When our team started talking about what we wanted to write over the holidays, I immediately knew I wanted to write about our holiday traditions. I can honestly say our Christmas traditions are some of my favorite things we do all year.
Before I get into sharing my favorite traditions, I want to recognize that the holidays are not happy for everyone. Some of you will have experienced loss this year which will make your current traditions bring sorrow instead of joy. Some of you don’t live close to family and the holidays just don’t seem as festive without your close friends and family nearby. I’m sorry for your loss and loneliness. I’ve tried to put our activities into different buckets, so that regardless of your current circumstances, religion or beliefs, you could still apply the principle of the tradition. Maybe as you continue to read, you can think about starting a new tradition to bring back a little cheer to your holidays.
When I was a kid, we used to go Christmas caroling in nursing homes and I always enjoyed it. The people in the nursing homes always seemed so excited to see us and we loved making them feel happy. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but luckily there was a group of good singers that could drown out my off-key voice. As we got older, Christmas caroling became a thing of the past, until a couple of years ago when my kids and nieces decided they wanted to go. We loaded up and I took them over to my parent’s neighborhood and we caroled around their street. The neighbors loved it and the kids had a blast. The tradition has expanded and now my whole family loads up into Pap-pap’s sleigh (which is his red trailer which is decked out with Christmas light, hay bales and Christmas music) and we go around and spread joy to others who are out in their yards or walking in their neighborhood.
Maybe singing Christmas carols isn’t your thing, but I encourage you to find ways to spread joy to others. There are still lots of nursing homes full of lonely people we would love a visit. The homeless shelters are full people who need some encouragement, take a plate of cookies to your local fire or police stations and I’m sure there are some frazzled teachers who would love some help.
It’s easy to get trapped in consumerism this time of year. Even if your conscientious and stick to a budget, for me just being in the stores is enough to tempt me into a spirit of wanting. In an effort to keep us grounded we have found a variety of ways to give to those less fortunate both locally and internationally. We involve all our kids and this has become one of their favorite traditions.
For those of you on an extremely tight budget, there are lots of ways to give that don’t require money. You can offer to babysit for a single mom so she can go shopping without her kids. Share a coupon with someone in the line behind you. Grab your kids and rake leaves or hang lights for someone who can’t do it for themselves.
My all-time favorite tradition is our annual scavenger hunt. My sister and her family and my parents live locally. Four years ago, I hosted the first annual Christmas scavenger hunt. I invited everyone over for dinner, laid out the rules of the game and then we set out to find the items on the list of items I had compiled. The list consisted of basic things like Santa in his sleigh, a house decorated in all white lights, and Frosty the Snowman, to more difficult things like an animal dressed up or singing Christmas carols to a stranger. We decided to split into two teams, girls vs boys. We happen to have equal numbers to this works for us. Each team gets one hour to get as many things marked off the list as possible and must get back to my house by a specific time. When you find an item, you take a picture to verify the finding. A point is given for each item found. An extra point is given if a team member is in the picture. The game is for bragging rights only, but we take that right extremely serious. To date the boys have won twice and the girls have won once. This is a make or break year and we have all been doing a lot of smack talking for the last couple of weeks.
There are so many ways you could do this. Grab your kids, some friends, neighbors or families and give it a try. If you aren’t overly creative just Google “holiday scavenger hunt” and I’m sure you will find plenty of lists already made for you. If you decide you want to give a scavenger hunt a try, let me suggest getting a neutral party to create the list and do the judging and make sure you have someone who knows the area to drive the car! I speak from experience.