The holidays have become so commercialized that it’s harder than ever to remain focused on the most important things of this joyous season – shared time with family and friends, shared meals with those we love, shared simple gifts, and shared faith.
Here are some suggestions to make the holidays more meaningful:
• Model values for your children and create meaningful family traditions. These might include having each child pick out a present for someone in need and deliver it to a hospital, shelter or charity.
• At a time when people often spend time “together” but are disconnected by devices, have device-free times when the family reconnects by watching holiday films together, reading something meaningful - whether it’s scriptures or a classic story - or participating in an activity like ice skating, baking or going for a walk.
• Instead of decorating by yourself for the holiday, include, friends, children and grandchildren.
• Open holiday cards together as a family, and have children write or dictate a personal note or “appreciation” to include with gifts.
• Use dinner discussions to talk about things you are thankful for or acts of kindness in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
• Over the next few weeks, stop for a moment to send a personal greeting, pick up the phone, or get together with a loved one.
• Do something special with each child in the family. It can be as simple as going out for hot chocolate or taking them shopping to find a special present. These are the kind of special moments children will remember for the rest of their lives. Include a gift of time for each family member, something you will do together in the coming weeks and months.
• Skip the stores for a day and instead plan a lunch, brunch, or dinner with family and friends.
• Attend a house of worship with family members to give thanks for all we have received.
These simple suggestions don’t exhaust the range of things we can do to reconnect with the heart of the holidays, but they offer some directions for making the holidays more meaningful and personal.
Dr. Joann Heaney-Hunter is an associate professor of pastoral theology at St. John's and a licensed mental health counselor.