Christmas

Giving and Gratitude Make Christmas Truly Magical

Tis the Season to Give

The countdown to Christmas has begun in earnest and you’re feeling pretty good. The Christmas tree has a growing pile of presents underneath it, the house is decorated and the cookies are baked. You have created a magical Christmas for your family. Congratulations, but there is still one more step before Christmas truly becomes magical.

Helping your children figure out what they really want this Christmas and celebrating family traditions are two building blocks to creating a magical Christmas, but there is one final ingredient—giving. There is so much emphasis on receiving during the holidays, especially for children, so we must balance it with some intentional giving.

Invoke the Spirit of Christmas and Focus on Giving

Christmas means more to us than a visit from Santa Claus; it also celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ in our home. While I certainly respect that Christmas may mean something different to you, I hope we can all agree that it symbolizes a time of love and sharing. Our family is very blessed, and one way we honor the birth of Jesus is to share our blessings with others.

Our Adopt-A-Family Annual Tradition

We give back throughout the year as part of our family share goals, but our annual Christmas sharing goal is very special to all of us. Every Christmas we “adopt” a local family and create a magical Christmas for them. The girls help me shop for gifts and food for their Christmas celebration. Often times their gifts are practical needs, which is great as I want to give the family the things they truly need, but we take it a step further without spending additional money.

Because I always choose a family with girls close to the same age as Lauren and Taylor, I ask them to go through their own toys and clothes and select items to share. They rummage through their closets and handpick things they want to give to the girls, then we bundle everything up, including the gingerbread house we decorated for them. Now that Lauren and Taylor are older, I even take them with me to deliver the gifts and food.

Lauren and Taylor always become fast friends with our “adopted” family’s girls, and they are eager to show them all the clothes and toys they chose for them. They make the girls try on the new-to-them jackets or clothes and happily introduce them to their new toys. Often times there is a language barrier between me and the Mom, but we still stand side-by-side, never speaking, with tears in our eyes as we watch our children play together. This is what makes Christmas truly magical to me—our ability to make Christmas magical for someone else.

How You Can Give Back and Make Christmas Magical For Someone Else

There are a variety of ways you can share your blessings with others this Holiday Season. Make it a new family tradition and involve your kids by sharing with them why giving back is so important to you. Be generous and give from the heart, but don’t get carried away and create debt for yourself either. 🙂

This is a just a small sampling of some ways you can give back. It doesn’t matter how big or small the gesture is, it makes a difference to the recipient.

Wishing You a Magical Christmas This Year

Now you know my ingredients to creating a Magical Christmas, now it’s your turn to share how you give back or make Christmas magical in your home.

Shannon

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net.

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December 16, 2013  •  50 Comments  •  Christmas

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  1. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    What a wonderful tradition. I love that you are teaching your girls about the spirit of giving and the meaning of Christmas. What a great lesson to learn at a young age. Thanks for the great post!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Thanks, Dee! I think it's so important to balance all the gifts (and receiving) with plenty of gratitude and giving. The holidays are so commercialized and this is my way to help combat that it a bit. :)
  2. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    Great ideas Shannon and I love how you guys are going it. To be completely honest, this is something that I've never been really good at, which is unfortunate. I like the idea of doing it as a family though, and what better time to start than now!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Thanks, Matt! Definitely doing something as a family is a great way to ease into it and make it a fun, holiday tradition too and a great way for your kids to used to giving back.
  3. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    You have such a great family Shannon! I went to a toy drive Christmas party on Saturday and attending a "wrapping party" tomorrow night to wrap all the stuff that everyone in the beach volleyball community got for a couple families that were adopted.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      I think to agree! I think my family is pretty terrific too. But I am biased. :) Sounds like you've been busy too. Love that the beach volleyball community adopted a couple of families too
  4. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    In elementary school our class oftentimes adopted a family for Christmas. I think being involved in that and other charitable activities when I was younger really ingrained those values in me, and I definitely plan on doing the same for my kids.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Love that, DC! I think the earlier we can help kids learn the joy of giving back, the better. It becomes a normal part of their lives and really helps them appreciate the things they could take for granted. A giving heart is definitely some worth cultivating. Glad you plan to do that with your future children. :)
  5. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    I love your tradition of adopting a family Shannon. I've always taught my kids about the importance of giving. They knew we didn't have much but there was a family out there who had less.

    Their high school does a great job collecting canned goods for our local food bank and we also help out at church with their programs like donating baby food and diapers.

    I love this time of year...If only we lived like everyday was Christmas, it would be a better place, right?

    Hope you had a great weekend Shannon! Happy Monday!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      So true, Corina. Even when money is tight, we have so much to be thankful for and it's great that you taught your kids the importance of giving. There are so many wonderful programs to help give back and I love getting kids involved, especially this time of year when a lot of their attention is focusing on what they will get for Christmas. Yes, if we could live with such giving hearts every day - the world would truly benefit. Have a great week, Corina!
  6. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    Wonderful suggestions and your family tradition of adopting a family each year is beautiful.

    And I really like this point you made: "While I certainly respect that Christmas may mean something different to you, I hope we can all agree that it symbolizes a time of love and sharing."

    I accidentally came across some posts on the weekend that were all really negative about Christmas and they were quite sad.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Oh man. That bums me out. The holiday certainly can be stressful but I try to remain upbeat even when it gets chaotic because I truly believe it's a time of great joy and love. Have a great week, Sicorra!
  7. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    That made me teary to read about your girls playing with the girls of your 'adopted' family - that is so kind of you to do! We usually donate some canned goods and toys, and I also bake goods for the custodial staff that I don't see since they have the P.M. shift, but that's a great idea to adopt a family, as well.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      It makes me teary too, Anna. Kids just have such innocence about them and I love how they immediately connect. I bet the custodial staff really appreciates your baked treats. Such a great thing to do!
  8. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    That is awesome Shannon! It is so easy to get caught up in the act of receiving during the Holidays that giving is too often overlooked. We've done a few of these things in the past as well as currently. It's fun to start to involve our oldest as she is starting to grasp the importance of it and she loves to give so we want to encourage that in her.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      It is very easy to get caught up in receiving. I'm glad your oldest loves to give as that's a great trait to have. The girls have really grown to love sharing as well and it makes me so happy to see the share so willing.
  9. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    Really great ideas here Shannon. I'd like to implement these ideas in the future. It's such a great way to be generous and help others, while teaching kids about gratitude. What a great way to make Christmas truly magical!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Thanks, Andrew! It really does help make Christmas magical when you see our kids give generously from their hearts and see firsthand the impact it makes on others.
  10. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    Where do you find your adoptive family? I've done the angel tree and goodwill donations.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Generally through local organizations in my community. Some you just buy the presents and deliver to the organization for distribution. I like having the girls give the presents as their excitement is equal to the girls receiving the gifts. It makes me so happy to see the "adopted" girls excitement. :)
  11. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    This post is absolutely wonderful Shannon, and a great reminder of what the Christmas season is really about :)
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Thanks, Mackenzie! I agree - Christmas to me is about being with family, love and giving. :)
  12. Girl Meets Debt
    Monday, December 16th, 2013
    I got teary-eyed reading about you and the Mom getting teary-eyed watching your children play together. Thank you for reminding us all what the true meaning of the holiday season is all about. Giving truly is 10x better than receiving. Happy Holidays to you and your beautiful family Shannon!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      It makes teary eyed just thinking about GMD. I couldn't agree more - giving truly is 10x better than receiving. Happy Holidays to you and your handsome fiancé. :)
  13. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    Awesome list here Shannon. This year, I've also committed to being more grateful and generous all year long (in addition to the holiday season). We adopt a family at work, and it's amazing, so I'm trying to organize a donation to the local children's hospital (like on your list)! On a side note, donations to Goodwill are tax-deductible, so all the more reason to donate to them!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Love that your work adopts a family and that your organizing a toy drive for your local children's hospital. Such a wonderful thing to do and it means so much to the kids and their families. Yes, their can definitely be a financial side benefit to some donations that cannot be overlooked too. :)
  14. Monday, December 16th, 2013
    That is a wonderful tradition. We adopted an 8 year old girl in foster care this year. After explaining what we were doing, my daughter asked, "Why can't Santa just bring her presents?" Ah, what do you say without ruining the magic? I told her Santa sometimes has a hard time finding foster children because they have to move around quite a bit. I'm sure someday she'll better understand.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 16th, 2013
      Out of the mouth of babes, but certainly a reasonable question. :) Sometimes I've said that Santa asked us to help out a special family. Now that the girls are getting a bit older, I tell them we are sharing our blessings with a family less fortunate to make sure their Christmas is as magical as ours.
  15. Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
    Shannon, what an awesome tradition you've created for your girls. These are events that they'll remember forever and ever with fondness in their hearts. We've chosen this year to send a package to a friend's military daughter and her shipmates as they are out at sea, protecting our country. We've done this in the past, and the kids always get excited over tales of big, strong military men wolfing down Oreo cookies and beef jerky, happy to have some snacks reminiscent of life at home.
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
      Thank you Laurie. I certainly hope they remember and value these traditions as much as I do. I love the care package you to send to your friend's daughter. You know that she and her shipmates definitely enjoy those goodies and they have certainly more than earned them!
  16. Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
    Christmas has the same meaning in my home too. I love how you're raising your daughters to recognize the giving spirit of the holiday (and to carry that with them year round).

    I'm also a big fan of the Angel Tree. That and the Samaritan Purse Shoebox were my favorite ways to give during the holidays when I was a child. I still enjoy the Angel Tree!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
      Thanks, Erin! I think it's so important to instill a giving spirit in kids. The Angel Trees are great. So many wonderful programs we can support to help give back.
  17. Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
    I love that you show your daughters how to give. I remember one time we did a Christmas delivery (our church collected goods and then my family volunteered to deliver the goods) to a family when I was a kid. I never forgot that experience or that family.
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
      Thank you, Liz. I absolutely believe we must instill a gratitude mindset in our kids and show them the power of giving back. Seeing the joy we can give through sharing is a powerful and memorable experience. One that once kids experience it, they will be hooked.
  18. Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
    "...it also celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ..." It makes me sad when I hear people say they find no joy in the Christmas holiday. Real and lasting peace can only be found in Him and that is why this time of the year is so special to me. Thanks for reminding people of that Shannon!
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
      I agree, Brian. This is just an amazing time of year. It can be chaotic and crazy but that is our choice to an extent. It's a great time of joy, love and peace.
  19. Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
    What an amazing tradition!! Your kids will remember that tradition more than anything else - what a gift you are giving them. Beautiful way to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas.
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
      Thanks, Leah! I truly hope this is one of our family traditions they truly cherish and carry on. It means so much to me and I know they love it too.
  20. Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
    These are beautiful things to do. Including your kids in giving shows them your values. If they can help make cookies and then go with your to deliver them it's an important memory for them. I sometimes say we can get overloaded with traditions at Christmas time, but these are truly worth making time for. Bravo!
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
      Thanks, Maggie! It's true - we can probably bombard them with too many traditions. :) But our traditions where we give back and absolute keepers in my book. This is what Christmas is about and helping the girls develop that giving mindset at young age is critical.
  21. Thursday, December 19th, 2013
    Great post Shannon! We usually give our annual charity donation and do donate some of our groceries when we see the big boxes outside the grocery stores during the food drives throughout the year. But to be honest, we haven't done quite enough giving. We do plan on donating our kids gently used toys. I have quite a few friends who do that, and their children as they get older, get more excited about what they want to give away. It's a great thing to do.
    • Shannon
      Friday, December 20th, 2013
      Thanks, Anthony! It's true - kids actually get pretty darn excited to donate and share their used toys, especially once they see how happy they can make others by doing so. It will be something you'll girls will enjoy doing once they get a bit older. :)
  22. Monday, December 23rd, 2013
    I like the idea of adopting a family. This year Daniel and I have been so busy that we didn't get a chance to adopt/buy for a family/child. We did attend a holiday party where we brought a toy to be donated later for Toys for Tots and we also picked up some toys for a drive at my church. Next year I hope to be able to do something more for the Christmas Season! This is a great tradition with kids!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 30th, 2013
      We really enjoy adopting a family. It something we look forward to doing. It sounds like you and Daniel still helped make Christmas special for some children this year and that means the world to them.
  23. Saturday, December 28th, 2013
    Shannon, these are lovely ideas. I appreciate you bringing to fore the concept of giving to those in need as a matter of tradition, and course. It's such an important piece to teach to and instill in children - and it's never too late for adults, either.

    Happy New Year! :-)
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 30th, 2013
      Thanks, Ellen! Giving is so important and I truly believe it enriches our lives. If we can instill that giving tradition in kids at young age, then it's something they will continue to do as adults and teach their own children as well. Happy New Year to you too!
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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