3 New Traditions to Make Your Holidays Happier this Year
By Janna M. Hall
Christmastime is here! The halls are decked, the Christmas movies are airing, and (hopefully) the gift shopping has begun. It’s a magical time of year—not just for the children who hope for a white Christmas and presents under the tree, but for adults who have another year to share beloved traditions with family and friends. In the midst of the usual planning, though, consider ways to add a little more magic to your holiday season. In preparation for another merry Christmas, here are three more traditions that are sure to make your holidays brighter and lives even richer.
What if Christmas shopping wasn’t one big parking war? What if it wasn’t about pushing your way through bustling crowds, standing in painfully long lines, and heading to the next department store to do it all over again? What if Christmas shopping was more enjoyable than picking a random inexpensive trinket off the impulse rack in order to check your third youngest sibling’s gift off your list?
Secret Santa removes the dread and puts the joy back into gift-giving. When thinking of Christmas, we often imagine holiday movies, Christmas cookies, and gifts so beautifully wrapped under the tree. But the reality is that we’re usually so focused on the gifts we’ll be giving that the essence of Christmas is overrun by frantic shopping and material goods. This year, get together with your family members and put names into a hat. Each member will pick one name, and whoever’s name they draw is who they’ll shop for. Put an end to the gift-giving quotas. With Secret Santa, you’ll have the time and a more flexible budget to get a meaningful present you know your person will enjoy. You’ll have the chance to be more thoughtful, putting more effort behind shopping for someone you may have never truly shopped for before.
Maybe you’ve noticed your cousin taking a liking to makeup as she transitions into high school. Searching for inexpensive makeup classes could foster her interest and show you truly care about her honing her skills. Or perhaps retirement has inspired dad to become more of a reader. Gifting a subscription to a Book-of-the-Month Club allows him to hop into the literary world with a community of readers who also delight in his new hobby. Secret Santa is all about removing the pressure to fill your trunk with presents and allowing yourself room to really think about a gift the person you love will truly enjoy. Whether you draw mom’s name or the aunt you rarely see, taking the time to learn about what speaks to their likes, interests, and the essence of who they are will make the holiday more special for everyone involved, and will ultimately bring the family closer.
Christmas Dinner Potluck
Ham, turkey, macaroni and cheese, yams, greens, pie…our mouths begin to water the moment we think about the spread mom has planned for the family. But what if mom didn’t spend the entire Christmas Eve and Christmas morning preparing food for the family? This year, what if everyone made it a group effort? A potluck is a wonderful way to get everyone involved in the much-anticipated Christmas dinner. Having everyone—or each individual family, if your family is on the larger side—make a dish adds an element of fun to the traditional dinner.
“My family does a potluck each year, and it’s so awesome because people only make what they’re good at,” says Emily Joyner, who travels back home every Christmas to spend it with dozens of relatives and extended family. “The best part is that we don’t have everyone slaving in the kitchen all night; each family brings one or two dishes that they’ll contribute to the overall spread.”
Joyner loves this Christmas tradition because it brings an element of excitement to dinner; everyone comes with their A-game, bringing only dishes they’re famous for. “Everyone looks forward to the other relatives’ specialties,” she says. “And if you don’t have a special dish you want to bring, you bring a drink everyone can enjoy.”
The dishes don’t have to be traditional, either. While the Christmas dinner classics are always great, this tradition provides flexibility in the menu, allowing everyone to enjoy a meal that reflects their relatives’ strengths in the kitchen.
Aside from not having one person carry the burden of making the entire dinner, a potluck prevents the hosts from having to store so many leftovers; after everyone’s made to-go plates, each family takes home their respective dishes. It makes clean-up a breeze and allows the family to focus on the important aspects of Christmas—post-Christmas dinner naps and football.
Christmas isn’t just about what you get, but what you give. And to take it a step further, it’s about the lives you impact through your giving. Richmond offers countless opportunities to volunteer, both during the holiday season and on Christmas Day.
Noah’s Children, for example, is a volunteer program through Bon Secours Richmond that offers episodic volunteer opportunities through their Done-In-A-Day activities. Their program allows members to serve the community year-round, from back-to-school volunteer events to their Homemade Holiday activity. One particular activity, Holiday Helpers, allows volunteers to help collect, sort, package, and deliver toys to the Noah’s Children family all holiday season long.
#HashtagLunchbag Richmond is another local volunteer initiative with the purpose of driving out hunger. What began as a social media experiment, #HashtagLunchbag has served over 5,000 meals to families in need in 2016 alone. It allows the community to join together and provide meals for those in need.
Karanja Cook, a Richmond native who’s been volunteering with the initiative for a year, enjoys dedicating his time to a project that brings the community together for a greater purpose, and has seen first-hand the impact it’s had on everyone involved.
“The main purpose of #HashtagLunchbag is to show how serving others can be fun,” he explains. “And what’s great is that you can share those experiences with your family, friends, and coworkers. I’ve seen strangers become friends through serving together. I’ve seen people come out alone their first time, and then the next event they bring their entire family. Everyone feels a sense of gratitude for having such a positive experience.”
Cook encourages everyone’s participation, especially during this holiday season. To him, it helps put life into perspective in a very unique way.
“Most of us take for granted the little things, and the holidays allow us time to reflect on what’s really important,” he says. “It’s not about the new cars, new shoes, or the latest technology creation, but truly loving on each other.”
Happening the third Saturday of each month from 9 am-12 pm, #HashtagLunchbag participants dance, sing, laugh, and knock out hunger one lunch bag at a time. Their next meeting is on December 17, at their VCU main campus location, 830 West Grace Street.
Carve out the time this holiday season to incorporate new traditions that extend beyond presents under the tree and trinkets in your stocking. Make the effort to reach others, whether in your family or in the community, and most of all, build bonds and enjoy experiences that bring true joy this Christmas.