Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the entire season of decorating and admire how those lights twinkle.

There is something special about the season that I wish was felt all year long. People care and share.

Of course, it started long ago when a very generous God gave a very stingy Earth his one and only son as the ultimate gift.

Regardless of people’s beliefs, hearts really are aglow with the magic of Christmas.

A few years ago, I was feeling stressed because I didn’t know what to get my children for Christmas that would be something they would value for a year rather than a few days.

I chewed over the idea that, so much money is spent on a day that just vanishes once it’s passed. I suggested to the kids that we nix the presents and take a family vacation instead. They exploded with excitement and I was left mouth agape. They actually agreed to not get a single gift at Christmas to go on a trip, anywhere.

I searched and researched and finally decided on the YMCA of the Rockies in Winter Park, Colorado. It was already late November, but I was able to reserve a room and schedule some activities.

My entire family of six had a blast attempting to cross-country ski, hiking the snow-covered Rocky Mountain Forest on Christmas Day, riding a sleigh through falling snow, tubing, ice-skating and many more.

We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner for four days and only ended up spending $1,500, not including gas. We decided to take a family trip every other year.

Last year, we splurged and went to Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida. We far preferred Universal over Disney and spent another holiday having the time of our lives.

This is a stay-at-home year, but next year we hope to go to Hawaii — that is, if we can afford plane tickets for six or seven.

My husband and I discovered we greatly enjoy listening to books on Audible while driving the open road on our Christmas travels.

Last year as we were driving to Florida, we found a book called, “Christmas Jars.” In the story, a family uses a glass jar and fills it with loose change all year. Then, on Christmas Eve, they take the filled jar and leave it on the doorstep of someone who may need some Christmas cheer or a hand up.

Giving is another Watson family favorite, and every year we do a new giving project, so the idea from the “Christmas Jars,” was quickly adopted as our new tradition.

All year we have been putting spare change into a jar and we have the perfect family in mind to deliver it to; however, we may do that before Christmas Eve.

In the years past, we purchased presents for kids in need, and another year we called a local nursing home and asked for a list of four residents who don’t get many visitors.

Then, we purchased 12 different items and individually wrapped them so the resident could open a gift every day.

We knew it wouldn’t be the same as having companionship, but we thought it would be something that could brighten their day.

We loaded the kids in the car, and went around passing out our stocking of packages. We spoke to each person and told them they are loved and gave them the instructions for the gifts.

We stepped back into the hallway and a few nurses had gathered and were crying. I worried that we had done something we shouldn’t and, so I asked them.

One of the nurses explained that our gifts touched them because one of the gentlemen had been feeling down and they wished they could do something nice for him. I think we were more touched by the nurse’s reactions than the actual gift giving.

This year, I encourage you to stop a moment and have fun with the ones you love. Squeeze them a little longer, because one day they will be gone.

Merry Christmas from the Watsons. Feel free to visit my blog for cookie recipes I’m creating this season, authorjenniferwatson.com.

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