Holiday traditions are important to us; they hold us together, remind us of who we are, and give us a way to pass our own memories down from one generation to the next. But sometimes these benefits can get offset by the craziness of trying to do it all: trying to squeeze in so many special moments that we spend money and time we don't have on activities, events and gifts that don't matter. You don't want to waste precious time with your family on traditions that leave you with more guilt than gain. But you also want to have those special moments to look back on. Can a girl have it all? Green, simple, sane and meaningful time with family in the rush of a culture seeped in what seems like endless traditions? Why yes, a girl can have it all. Here's what she needs to do.
Think back on the happiest holiday memories you have.
Maybe your happiest holiday memories are from childhood, or those years in college when you were finding yourself, or the first year of your marriage when sleeping in on the holidays had a whole different meaning? Whatever time of life, pinpoint the things that meant the most, then strip it down to what gave it the meaning: was is the stuff, the money, the environment, the trappings? Or was it the time, the activity, the people you were with, the things you were doing that meant something to you?
Give yourself a bigger budget of time and a smaller budget of money.
What we tend to do is use our money to buy more and go more, and we end up spending our green by being the very opposite of green. Give yourself more time for traditions and less money, because it's the time that matters more. So instead of shopping for new Christmas decorations, spend time at home making some out of what you already have. Instead of going out for a cup of hot cocoa, spend time together making your own, and a batch of cookies while you're at it. When you take more time, you invest more of yourself, and that's where the special moments come in.
Find a better way to give.
We love giving presents, especially to our kids. And there's nothing wrong with the spirit of giving, but why limit it to something wrapped under the tree or stuffed in the stocking... perishables. Look for the intangible ways to give. Make it a family holiday tradition to volunteer at a soup kitchen, bake cookies for the church bake sale, volunteer at the local charity, sort through clothes to give away, or donate your time and skills and self to those who need it. What you'll be giving to your kids isn't in a stocking, but it is lasting; they'll grow up with a sense of what giving truly is, and that's a gift that won't wear out with each use.
Image: James Jordan