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Don't let the Grinch steal your Christmas

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

Meaningful holiday traditions

The trees are glistening with snow, colorful lights twinkle on the rooftops and cheerful carols fill the air. Christmas is just around the corner, but instead of being filled with joy and wonder, your heart is filled with anxiety and dread. Christmas is supposed to deliver a message of hope and peace to the world. But out-of-control consumerism and materialistic rituals have transformed Christmas from a spiritual holy day into a corporate advertisement.

Kids baking at Christmas

What is it about installing a 20-foot tall inflatable Santa in your front yard that relates to the birth of Jesus? When did Jesus, Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Three Wise Men become homeboys and begin hanging out in the manger together? And why does going into credit card debt to buy your children the latest Wii gaming console signify true love and the Christmas spirit?

Don't let materialism and holiday stress get you down. Christmas does not need to have an expensive price tag to be memorable or special. You can still enjoy the holiday spirit by developing meaningful family traditions that focus on sharing and caring, instead of shopping and consumerism.

Give the gift of time

Take this opportunity to teach your children about gifts that don't come in boxes with bows and sparkles. Volunteer at a food pantry or a soup kitchen. Plan a clothing drive for a women's shelter. Spend time at a nursing home helping residents write Christmas cards or doing a fun holiday craft. Organize a group to go Christmas caroling at a local children's hospital.

Make homemade gifts

Gift giving is a wonderful way to show kindness and love. But it does not have to put a dent in your bank account to be special. Instead of buying expensive presents, spend time making homemade gifts to share with loved ones. Bake cookies or fruit breads. Make a festive Christmas craft. Write a poem. Make a photo scrapbook or a calendar of your children's artwork.

Bring the family together

Showing people that you care is what this season is all about, isn't it? The holidays are a perfect time to make time for your dear family members who you don't see often enough. Forget the presents and stress and host a simple potluck celebration for your extended family. The smiles, laughter and joy will be worth it.

Bake for a cause

Make your favorite holiday cookies for a good cause this year by baking them up for donation to shelters, soup kitchens and more. Visit Drop In & Decorate for tips and ideas on how to host a holiday cookie decorating party for donating cookies — and also how to find organizations that can accept the fruits of your labor.

Choose a charity to support

There are so many excellent nonprofits like Heifer International or other world charities where you can buy a gift that really keeps on giving. Have your children look through the catalog and take part in deciding which animal or animals to buy for a family in need. Help put an end to world hunger and poverty by helping another family become self-reliant and build a sustainable living. Check out these other holiday charity ideas for kids too.

Have a tree-planting party

Give back to the Earth by planting a new tree with family and friends. Make it a festive occasion and invite everyone back to your home for a party afterwards. Serve hot cocoa and homemade treats. Sing songs. Choose not to have a gift exchange and instead ask everyone to share a special Christmas memory. Talk about what Christmas means to each person and pass out a decorative flyer about different ways to share the holiday spirit with someone in need this year.

More homemade Christmas gifts

Christmas gifts for teachers
Make your own Christmas ornament
Edible Christmas crafts

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