Gift giving and receiving is an expected ritual in many holiday traditions. Finding and purchasing just the right gift can be fun (and stress-inducing sometimes!) and adventurous! Buying for loved ones, particularly children, is often the highlight of adults holiday experience. But once the paper is torn off, the new toys/clothing played with or worn, then what? Maybe there can be something more, something that is carried in memory longer than a new…whatever. I know that I remember the events/rituals/traditions from the holidays with great fondness, the gifts not so much. It is never too early or too late to add some meaningful new traditions. New traditions done as a family often foster a sense of purpose, kindness, and compassion. Children frequently report that doing things with family and for others are their favorite memories. Here are a few suggestions:

Be of Service: Help children deliver cookies to a retirement home or sing carols there. Visit a children’s cancer ward and deliver handmade cards. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. If finances permit, adopt a family in need and let your children select gifts and food. Let your children donate canned goods at food banks. Any of these suggestions function as great teaching moments for young people.

Create a new ritual: Rituals anchor holidays and create a sense of continuity and a tradition to pass on. Make and decorate cookies. Light candles. Go ice skating and get hot chocolate. See a holiday play. Attend worship services. Host a dessert potluck. Have a pizza party! The possibilities are endless. Remember though, this should not be such a production that it creates significant stress. My family watches “The Sound of Music” and drinks hot chocolate; it’s simple but the children all look forward to it, even the tweens.

Get creative, keep it simple and enjoy doing something new this holiday. The memories made might just last a lifetime.

Lori Brandt