Incorporating Giving Into Holiday Traditions

Most of us find it difficult to defend our kids against the avalanche of presents they receive during the holidays. Grandparents, cousins, godparents all want children to feel the love, love wrapped in festive paper with gift receipts included. When I talk about the embarrassment of riches our kids receive during this time, parents nod and sigh and grumble about the toys that have taken over valuable storage space. But after they reach their teens, they are more interested in spending time with their friends. The most in-demand gifts for boys include game consoles which get them glued to the screen. This makes them spend less time with family. But there are ways to get them to interact with their family too.

More often than not, however, I learn about some pretty cool family traditions that enable children (and grown ups) to consider other people who are not as fortunate as they are. I’ve compiled just a few excerpts from recent conversations I’ve had with parents who build GIVING into their holidays.

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“The protocol when golfing with clients is to reserve business talk until the 6th hole. The 4th night of Chanukah is our 6th hole. That is the night when we talk business and discuss which of our new gifts we will be donating to charity. Confession, we tend to give them presents that are perhaps lower on their wish lists on that night to make the decision easier.”

“We have just enough space in our home for the children, their clothes and our dog. Toys end up crammed into closets and on top of shelves, and there is no room for toys that the kids don’t use anymore. For every new gift they receive during Christmas, each of our children picks an older, gently used toy to donate. If they give more than one, we just might give them an extra candy cane.”

“Our children have very generous aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Our gift as parents is to donate a certain amount of money to a cause of their choice in their name. We actually have a great time talking about the various kinds of charities and whether the money goes to children, animals or the environment. The kids feel a sense of control as well as a personal connection throughout the year to the charity of their choice.”

“I take the kids to a local food pantry to volunteer during winter break.”

“The Jewish Federation sponsors Rock & Wrap when we bring in unwrapped toys, gloves, hats, scarves or books and wrap them while a DJ plays music. Many of the gifts will go to families in Union Beach, NJ still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.”

“We don’t limit the number of presents or donate any of the gifts that they receive, but we do take time to decorate cards and write letters for kids in the hospital. We use Send Kids the World to connect to kids who could really use a kind word or a happy drawing. There are even photos of the kids, which makes it a more personal experience.”

Is GIVING a family affair in your house? How does your family incorporate the holiday spirit during this season?

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  1. At what age did people start incorporating these traditions? I have spent several futile days trying to explain to my 2.5 year old why were were buying and giving soap and sanitary goods away (to a local home for people with disabilities, to less fortunate, to people who don’t have money to buy their own… each explanation just led to more questions and confusion).

    • I don’t think any of these families had kids under 4 years old. If they started these traditions before a child was 4, there was usually an older sibling who had been participating. It’s tough to explain charitable giving to a 2.5-year-old. Our kids connect to charity and acts of giving on a deeper level every year, which is wonderful to see, but it took them a while to get it.

  2. Our group of friends usually get together and celebrate and all the kids pick a charity and pool their money and give to that. Heifer International has been one of the kids’ favorite charities.

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