Ways to have a meaningful Christmas

    Gift for a homeless man
    Christmas gift for a  homeless man

    By Hailey Burress

    As we get older, things change. You might be noticing changes in your health or in your living situation. Even our holidays change. This year, Thanksgiving or Christmas might look different for you. If you are finding yourself alone this Thanksgiving, or attending Christmas at your child’s home instead of hosting like you have for the past 30 years, here are a few tips to keep your holidays bright.

    While the holidays are often associated with feelings of joy, anticipation and love, Thanksgiving can kick off a season of depression for many of us. The holidays can make us miss our loved ones more, or can remind us of a less than stellar year. It can be quite easy to just stay in bed, with the covers over your head, and reject all invitations until January. But, isolation just breeds more depression and even cognitive decline. Try some of these approaches to keep your sanity this season.

    If you find yourself without a place to go on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you have an excellent opportunity to give back to others at that time. Food banks, homeless shelters and nursing homes are always looking for volunteers to spread some cheer on the actual holiday dates. While these organizations often find themselves overrun with well intentioned individuals and groups during the holiday season, when the actual holiday comes, staff scramble to find volunteers to serve food or simply visit with clients.

    Use your extra time to give back to others. You might even make some new friends and have a good time yourself. Just be sure to call ahead of time to the organization so that they can count on your help.

    Open Your Doors
    If you aren’t going to be with your family on holidays, consider opening your doors to others in your situation. Put out the call to your neighbors, or church group that you will be hosting a dinner or dessert party on the holiday to anyone who finds themselves without someone to celebrate with. Keep things as simple or elegant as you would like, and be prepared to watch God work as strangers become friends right in your living room.

    Don’t Resist New Traditions
    When we had our child, we knew that our Christmas tradition of traveling for hours to both sets of our parents would simply have to change. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have with my mom or with my in-laws, but my husband and I knew it was the right thing to do for our little family in the long run.

    My mom handled the change beautifully. While it was new for her not to have a houseful on Christmas morning, she embraced the new tradition of coming to our house to open presents and have dinner on Christmas afternoon. We even turned it into a slumber party and my son loves having Yia Yia spend the night on Christmas; they play with his new toys well into the night while my husband and I decompress and eat pumpkin pie on the couch. The next morning, my mom and I wake up bright and early to hit the after-Christmas sales while the boys sleep in. It is a new tradition for all of us, but we’re four years in and it is working.

    My brother travels for work and often finds himself states away on Thanksgiving. But, my mom has instituted a new family motto – It’s Thanksgiving whenever all my kids are home; I can make a turkey any day, not just in November.

    It might be Christmas for you on the weekend before the 25th, when your house is full of your kids and grandkids. Or, it might be Christmas on the second week in January when you fly to your son’s house to celebrate. Embrace new traditions and change your perspective.

    Ask For Help
    You might find yourself struggling this holiday season, even if you do your best to embrace the changes swirling in your life. If you are feeling sad or fighting to find your new role, tell someone about it. Whether you tell your friend, your spouse, your child, or God Himself, don’t be ashamed to work through these feelings with the help of someone close to you.

    Wishing you happiness this holiday season, or at least for God to guide you through this season of change.

    Haley Burress is a freelance writer and contributor at Parenting.com and Educational Insights, to name a few. She lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with her (very handsome) Principal husband, and her (very awesome) 4 year old son, Jackson. 

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