12 Ways of Christmas

Make meaningful memories this Christmas season

By Brooke Stacia Demott

I’m on the tail end of the Millennial spectrum, the generation that grew up with front-row seats to the war on tradition.

For years, I’ve been told conclusively that I only want what’s new and exciting, so anyone looking for a buyer twists their marketing techniques in every direction except backward to get my attention.

In reality, most of us are overwhelmed by decades of broken families, revolving door fads, and clever gimmicks, longing for something to ground us in the flow of history. Developing strong traditions with loved ones can help do just that.

Making memories together this Christmas doesn’t have to be costly or complicated, and the benefits can last a lifetime!

Here are 12 creative ways to make sweet, budget-friendly memories this year!

— Throwback toys: Remember that 1972 Fisher Price Little People Airport with the indestructible plane and fold-up airport? How about the 1988 Ninga Turtle Party Wagon and pizza-thrower? Maybe Weebles or Kid Sister, Lite-Brite or CareBears bring you back to an ethereal memory of childhood. Take a little time on Ebay and hunt down a favorite toy from your past, and share the memory of that special time in your life with your kids or grandkids.

— Street caroling: Gather a few friends together, print out some copies of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and make a joyful noise around the neighborhood! Carolers are uncommon these days, and I guarantee you’ll be a nostalgic hit and have a wonderful time. Don’t forget to invite the carolers back to your home for some hot cocoa!

— Let the kids decorate (Yes, I mean actually let them): My kids make a ridiculous amount of enormous, rectangular paper snowflakes every year. About five years ago, I said, “OK, if you’re going to do this, get some string and hang them up on the ceiling.”

They did, and the result is a dazzling, slightly psychotic winter blizzard in every room of my house. I’m talking hundreds of paper snowflakes. They even tape them to ceiling fans and turn them on low, all day. It’s crazy, but it’s really special to them and they look forward to it every year!

— Secret Santa: I have seven children, so this is a no-brainer for inter-sibling gifts. But this can work for any group! Gather a few friends and throw names in a hat, or do a neighborhood version to get to know the folks around the corner for the holidays!

— Visit village Christmas festivals: We love the Skaneateles Dickens’ Christmas festival that runs every year from the last week of November until Christmas Eve. There are carriage rides, samples of figgy pudding, and over 50 Dickens’ actors in time-period garb, play acting and leading rounds of Christmas c in the village gazebo. Find a village festival or tree-lighting ceremony near you!

— Participate in a pageant: Find a church that puts on a Nativity pageant to attend with your family. If you can’t, then perhaps you can fill the community need, and organize a pageant yourself. The good news is, the script has been written for you!

Baking contest

— Have a cookie party: Have each family member pick a favorite to bake, and have a contest to see who’s is the tastiest — or the best decorated — then make trays to give away to community service centers like the police station or hospital. You can have a cookie exchange with several other families, or have your kids’ friends over for a cookie-and-story-hour Christmas theme party.

— Adopt-a-grandma (or grandpa): One year, we called a nursing home and asked if they had residents who didn’t get visits from family around the holidays.

They gave us three names. So that year, we bought presents for those three residents, and on Christmas Eve our whole family delivered them to the nursing home. My husband brought his guitar and we all sang hymns. It was a wonderful memory, and we enjoyed getting to know some new friends.

— Secret card giveaway: Make some Christmas cards together and put them in random mailboxes, with encouraging words and thoughtful seasons’ greetings. Add a favorite Bible verse, a cute bookmark, or a 5$ bill. It’s fun to imagine how a small, unexpected gift might brighten someone’s day!

— Make an ethnic Christmas meal: My family has Italian roots, so this year we’re going to do a traditional Italian-America “Festa dei Sette Pesci” (Feast of the Seven Fish) for Christmas Eve. Trace your roots and plan to make some traditional foods that honor your genealogy!

— Go to church: I’m not Catholic, but I vividly remember attending a Catholic Midnight Mass as a small child on Christmas Eve. It seemed magical to me. These days, many denominations offer a Christmas Eve service. We always attend a Christmas Eve service at a local church, and appreciate the reminder that Jesus is the center of the celebration!

— Christmas classic movie night: Pick a cold snowy night to get everyone into comfy pajamas, break out bowls of popcorn and glasses of eggnog, and cuddle up to “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol.”

Traditions are wonderful, living memorials of the past, knitting us together in the present, and if we are lucky, carefully preserved and carried into the future. Get creative and enjoy making them your very own!