As I start my Christmas shopping — a little later than I would normally like — I scanned my list and put my thinking cap on. I always like to be thoughtful with my gifts.

In the age of digital everything, I find the gift of connecting or reconnecting priceless. There is something special about giving a vessel to create a memory.

You may feel the same way but, as I get older, I have a strong desire to give experiences and memories more so than tangible items.

Sometimes you are able to find both. I wanted to share a few of my favorite experiences to give not to necessarily help you with your shopping, but maybe to spark some creativity around celebrating the holidays for you, your family and friends. You may have all of your shopping, done but some of the experiences below don’t cost a thing and may bring some more Christmas cheer to your family this year.

One of my favorite gifts to give is to the community. You can donate money to a variety of different charities. You can donate your time in so many different ways. You could donate those tangible gifts to families who have fallen on hard times. There are shelters and food banks. There are hospitals and medical charities. All looking for the gifts of money, time and items to pass along to those in need. There is something fulfilling and heartfelt about giving to others on behalf of others.

Time together is another priceless gift. Our lives our busy. It seems so much of our day is scheduled. We are constantly connected via mobile devices. How about a digital-free day so you can enjoy time and connect with your family? The time together could be as extravagant as a trip or as simple as a hike and a picnic. It’s about reconnecting with each other and reminding each other of all the things you love about that person. You could even make that part of the gift in the form of a game, a book or even a handful of post-it notes.

There is one gift that I have fallen in love with this year. Now, it is a little tricky because, as military families, we move often. But I found this and thought it was the sweetest gift for a family member that is staying put; maybe parents or siblings. It is a Christmas tree in a pot.

There are a number of different companies that sell them and they range in price.

Although a tangible item, it is something that brings people together. You could give it as a gift this year and, maybe the following year when you get together, plant it in the yard. And then every year it becomes something special where you gather around the tree and share fond memories. Maybe decorate it for a variety of holidays. It’s about creating a memory and sharing the story.

Another gift idea I have added to my list is that of memberships. There are so many great museums and history centers across the country to provide growth experiences for your loved ones.

Another gift idea is lessons of some sort. If your loved one is creative, maybe art classes or music. If they love to cook, maybe a couple of cooking classes.

Don’t let the mad dash for gifts get you into a holiday rut.

Whatever Christmas holds for you this year, enjoy the time together. It’s not about what or how many gifts are wrapped under the tree. It’s about the quality time you spend together, the memories you make and the stories you tell for years to come.

Reena O’Brien is an Army spouse and Herald Correspondent. She lives on Fort Hood.

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