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Heard on the Path: What are your strategies for making the holiday season manageable and meaningful?

Carol H.

“We don’t have a lot of “have-tos” for our holiday season, which helps us to focus on spending time together as a family. As a musician, I’ve always been so busy during the holiday season, up through Christmas eve, that I often couldn’t focus on our celebrations until afterwards. So, if the 25th happens to be celebrated on the 28th, it works for us. We try not to get too focused on details. We keep our tree simple and organize potluck meals. Now that our kids are grown, we all made the decision that we don’t give gifts to the older generations, just to the kids. Instead, I ask them to send us photos. We also try to give support to other groups in need. This year we are making a donation to an organization called LIFT, Lowell Iraqi Families in Transition.”

Kim & Ted

“Because we come from different traditions and celebrate Hanukah and Christmas, our challenge is to keep our holidays from getting chaotic and indulgent. We focus on appreciating our time together and on meaningful experiences. For example, I really love making latkes with the kids. While we exchange gifts, we try to keep it reasonable and secondary to a focus on relationships. This year, I’m working with Carol K. to expand the Hanukah menorah lighting tradition with the Nubi kids.”


“With our children we wanted to keep the focus of the season on giving, which is what we believe is the real meaning of the holidays. From an early age, we encouraged them to plan ahead thinking about what other people would like to receive. We also emphasized the appreciation of the time that goes into hand-crafted gifts. They get as excited about the reactions of their recipients as they do about getting gifts themselves. In this vein, we split their allowance into part for them and part for a charity. They then save up and decide which charity to support – last year Lee chose a fund that had matching gifts for preserving snow leopards and Clara donated to a charity for Siberian tigers. In our neighborhood, we’ve adopted a tradition of “secret gnomes”, when we pick other neighbors at random and then give them small gifts over the course of a week.”


“One of the most helpful strategies we developed as a family is to celebrate our fancy, sit-down holiday dinner in the late afternoon on Christmas eve. We’d all arrive for dinner with gifts wrapped and ready to celebrate. Then, on Christmas day, after our traditional waffle breakfast, we would set out a cold buffet of our favorite foods, including everything from goldfish crackers to cocktail shrimp! We all managed our own meals, and no one had to cook and serve on Christmas day. We found that it simplified our celebration.”

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