Like many families, my kids have an advent calendar and every day, the punch out a new door on their calendar and collect their “prize,” a small piece of stamped chocolate. And every day, we look at the activity to do as a family for that day; there are things from making a candle to taking a walk to baking holiday treats together.
The advent calendar is a wonderful way to keep us all focused on the small, simple joys of the holiday season. Because try as we might, it can be easy to feel run-down, weary, and overwhelmed through all the hustle and bustle and relentless gift-giving that seems required.
But no matter what traditions you practice over the holidays, it is possible to focus on simple holiday joys that can make all your days and nights this month a lot more bright. Consider this your joy calendar for the season!
Send holiday cards that make a difference. I have to be honest with you–I have never really sent out holiday cards in my past decade of adulthood. Not because I’m a secret Scrooge, but simply because the act of sending t
hem out did not bring me joy; instead it stressed me out. I long ago decided that any holiday act that turned me into a Scrooge had to go, so cards just haven’t been on my “holiday to-do” list since. (And shocker: nothing happens if you don’t send out cards, promise!)
This year, however, my kids are a little older, I’m feeling a little more grateful, and I’m enjoying taking the time to write out more personalized holiday cards. It’s an important to take pause out of the year and really thank people that have made a difference in our lives. Instead of spending a lot of time and money on splashy cards, however, I bought a bulk pack of seasonal cards and am focusing on the message inside. I truly believe our words in a simple card can make a bigger impact than we realize.
Pass out cocoa to bell-ringers or cart employees. This has always been on my list to do “someday” and hopefully, this year will be that someday! Whenever I drive or walk by those employees gathering carts or donations in the cold, I always think how nice it would be to surprise them with a hot cup of cocoa as a gesture of the season.
Share your holiday meal. I love hearing about all of the different faith traditions over the holidays and welcome the opportunity to try meals, foods, and customs that are new to me. It’s funny how what we take for granted in our own family is a whole new experience to someone else–so maybe it would bring you joy this season to open up your home to someone of a different faith tradition or background?
Take a holiday light drive or walk. Hot cocoa? Check. Warm and cozy? Check. Blankets if you want to get out and walk around? Double check. Be sure to soak up all the holiday lights and sights before the bleakness of January rolls around again.
Start an inexpensive gift exchange among your family. A small holiday gesture that makes a big difference is to do a gift exchange. Set a limit and draw names so no one gets left out. If you have young kids, you can make it as simple as taking them to the dollar store to pick up gifts for each other. There is nothing like seeing the excitement of little kids to remind you about the joy of the holidays–and how it doesn’t take a lot of money to capture that joy.
Spend a night in front of your tree. One of my favorite traditions every single year is to take a night out before Christmas actually comes and just sit in front of my tree and enjoy the sights and smells. After the kids go to bed, I’ll start a fire, crack open that book I keep meaning to read but never get to, and soak up an evening of coziness in front of the tree. And if I happen to have a little one sneak down, I’ll just invite them to cozy up on the couch with me too. Nothing like starting a tradition of holiday reading in front of the tree early, right?
Make a yearly memory book. Every December, I use an online photo editing tool and website to auto-create a yearly photo memory book for our family. I order the book in time for the holidays and on Christmas morning, after all the presents are opened and the wrapping paper is piled high to the ceiling, to sit down together as a family and look through it. There is something so magical about that morning spent together, laughing and reminiscing about all the memories throughout the year. And as I have added to our yearly book collection, we can also pull out past books and look through those too. It’s amazing to see how much we have grown and changed and I’m so grateful to have those memories with us forever.
No matter what traditions or memories you create this holiday season, try to focus on the simple ones that mean the most to you and your family–because those are the ones that will always bring the most joy. Also, hot chocolate is never a bad idea, I’m just saying…