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Home with family for the holidays

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With two weeks to go before Christmas, there is a lot in the news about holiday cheer! Years ago, it seemed this point in December, people were recuperating from the beautiful long Thanksgiving weekend, saying goodbye to fall for another year, and starting to turn their attention toward the winter holidays. Kids began writing wish lists and visiting Santa at the mall. Families started discussing vacation plans. Everything was much more relaxed.

This year, stores were restocking their shelves with Christmas merchandise the day before Halloween (if you do the math, you’ll see that is almost TWO MONTHS beforehand). Same goes with how people used to start to put up Christmas trees during Thanksgiving weekend. In some neighborhoods, as soon as Halloween decorations came down, Christmas lights went up. What happened to the festivities of Thanksgiving (other than gorging our faces and deciding to set a New Year’s resolution of getting back in shape)? Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate, when we should be thankful for the food we have, our friends and family to share it with, and the warmth of our homes to provide comfort and safety for us.

The fact that stores are busy earlier in more recent years is probably a good sign for our economy. However, it does highlight the growing consumerism of the society we live in. What happened to celebrating the holidays as a family affair…you know, time spent together, playing games in front of the fire place, with mugs of hot cocoa in hand, and maybe some festive music playing? This article is about Christmas, but it could be any holiday, from any culture, any time of year. It seems a universal shift that has been growing in the United States for decades. I wonder if the same is true abroad.

Let’s put a different twist on things. From small, non-profit, local charities to large international efforts, the world has been bombarded with requests to donate to a good cause. There are more choices out there than ever, and advertising efforts also appear to be growing. The solicitations come year round but are particularly prevalent this time of year. Why is that? Don’t people have the same basic needs all year? Perhaps it’s because the holiday season is considered a time for giving.

Thank you to those who can and do give to favorite charities. It is a shame that our world has so many poor that we cannot provide for them. Be thankful for what you have, give when you can, and take care of your own when you cannot. Whether or not you are in a position to contribute regularly, there are many ways to lend a hand that do not require money. Often, a little of your time is all that is needed.

In reading the newspaper recently, several ideas for keeping the holiday spirit were shared. Young children get so excited, it is often hard for them to wait until the special day. The Elf on the Shelf is a fun way to pass the time before Christmas with your little ones. All you need to do, is move the doll around your home and keep the kids searching, asking questions, and guessing. Santa was spotted riding his motorcycle with a load of toys last week in St. Louis. The man doing so brings toys to children for national groups such as Toys for Tots, as well as local organizations and hospitals. Likewise, many events are sponsored for children with needs, such as the Easter Seals/Life Skills event for families of children on the Autism spectrum. The St. Louis Dispatch is just one resource for finding similar activities.

Whether you are on the giving or receiving end, remember to help keep kids’ spirits alive. No matter if it’s religiously-based or not, children need stable adults in their lives to help instill values and principles that last a lifetime. Hope and wonder sometimes die with maturity. Do what you can to be available to your families this holiday season. Continue traditions or start some new. Don’t let St. Louis’s cold and snow wear you down. I, for one, am looking forward to staying home for the holidays…and plan to spend time, having fun, strengthening relationships, and kindling hope in those around me.

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