A New Holiday Tradition—Better Than Giving Gifts

Just a brief post to wish you a very, merry Christmas holiday season and to challenge you to consider doing something new this year.

For centuries, Christmas has been a time for giving gifts, spending time with loved ones and taking time off. Regardless of your background, most of you perpetuate the ritual of cherishing the people nearest you by giving a present or two…or five.

This year, why not start a new tradition?

During the years my kids were growing up, I would try to come up with a new ritual or experience on Christmas morning. In other words, just to mix things up, I’d try to get my kids to think about something more than merely “what they were going to get”—what was under the tree. I don’t consider myself the most creative person on earth, but I would consider what I had to offer and think of how I could use it. For instance:

  • Since I was a commercial art minor in college, one year I drew a picture that represented what each of my kids had accomplished that year.
  • More than once, I wrote out clues as to where their gifts were hidden around the house and had them hunt for them.
  • For several years, the first gift opened was to someone other than a family member. We’d select a disadvantaged child and give them some gifts.

An Idea for This Year

This year, I invited you to join me in creating a new tradition. I plan to write a poem for each family member who’ll be with us on Christmas day. (I’ve been doing this for our staff since I launched Growing Leaders). It will be short (just a couple of stanzas) but in it, I will communicate the “gift” they each represent to our family and our community. It’s been satisfying to watch my children become their own person over the years, and I felt this holiday season would be an excellent time to express to them that I not only want to give them gifts—but to say they are a gift to my wife and me. I plan for it to take no more than a few extra minutes, but I am hopeful this time becomes even more important than the present they’ll unwrap.

Now, you may not feel like a poet, so I am not challenging you to do something outside of what is natural for you. I am, however, challenging you to identify your natural strengths, and use them to express affirmation and honor to your loved ones. Perhaps you simply select a word that best describes their value to you. Maybe you select a picture. Or, maybe you identify a term or phrase that does the job. I just believe this time of year should be a time to affirm what we see in others.

Regardless of your faith or background, let me remind you that this holiday should center around ingredients that don’t occur without intentionality:

  • Relaxation—not just frantic activity.
  • Celebration—not just meeting everyone’s expectations.
  • Refreshment—not anxiety over the details.
  • Family and friends—not merchandise and marketing.
  • Offer encouragement—not merely material gifts.

Here’s wishing you a meaningful holiday season!

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A New Holiday Tradition—Better Than Giving Gifts