November has arrived and with it the influx of glossy catalogs and advertised must-haves. It’s difficult to resist those marketing ploys, but this holiday season can be the start of new traditions that shift your family’s focus from purchases to treasures.

Treasures can be as simple as spontaneous scavenger hunts in your neighborhood, running errands while listening to holiday carols with the air conditioning blowing full blast, or watching television specials and sipping hot cocoa with a candy cane stirrer.

Even though time is in short supply these days, making a definite calendar date with yourself, the entire family, or group is worth the investment of an hour or two early in the season. Peruse smaller newspapers for ideas, search visitor and convention websites for your area, and ask friends for suggestions about local events and programs.

Using a wall calendar or an over-sized piece of paper, clearly mark specific dates and the outings your family is most interested in experiencing. Be careful about jotting down every sleigh ride and all gingerbread house displays within a 100 mile radius. Instead choose only a handful of experiences that you and your family and friends would commit to seeing and would actually attend.

Many holiday events are free or at least reasonably priced, so it’s possible to enjoy the season without blowing the budget. Grab a couple of mugs and  fill a Thermos with hot water for instant tea or cocoa. Slice some cheese, toss a handful of crackers and a couple of apples in a cooler and you’ve got a cheap and pretty healthy snack on the go.

Are you on your own this time of year? Does the idea of venturing out solo make you feel uncomfortable or sad? Don’t overlook the fact that many people are alone over the holidays. Call friends you haven’t seen in a while, or reconnect with that distant aunt or the local cousin you’ve been thinking about. These folks may be feeling lonely, too – or they may have a bustling family and would love to share a quiet adult-day window shopping and catching up.

Whether you have no one close by, or if your family is going in a thousand different directions, everyone can volunteer at a senior center, or with a youth program. You can read aloud to little ones; teens can make easy crafts with grade-schoolers; the musician in the group can play that accordion for a new audience; or after baking together, an entire family can provide cookies and fruit for a senior community’s party.

As we all know, the holidays can be hectic and fun and exhausting and stressful. By making only one or two changes this year, the weeks between now and the new year can be the stuff of treasured memories for everyone you love – including yourself.




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