More Meaning and Joy – Less Stress and “Stuff”
While growing up in Humboldt, TN on a small farm we rented from Aunt Joyce and Uncle Brance, Christmas had so much joy and meaning. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always had food on the table and tons of love. My Mom was the oldest of 11 children, so there were always lots of cousins to enjoy at Holiday gatherings. On Christmas day we visited my grandparents home place with all the aunts, uncles and cousins and received thoughtful gifts…some of them, I still have. Aunt Elaine made me a cross stitched pin cushion, because she knew I liked to sew and I still use that same pin cushion today.
After I graduated from college in 1982, holidays were much more materialistic. I wanted so much “stuff” and the more I bought, the more I “needed”. Then family wants came into play and the cycle continued for years. One day in my forties a lightbulb when on in my head and the realization hit – all that “stuff” was temporary and didn’t have a lot of meaning. The latest gadgets were discarded after 6 months and some gifts didn’t even get used.
The real meaning of the holidays is found in being with family and friends and enjoying our time together. So make your holiday memories count this year and here are some ideas to keep the season significant and worthwhile.
One Gen Away food distribution
Serve or Give to Others in Need
Giving to people in need is really what Christmas is all about and it gives your children a wonderful example of what generosity is all about. I know of families who have given their Christmas budget to other families who are not as fortunate. We give to OneGenAway, the Nashville Rescue Mission, GraceWorks, Angel Tree, Samaritan’s Purse and as many as our budget will allow. We have sent Christmas boxes to the Military oversees who are keeping our nation safe. We have friends who serve every Holiday at soup kitchens to help our homeless, but receive more blessings than they give. What can you do this Holiday to make it special for those in need?
Angel Tree Donations
Useful Gifts that are Homemade
My friends and family have told me that some of the best presents they receive during the holiday are the basket of homemade goodies from us. I make jams, jellies, canned green beans and tomatoes, and sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls for them to eat over the holiday season. Sometimes, if I’m real industrious, I crochet or knit cotton dishcloths and scrubbies and include those too. The gifts are a piece of our sustainable life and very useful to the recipient. One of my favorite gifts every year is a bag of haystack cookies that our friend Linda gives us…it’s my favorite treat and I even freeze some of them to savor past the holiday.
Make and Decorate Christmas Cookies (or any special recipe) together
When my daughter Allison was little, her older cousin Carey would invite her over to bake and decorate Christmas sugar cookies with her every year in December. She would come home from that afternoon with all these tasty adorable decorated cookies that she could share with others. What a special memory that made for both of them and I’m sure Allison will continue that with her kids someday.
Play Games Together
Get off the video games and turn off the TV! A board or card game is fun and makes memories. Here is a site that has plenty of unique Christmas games to enjoy: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/christmas-party-games/?lp=true
Another fun game is to list the alphabet on a sheet of paper with lines next to each letter and guess holiday words that begin with each letter. Give each person or team 5 minutes to complete it. The winner is the person or team who has the MOST AND BEST answers. You will be surprised by the hilarious answers!
White Elephant Gifts
A white elephant gift exchange or Yankee swap is a party game where white elephant gifts are exchanged during festivities. The goal of a white elephant party is usually to entertain rather than to gain. Each participant supplies one wrapped gift. The gifts are placed in a central location, and participants determine in which order they will take turns selecting them. The first person opens a wrapped gift, and the turn ends. On subsequent turns, each person has the choice to either unwrap a new present or to “steal” another’s. When a person’s gift is stolen, that person can either choose another wrapped gift to open or can steal from another player. To avoid never ending circles, each gift can only be stolen once per turn. The game is over when everyone has a present. Generally, it is recommended to have at least six participants for the gift exchange party. With a larger group, game play may be more protracted. (source Wikipedia)
The white elephant gift should be something that you did not buy or something very inexpensive. An appropriate gift is something that you already have that you don’t want…the crazier, the better. One year I wrapped up a James Dean plastic mug set that I won at another White Elephant Exchange and I received an Ear Wax Candle Kit. The more laughs, the more fun you have!
Drawing Names for Gifts
Why give a gift to everyone in your entire extended family? Drawing names and concentrating on that one person to get them a special, meaningful gift can be a great way to celebrate the holiday. There is a more room in the budget when you only have to buy for one cousin…and not 10 of them.
Christmas Letter instead of a Card
I started sending a Christmas Letter each year instead of cards, so we could share information and updates about the family to extended members and friends who we don’t see on a weekly or monthly basis. A one page letter is sufficient, since most people won’t read more than that. I either use Christmas bordered paper or I create a letter and print it myself. It gives a personal touch and you can include photos of the kids and fur babies.
Every year we watch several of our favorite Christmas movies together like ‘Its a Wonderful Life’, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, ‘Christmas Vacation” …to name a few. Of course the Hallmark Channel has wonderful (sappy) movies that get you in the Christmas Spirit too. Watching as a family or in a group of friends, making popcorn and enjoying more home made goodies makes our holidays very memorable.
We hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Happy New Year, and enjoy a Sustainable Holiday that emphasizes memories and joy…the real Spirit of Christmas!
Leigh and Olin