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Slow down and find true meaning in the season

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving is in our rear view mirror, and the Christmas holidays are just around the corner. It's so easy to get caught up in the holiday merry-go-round of activities, shopping, food, food and more food. While those things are all good, if we find ourselves moving too fast, in too many directions, we lose sight of the meaning of the season. We find making lists has replaced making memories.

This year I vow to do less, but make my actions count more. I found a checklist, from the website "Power to Change" that gives us some good guideposts on our way to a more meaningful holiday season.

One idea for reminding your family about the true spirit of Christmas? Adopting a family through the Holiday Family Adoption Program, going on now.

Working with Upper Des Moines Opportunity, the Spencer Fire Department, UPS and so many others, The Daily Reporter is proud to help out with this holiday program. We match up families in need this holiday season with cheerful givers. Just take a look at the family lists published in the paper, give us a call, and start the season!

More ideas for putting the meaning into the holidays to follow.

By Marsha Jordon

1. Lower expectations: Don't fall for the hype and myth-takes that can ruin your holiday. You'll make yourself crazy comparing your home, your holiday, your family, with anyone or anything that makes you feel less than perfect. Remember, you are not Martha Stewart.

Stop trying to win the perfect holiday award for the best cookies, the most elaborate decorations, or the biggest gifts. Remember these four important words throughout the holiday season: Do less, enjoy more.

2. Change routines: Why do we feel that we must continue forever to do things just as we've always done them? Don't be bound by past traditions. Think outside the box and consider new ways of doing things to make it easier on yourself.

*Instead of exchanging gifts with co-workers or extended family, how about choosing a charity to help?
*Who says you HAVE to cook a huge meal for 30 people every year? Could you, have a simple gathering instead? Better yet, let another relative take a turn at hosting this year's celebration.
*When did we decide we needed 37 different varieties of Christmas cookies each year? If you MUST have a variety of cookies, go to or host a cookie exchange where everybody bakes one type but takes home several of all the other varieties.

3. Don't do it all yourself: Involve every member of the family right down to the toddlers. If you can't do it together, then maybe it's not something you need to do at all. Turn decorating, shopping, gift-wrapping, baking, and even house cleaning into family-time activities.

4. Spend less money: Nothing adds stress to the season like worrying about how you'll pay the credit card bill come January. Remember that it's the thought that counts. Think of creative gifts you can give that cost less but express your love. Keep a journal of all your expenditures. Know each day how much you've spent so far. Shop fast. The more time you spend in the store, the more money it will cost you.

5. Simplify gift shopping: Plan ahead, make a list, and stick to it. Shop throughout the year rather than doing it all at the last minute.Instead of individual gifts, buy one item for an entire family such as a board game.

6. Celebrate family and community: Schedule time for fun and relaxing together. Put it on your calendar and make it top priority. Don't let anything get in your way. If you're too busy to drive through the neighborhood with the kids looking at the lights and listening to Christmas music, re-arrange your schedule. Whatever you're planning to do, share it with someone and make it quality time.

7. Create lasting, loving memories: Be selective. Don't fill every moment of the season with frantic activity. Think quality, not quantity. Reading stories together, a relaxed tree-trimming, singing carols, making snow angels, or just enjoying the evening stars and sharing a cup of hot cocoa can be more enjoyable than attending every play, concert, and party of the season. Volunteer as a family to sort food at a food bank, organize a toy or coat drive, deliver meals on wheels, or serve Christmas dinner at a shelter. These are memories you'll cherish forever.

8. Tame the greedies: Steer the family's focus toward the needs of others and how your family can render service. Help everyone to develop an attitude of gratitude instead of always wanting something more. Talk about ways to share the season's joy with others. Instead of wish lists, make a list of ways to practice generosity. These might include helping someone with shoveling, shopping, decorating, or baking. Or choose a volunteer project you can work on together as a family. Keep the TV turned off as much as possible to avoid commercials.

9. Create fun new traditions: Buy a new cookie cutter each year to add to a collection, or shop as a family to buy an early Christmas present for yourselves like a board game you can play throughout December.

It's the little things that make life more meaningful. I like the idea of starting a Christmas tradition of practicing not-so-random acts of kindness each holiday season and maybe even extending this kindness throughout the year.

Volunteering is a great way to teach children compassion. It develops character, leadership, self esteem and a sense of community. Volunteering also helps offset the materialism of our culture. The key is finding a cause the whole family can identify with.

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the past few years have really taken a toll on me. After christmas I usually get sick as I am exhausted. When I realized that I went to seven Christmas get togethers--mainly office parties and friends--all with in ten days--I said no more. Last Christmas I didn't go to anything--It was sooo nice. I attended my Grandkids plays at school and church and went to candlelight services at church--drove around town and looked at all the beautiful lights on homes(never had time for that before!!!) and I loved it. Will do the same this christmas. Thats what Christmas is all about--

-- Posted by iowagirl on Tue, Nov 29, 2011, at 7:08 PM

Our school sent home a December calendar of things to do to celebrate the season of Advent and Christmas. All of it is very doable and very slow and family oriented. Yesterday and today's is to make a manger out of a shoe box and fill it with strips of yellow paper for straw. Throughout the season we are to add to the manger with good deeds we have done written on those strips of straw. I love it.

-- Posted by Leah Cauthron on Wed, Nov 30, 2011, at 10:46 AM

Love this post!!! Something I think alot of people need to be reminded of! Thanks for sharing, and for everyone sharing their ideas of what they are doing different!! I hope more people will do the same!

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Mon, Dec 5, 2011, at 10:42 PM

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