"The manner of giving is worth more than the gift."
The holidays are almost here and many of us are wondering how we will find our way through the maze of our strange new world. Despite many losses, our children often remind us that we can find joy every day. With some creative thought and planning, we can feel the season's spirit and create some special memories filled with holiday joy.
In the words of Winnie the Pooh, "Thanksgiving is a time when everybody gets rumbly in the tumbly and thankful by the heartful." Some of my friends feel like Pooh; they think Thanksgiving is the best of all the year-end holidays. But let's face it, virtual meals with family and friends just aren't the same as the real thing!
So, just like we are finding creative ways to safely celebrate Halloween, we can find alternative ways to celebrate this Thanksgiving. Here are some ideas:
Thanksgiving traditionally kicks off a season full of holidays, but this year Diwali is first. It begins on November 14; Hanukkah is December 10-18; Christmas is December 25; and Kwanzaa is December 26-January 1. Whatever you celebrate, this year is sure to be quieter and less stressful. With Tiny Tim's warm spirit of the season, we can expand our own family spirit and traditions in lieu of the usual holiday frenzy of parties and shopping.
Include the children in special baking, gift-making and decorating projects. Children love to decorate cookies. Box and wrap them as gifts. Maybe this is the year to make a gingerbread house from scratch, or several kinds of fudge. Ever string popcorn and cranberries for the tree? Or make a bird feeder from a soda bottle?
This might be a good year to go see all the holiday decorations in your neighborhood. Many people have decided to welcome visitors to their holiday light displays since being outside is a safer place to celebrate. Finding festive displays around town makes a good family outing. Whatever you choose to do, holiday music can add to the festivities and can offer a chance for children to explore new songs, artists, and cultures.
What are the holidays that your family celebrates and why? Take some time to read and learn about the origin of the holiday your family celebrates. Study your family tree and the world map, and then research the holiday customs of your ancestors' country of origin. This is an opportunity for children to become acquainted with their heritage in a new way.
My ancestors from the Netherlands celebrated St. Nicholas Eve. My father put his clogs under the bed on December 5, hoping to find them filled with sweets and little gifts the next morning. I have special memories of my grandmother making Kerststol, the Dutch Christmas bread.
My neighbor celebrates Las Posadas, organizing everyone to make luminarias to line the sidewalk. Another neighbor delivers her delicious Babka during Hanukkah.
Things are so different this year. If we look closely, we can find the silver linings. Everything seems better when we have more time and the pace is slower - and when we remember it's the thought, not the gift, that counts. The true spirit of the season will shine brightly.
"Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them."
—Gail Grenier Sweet
—by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families.
—Originally Published 2020