One of my favorite holiday memories is helping my mother and grandmother cook for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Before I got married, I would spend the night before each holiday with my mom and do all the little prep work and washing, since they were the real cooks. Now I still like to come by sometime that week and help with candies or cakes. The older I get the more I cherish traditions like these, and I see how they are just as important for older generations as the younger ones.
Having a three-year-old son and a daughter on the way makes the holidays even more fun. My husband and I are blessed to both still have a grandma alive. I cherish those holiday visits to our family homes and watching my son and his cousins interact with all the various generations in our family.
I encourage you to make time to spend with the extended family during the holidays, not only for yourself and your children, but for older generations as well. One of my most memorable Christmases was the year before grandfather died. We have a huge family and all 10 grandchildren and their families happened to make it that day, which made it extra special. It was as if God knew that would be the last time everyone would be together for Christmas.
If you live far away from family or don’t have a lot of family, you can still create traditions with your children and friends. I enjoy starting little traditions with my son like The Christmas Angel, making holiday candies, and opening our gifts at home before traveling to see family. We like to involve him in any charity we might do, such as picking out a gift for a needy child, which can easily be incorporated into The Christmas Angel calendar.
As a Christian, I also see the importance in reading the story of Jesus to my son and teaching him about the true meaning of Christmas. Older children can help with service projects, which is a great way to take some of the focus off themselves and put it on those less fortunate. Children of all ages will enjoy creating an advent calendar, and there are many ways to go with one.
Advent calendars can range from a simple calendar on the wall to a more decorative, 3D display with windows or drawers to open each day. It is popular to go with 12 or 25 days up until Christmas, but some people like to take it even further. There are many themes to choose from including service projects, decorating ideas for the home, and family activities. I personally like the idea of intermingling a little bit of everything.
One way to connect with distant relatives or friends would be to write and mail a Christmas card or note to someone different each day. You can also bond with family members of all ages and finish your holiday to-do list at the same time by incorporating tasks like wrapping gifts or taking a shopping day.
Even with crazy schedules, you can choose to spread the calendar out and save the activities for weekends. Then you can start it a month or two earlier to take some of the stress off everyone and cherish the holidays longer. I really enjoy Christmas movies and like to watch one every weekend up until New Years.
Regardless of what you decide to do, remember that making memories are far more important than any gifts or elegant dishes. Focusing on spending time with those who matter is a good way to keep from stressing out. Take time to enjoy your children, extended family, and friends this holiday season, and you will ultimately enjoy yourself.
*This article was originally written for Kids Life Magazine.