When you think about Christmas growing up, what do you remember the most? Details on the presents under the tree likely fade from one year to the next. But the special experiences and traditions are the memories that, for most of us, stand out and mean the most.
I love holiday traditions. The gingerbread cookies I've been making from the same handwritten recipe for over 15 years. The Christmas stockings that I had when I was young that are now used by my kiddos. The trek to find the perfect tree that lasts so long your toes freeze over. And of course, the carols. ALL the carols!
Lots of people have traditions around food, music, crafts, gifts and more... but what about traditions around kindness? Since it is the Season of Giving, after all, here are some of our favourite holiday traditions centred on kindness and doing things for others. They are sure to be the things that those special memories are made of, for years to come!
Make It Rain... Candy Canes!
Holidays = fun. Holidays also = lots of driving, from one function to the next. Try this to up your enjoyment on those long commutes. Keep a box of candy canes in the car and as you're driving to the next family dinner, roll down the windows and hand out candy canes to people walking by or in others cars at a red light! We do this every year on Christmas Eve en route to dinner, and it is always so energizing for the kids when people smile and say thank you for the unexpected bit of Christmas cheer.
Go Christmas Carolling
Ok, so truth be told, I am a trained opera singer who has been singing my whole life. I have memories of my school-aged friends getting together, toques and all, heading out into the snow to sing carols for neighbours. It's so rare these days to answer the doorbell only to find someone surprising you with a song. Whether it's four part harmonies or a group of kids with a couple of sleigh bells, spreading holiday joy through song is a beautiful tradition.
Make Homemade Christmas Gifts
Making gifts is so perfect for kids, since they don't have cash money to spend on gifts just yet. And they don't need it! Teaching kids that taking time and care to make something for a friend or family member is so valuable. Those homemade keepsakes are often the most treasured gifts of all, and I always try and include something homemade for my own kids under the tree each year.
Do a Kindness Advent Calendar
Balancing out all of the "getting" that happens at Christmas with more acts of giving is exactly how My Kindness Advent Calendar was born. When kids take the month of December to focus on daily acts of kindness and giving for others, they're truly getting into the spirit of giving. Have kids choose a simple act of kindness to do daily as Christmas approaches, either through a homemade kindness Advent calendar, or of course, with My Kindness Advent Calendar - an easy to use and reusable ready-made version that you can use year over year as a family to truly create a new tradition around kindness and giving back.
Best Lights Award
Late night strolls to take in the beauty of neighbourhood Christmas lights is a lovely tradition. Take it up a notch by having your kids make "Best Lights Awards" certificates and leaving them in neighbours' mailboxes or, better yet, delivering them face to face. Your neighbours will be absolutely tickled to know they've "won" an "award" and that their hard work is being recognized! We do this at Halloween and Christmas and my kids look forward to this silly tradition so much each year!
Donate a Toy to a Child
Simple. Kids love toys. So when it comes to donating and giving back to others, having your child choose a used or new today to donate to a child in need is something young kids can identify with. Kids know the joy that Christmas morning brings, and to give them the opportunity to share this type of experience with another child is a beautiful way to build empathy and encourage a charitable mindset. There are so many great organizations like Toy Mountain who run toy drives - a quick internet search will bring up tons in your community. And donating used toys can be powerful too - here are some of our best tips on donating used toys during the holidays.
Sponsor a Family
If you're looking for a larger charitable commitment as a family, sponsoring a family with a Christmas dinner or gifts for the family is a similar experience for kids, taking something they can relate to and empowering them to share their experience with others through donation. There are so many great organizations like Holiday Helpers who run these types of programs - a quick internet search will bring up tons in your community.
Send Christmas Cards
I am always so touched when Christmas cards arrive in the mail! What a beautiful way to show friends that you're thinking of them, with an annual update and holiday greeting. Get kids in on the action by making the cards or including some artwork on the envelopes.
Host a Food Or Coin Drive
Hosting a holiday party this year? Take it up a notch and ask guests to bring some canned food, spare change, or household items for a local charity. Have your kids help you pick a charity and drop off items after the party too.
Make a Shoebox
There are lots of wonderful organizations like The Shoebox Project who collect gift-filled shoe boxes for people affected by homelessness, living in shelters, or other populations in need at the holidays. Shoeboxes are easy for kids to fill and decorate, making it a beautiful way for kids to experience volunteering at an early age.