held doors open and most importantly just made people smile. It was beautiful to watch the transformation, from walking with purpose and so focused, to their demeanor changed by a smile, wave or candy cane.

Christmas Movies – it doesn’t matter if you prefer the classics like “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th”, the comedies like “A Christmas Story” and “Elf”, the traditionals like “Frosty” and “The Grinch”, there is something very special about gathering the family, eating some popcorn and sharing some quality time watching your favorite holiday movie.

Angel Tree Donation – every community offers outlets that collect gifts for children who may get nothing otherwise. No matter your financial situation, if you are not one of those children, sponsoring one child is such a valuable experience. If finances are too tight to buy gifts, perhaps consider volunteering at a soup kitchen one day. Giving back reminds us to be grateful and expresses kindness.

Build a Snowman or Sled Down a Hill - we no longer live in the snow belt so we have to travel to find snow now, but there is still something very magical about playing in the snow. It is one of those activities that takes me back to a childlike state, allowing all of life’s responsibilities to disappear for a time to just be silly and have fun.

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Alyza LeBlanc

Gifts are fun to give and receive, but items get worn out, broken, lost or outgrown. The beauty of making significant memories is that they stay with you for a lifetime. Make some traditions this holiday season with those closest to you, it will be time well spent.

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