3 Ways to Make the Holidays More Meaningful

Sometimes I catch myself following the “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. Like telling my twins they’ve had enough dessert at Thanksgiving, then sneaking into the kitchen for an extra piece of pie. Most of the time, this approach is pretty harmless. But when it comes to the holidays, I’ve noticed that my kids definitely pay more attention to my actions than my words.

I’ve always said the holidays are a time to enjoy friends and family, not to get caught up in material things. At the same time, I’ve been ringing up credit card bills like it’s an Olympic sport. This holiday season, I’m determined to put the emphasis on meaning and memories. Here’s my plan to do as I say:

Get creative with gift-giving

The last thing my husband needs this Christmas is another necktie he’ll never wear. But if there’s anything he hates more than neckties, it’s organizing our very cluttered basement. So this year, I’m giving him the gift of time—in the form of me setting aside an afternoon for some serious basement duty (and topping it off by baking a batch of his favorite cookies). I’m sure he’ll appreciate a break from this yearly chore more than any accessory money could buy.

As for my girls, I’m trying to satisfy their sweet (and beautifully misspelled) wish lists while finding gifts that also mean something special—and it’s turned out to be a bigger challenge than I thought! Whenever possible, I’m sticking to gifts that encourage family time, such as board games, craft and jewelry-making supplies, movies for us to watch together and tickets to local plays and museum exhibits.

Take time out to volunteer

I’ve always wanted my family to know the value of helping out in our community. But between swimming lessons, school fundraisers and endless birthday parties, our weekends leave little room for anything else.

This time around, I set up some volunteer dates during the kids’ winter vacation. Through our local community center, we signed up to help cook a holiday meal at a local shelter. Although the girls are still pretty young, the program coordinator said there would be plenty of little things they can do. And with the help of a few friends, I organized a Saturday get-together for families in the neighborhood to make holiday cards for nearby nursing home residents. That way, we’ll get to enjoy some catching up while doing good!

Build new family traditions

While I love the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, I’ve spent one too many holiday seasons sprinting from store to store. I’ve come to realize that spending less time searching for the perfect gifts and more time with my family is an easy way to make our holiday memories more meaningful. By shopping online and limiting my non-virtual shopping trips to an hour or two, I’ve been able to minimize my time in retail lines so far.

As a bonus, between my plans for ice skating, cookie baking and turning our house into a winter wonderland, there’s no way the kids will be whining of boredom two days into winter break!

While there’s no secret recipe for a happy holiday season, shifting your focus can put you on the path toward a more memorable one. Unlike years past, I’m hoping this holiday season will bring us more thoughtfulness and gratitude in the New Year.