As a child I always looked forward to the Christmas tree, Christmas music, family gatherings — and unwrapping gifts. Now, as an adult who has enjoyed decades of family traditions, Christmas is still my favorite time of year. And I’m not talking about receiving gifts.
When your family begins a meaningful tradition, you create a legacy — something your kids can pass on, something that can impact the lives of your whole family for generations to come. It’s for this reason that the traditions we create today can be used to help pass on important lessons and instill in our whole family essential aspects of life all year around.
While we are engaged in normal holiday traditions with our family this year, we can also remind our loved ones of the most important lessons in life. Those lessons have to do with family time, consideration for others, and giving to those who may not be as lucky as we are.
Here are three holiday traditions that you can use not only to help your family celebrate, but to help your whole family remember what matters in life.
1.) Volunteer — for the deeper meaning of the holidays. One of my favorite quotes in life comes from Jesus Christ Himself: "It's better to give than to receive." As a child I never fully understood what this meant until my family took me out on volunteering trips. For one season, we went all in with volunteering.
We spent a night helping at a soup kitchen, an afternoon wrapping gifts at a kids center, and one afternoon sorting donations at an orphanage. That particular year, I realized more than ever how fortunate my family was — how lucky I was to have a family, a warm home, and a family that protected me from the harsh aspects of life.
By taking your kids volunteering, you can demonstrate it really is valuable to give back. When you do this as a family, you also create family time. On top of that, you show your kids that you are willing to give back and instead of preaching, you do it — and as they say, "Kids do what parents do, not what they say." When you give back as a family, you help pass on lifelong lessons to your children.
If you're interested in volunteering as a family, check out Volunteer Match, a website that makes it easy to find places where you can give as a family all year around.
2.) Save pennies (and far more) with a change jar. Years ago my young niece started a new tradition. For one year, she put all her change in a little pink pig I had given her. But instead of saving the coins for herself, she said it was to give to her favorite nonprofit that helped poor children. Our family loved the idea so much, we all started to save our coins to help her raise more money.
Not only did this help her achieve her big goal of saving a few hundred dollars, it helped make the whole family feel united. By simply putting our spare change into these buckets, we created a simple year-long tradition that helped us all remember how lucky we are. At the end of the year we had a few hundred dollars — enough to help feed, shelter and support some very needy kids.
To start this simple tradition, you can purchase a few change jars, or simply use jars or containers you already have. As a family, put your change in the donation jar and watch the coins pile up. Not only will this tradition remind your family of your fortune, but it will also create a legacy of giving that your kids will pass onto future generations.
By shopping more consciously, you can help your whole family remember the holidays are also about giving back.
3.) Give back with conscious shopping. The holidays can easily become a time to shop, shop, shop — and consume. This practice can easily wreak havoc on our mindsets at this special time — as well as pave the way for generations of people who are obsessed with things.
To curb this tendency, try shopping as a family at places where giving back is at the epicenter of the store. Maybe shop at stores where the items are handmade or organic — or at stores where a percent of the proceeds go toward helping others who are less fortunate. For example, the store Accompany uses 100 percent of the proceeds to help the Red Cross in its global relief efforts. Another store with a similar slant is TOMS. For every purchase you make, they give one similar TOMS item to a needy child in a third-world country.
By shopping a little more consciously, you can help your whole family remember that the holidays are also about giving back. This new way of shopping can help your family consider how we vote with our dollars — and the holidays are a great time to make such a statement.
These three simple holidays traditions can be fun and easy to do, and easily fit into our schedules without too much effort. Sure, volunteering may be one of the holiday traditions that takes the most time out of this list — but as a child, I fondly recall this activity as one of the most enriching of all. When you use the celebration of the holidays to give back, you help your children and family participate in sharing, feeling grateful, and ultimately having a more abundant Christmas season.
Luis Congdon helps entrepreneurs live their dreams. He travels the world most of the year but on occasion can be spotted in his earthen home on San Juan Island.