Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How To Feel The Magic Again In The Holiday Season

 You know what's easy to do? To fall into the rush of December. One question I asked myself years ago when I first became a mother, was if I wanted my kids to remember the holidays this way, with me running in and out of stores, parking lots, looking at the time and slapping my forehead.

We don't have to put the brakes on this season, not if doing holidays are your thing, BUT what if we take some of that energy and spread some love around to more than just our own?

Here's a list of a few things our family has incorporated as new tradition. Sowing these seeds of kindness will grow into a harvest of your children feeling the same heart urgency to do for others, in their own families. What a thought, isn't it? 

1. Ask at your church to forward a donation of grocery store gift cards to a family that is struggling. Our church will announce to pray for those looking for a job, and through confidentiality, they will forward your donation. Place your gift cards inside an envelope wishing them hope and remind them that they are in your thoughts and prayers. Wish them the warmth of the season.

2. Let your children pick out some of their favorite toys or games from the store; then deliver the gifts to a women's shelter so the children there will know that the world does love them.

3. Include your children in a trip to the grocery store for the sole purpose of donating to the food collection barrels there. Buy only items for the food barrel, and let your children choose the non perishables they think children in other families would enjoy. They'll delight you with their choices of red licorice, Oreos, and they'll remind you that people in need have children who want something special.

4. Rather than gifts, purchase an experience for your family: like tickets to a local production of A Christmas Carol, or another holiday show. Your ticket will support local arts and you know what every show needs to survive: an audience!

5. Take a trip to a bookstore with everyone, choose a holiday chapter book there. Read a chapter a night, together as a family. Write the date on the inside cover, and have everyone sign their names and write a short message. You've just created a keepsake.  

6. Sit and share stories with your family about some of your favorite past holidays. Tell them why you remember the ones that you do, and what made it so special. Ask them about theirs. What they remember will impress you.

7. Go for a night drive, or a night walk; soak in how pretty all the holiday lights look. Enjoy being together with nothing else to distract you.

8. Check out a colorful holiday recipes book from your library, one with lots of pictures. Spend time poring over the pages, and choose a recipe that you can make as a new family favorite for your big dinner.

9. Rather than dinner one night, make several holiday appetizers: serve them all on round platters, along with small appetizer plates. I found some plates at WalMart for a dollar each and the kids' reaction was as if I was serving them up on emperor's plates.

10. Have a dinner by candle light during their winter break. Not just one candle holder, but many, many votives scattered all about the kitchen or dining room. Talk about the happiness you feel in having everyone home with you. The glow of the table will bring tears to your eyes, I promise.

11.Come home from the craft store with an armful of those fun paint it yourself ornaments. I have found them for less than a dollar each. Spread out an old shower curtain and paint away.

12. Rent a holiday movie and have a movie night. Declare this THE must watch every holiday season for your family. For us, it's Elf and It's a Wonderful Life. My family knows these two movies so well, we'll toss out a quote and shout, "Name the movie!" Shared memories, deepened bonds.

13. Really: this one. Make a gingerbread house. It is fun so don't let the thought terrify you. You can buy the kits for $9.99 now. With everything you need. Have little cups around of cut up red licorice, skittles, raisins, gum drops, pretzel sticks, to decorate. SO MUCH FUN but let your 'neatness' tendencies somewhere else for this one.

14. Don't stress over the holiday cookie bake. You can buy already made rolls that you just slice and they're just as delicious as the hand rolled out ones. Always fun to decorate and frost. Make an extra two dozen and deliver them to a senior center. They have coffee get togethers in the mornings, and you'll find people there who have no one else in the world to spend the holidays with. Make a card, kids' work necessary!, wishing them a healthy, happy new year.

15. Remind your children that the joy of the season is in thinking of our fellow man. Present options to them in how they'd like to give to help those with less. This year, my children chose to donate two hours of their time gift wrapping angel tree gifts for a women's shelter. My youngest went caroling at a nursing home.

16. Donate to every coat and mitten and boot and hat drive you read and hear about. A quick search on the internet will give you info on where to drop off, what size items are needed. We gave a few items last year to a community through our neighborhood high school who had put out a call for Syrian refugees expected that winter.

17. I just read this one, suggested by a friend of a friend, and it's something we can do in any amount. Check in with a school office and ask to donate or pay toward the account of a family who is behind in their lunch plan payment. Some schools will say yes and you've just taken the stress out of a financially taxing month for a family who will never forget your kindness.

Let your family, and you, feel the joy in giving. When you hear your children say, "That was fun, mom, and it felt good," you will have the magic of the holiday season, of how we really are happiest when we do for others.

Glitter and all.

*Happy Holidays to all of you, I wish you peace, and the making of new memories that will delight the child in all of us.


  1. This is an awesome list. I wish I had time to do every single item on it!

  2. I made a gingerbread house with my 22-year-old stepson last year and it was ridiculously fun.

  3. Lovely, as always. I'm trying so hard this year to capture that magical feeling since so much is not, indeed, magical this year. Sometimes you need to just let go and stop trying so hard - and I need to do just that.

    I made my first gingerbread house this year. It was way harder than I thought, even with the kit, but I'm really proud of it!

  4. Okay #4? If I did that the children would pack their bags and move out in search of finding another mother who would buy them gifts.

    Wait a minute........I think I'm on to something.

  5. Oh, I just love all of these. But number 1 especially. And I love that Elf is your family go-to holiday movie. Such a great one :)

    Merry Christmas, Alexandra. Thanks for being YOU.

  6. Terrific suggestions! We are an interfaith family and I'm always trying to infuse this season with meaning. I love your big-hearted, family-centered, ecumenical tips.

  7. And this is why I love made 'Elf' your Holiday movie. Hooray for wonderful taste! That is ours but, personally, it's not Christmas until I watch 'Meet me in St. Louis' and 'It's a Wonderful Life'.

    We, also, take drives after dinner to see all the lights. LOVE IT!

    Happy Holidays, My Fairy BlogMother

  8. These are great! Last week I had just written about needing some magic in my life and finding it at this Christmas event my family and I go to each year. Your suggestions regarding giving are so good - just how it's great to create magic in other people's lives too. :)

  9. Great list. I'm using at least four of these in the next couple of days for sure.

  10. Absolutely Amazing Ideas! Thank you!! I especially LOVE the first 3 and will do one of them with my son.

  11. That is great. I need to do some of that now. I'm always thinking, "Wow, times are hard for us right now. One of these days..." Well, times are worse for lots more people. You've inspired me. I may not can do a lot, but maybe a little will make a difference. Love you, Lady!

  12. nice..great the ones on giving to others...and that candle light dinner idea sounds really cool as well...thanks for bringing the magic back empress...

  13. You can also just send presents directly to me.

    I love that you're such a wonderful, caring person. I really do. And I'm glad to be doing my part to make the holiday season more magical.

    Of course, you understand that I cannot check out another library book of recipes after the pubic hair fiasco.

  14. Thanks all of you, for your kind comments. We do every one of these things, and by far, what my kids enjoy the most is the hit and run gift card.

    They're not big cards: just ten dollars each. But the thrill the kids get from knowing they're anonymously giving is a thrill I know they'll talk about as adults.

    It's really a lot of fun, to give.

  15. Not just glitter.
    COVERED in glitter.

    That's what I want the holidays to be for my family.

    (Metaphorically, of course. Glitter's hard to clean up.)


  16. Fantastic! I needed to read this today. I feel crazy, caught up in the chaos right now. Time to regroup and do some of these with my children.

    Thank You.

    BTW, my son got tears in his eyes when I told him about children without homes and/or parents who needed our help. I love that their first grade class is sponsoring a foster child. Can't wait to get started on more of these from your list.

    Merry Christmas XO

  17. Such a wonderful, generous and giving list.

  18. This is such an awesome list!!

    I love them all.

    Merry (almost) Christmas!

  19. Awesome list, Empress. Wish I could watch "Elf" with you guys.

  20. Glitter and all. We cannot consume our way to the memories we wish to have. And, you're right: gingerbread houses ROCK!

  21. A perfect list for the holidays

  22. Love these ideas! Thank you for sharing them! :)

  23. All of them great ideas! I do what I can and it feels very good...
    Great post!

  24. A terrific list! My husband and I also gave up on purchasing large gifts for each other. We spend $100 ONLY. We decided that we'd rather concentrate on the season and the pleasures it has to offer - putting up the tree, attending Mass, baking, visiting with family.

    We started it when we were too broke to spend more and it turned out to be our best Christmas - so we've done it every year since!

  25. Great list....we've already done some of these.

    And everybody knows:
    the best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.

    my 4 yr old daughter really, I mean Really takes to heart.

  26. We love ELF too! We too watch it every year. :-) And yes, giving really does bring about genuine happiness!

  27. Alexandra, you have this uncanny ability to put things into the right perspectives. Thanks for sharing with us this list. Christmas time is the perfect time to do all those!

    Happy holidays to you and your family, dear friend.

  28. you are sooooo awesome. Can i tell you that the reason I haven't been around a lot lately is because I have been doing all this stuff...I have been enjoying the season, the movies, my sons, the lights, the much that my heart is FULL of holiday spirit. :) xoxoxo

  29. I'm all about store bought dough. I save the handmade baking for me...I mean my family. Does that make me selfish?
    Our go to family movie is Christmas Vacation. "Shitters full"
    And I agree, giving back is the best thing to do. Should be done all year round!

  30. Beautiful list. Ours is The Christmas Carol. George C. Scott version. (Although we just went to a great theater/musical production of White Christmas, and that worked, too!)
    Happy Holidays!

  31. There was a woman who lived across the street from us -- her husband passed away soon before I moved in. And while she's sold the house & moved to an assisted care facility, I always loved the huge smile she's give me the morning after Santa would leave her (and her 4 cairn terriers) a large basket of dog treats. I miss that smile.

    With my kids still being far too young for chapter books, I've started playing bits of The Autobiography of Santa Claus on audiobook whenever I drive anywhere with them after Thanksgiving. It goes right over their head, but it's something . . . and, within two years, I fully expect this to be "the requested tradition."

  32. This is a great list, thank you for reminding us that Christmas doesn't come from a store.

  33. So many excellent and thoughtful ideas. Exactly what I've come to know and love about you. We do the appetizer dinner - we all LOVE it.

  34. That was a really great list of ideas. It made me want to do everyone of them today, but I think that would make me so frazzled I'd forget about the holiday spirit.

  35. These ideas are so awesome. I can do these things. I keep thinking I'll wait till we have more money, but I can do them now.

    I'll never feel like we have money to spare, so that day of perfect giving won't ever come.

    Thank you for this.


  36. My kids would LOVE the candlelit dinner thing. So gonna do that!

    And? I won't tell you the WICKED nice and anonymous thing I did for one of my old ladies, whose children and husband are gone. Nope. Not gonna tell.

    Don't wanna ruin the mystique.

  37. I love this. I think I'll print this out and hand it to everyone at the checkout line.

  38. I lovelovelove this post!

    Sending huge holiday hugs to you!



  39. Facebook timeline gave me a gift last night. It reminded me that a year ago, when my son was turning four, we went for long night walk in the snow. I pulled him in the sled, and everytime the snow went in his little face he'd turn around in the sled. We had a routine down. We looked at all the lights. I cry even thinking about it.

    Thank you for this post.

  40. We do the Christmas light drive nearly every night. It makes the whole season seem a little more magical.

    Last year my son and I did a gingerbread house, and we were totally impressed with ourselves until my husband took a photo of us next to it and we looked like giants. It was reminiscent of Spinal Tap ("I think that the problem *may* have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being *crushed* by a *dwarf*") -- we laughed until we cried over that one.

    Love that you did this list!

  41. The first Christmas I spent with my now husband, then boyfriend ... he stopped in the Mall and took 12 angels off a Giving Tree. We then drove to ToysRUs and filled two carts with presents and delivered them back to the tree.
    I knew then he was a keeper!
    This year instead of cards, we purchased a goat, chickens and ducks thro World Vision, my youngest still thinks they are going to be hand delivered by us.
    (btw, we watched Elf, again ...)

  42. What a wonderful list! We also love love love to use paper around the house to make snowflakes and hang them up. And I have girls so yep - they get a lot of glitter.

    I love showing kids how great GIVING feels when everything they see (they are all 5 and under) makes them want something. These lessons can be taught all year but a special focus on others at this time of year is just wonderful!

  43. Thanks for reminding us about the magic of giving, and that one of the highest levels of giving is giving anonymously.

  44. It made me happy to read this post. Good job Emp. Great suggestions!

  45. These are all so great. I feel more Christmas-y just from reading your list!

  46. I would really feel the tingle of the season if everyone here did just one of these things. We do them all, but they've become traditions for us now. And I dream and hope of the day that my 3 children insist on these traditions with their new families.

    I WILL LIVE ON!! (i kid..I kid...kind of..)

  47. I love Elf. I could watch it 678 times. Perhaps I have already. LOVE!

  48. you my dear, have given me some great ideas!! i love 10 & 13!

  49. Great ideas! I recommend watching Love Actually. It always, ALWAYS gets me in the Christmas spirit

  50. What wonderful idea! I hope you will link this to my Giving Others Christmas post!

  51. We did a gingerbread house a year or so ago and it turned out to be the most fun. Loved doing it.



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