December came quickly this year, as it seems to do. This wonderful, magical season filled with family and friends, giving and sharing. We love the holidays, and through the years have begun several holiday traditions that we really love and look forward to year after year. Today I’ve partnered with Mixbook to share 3 holiday traditions that create meaningful connection, something we can all use during this season and always.
1. Sending Holiday Cards
Growing up, I remember running to get the mail every day during the Christmas season. Seeing holiday cards come in from all over the country made me so happy. I would ooh and ahh at how friends and cousins had grown over the year. When we received a card from someone I didn’t know, my mom and dad would explain how they had raced sailboats with that family, or attended high school together, or how that was actually my second cousin twice removed. These families felt like friends, and in many cases, that Christmas card was the only communication we had with those families each year.
Naturally, when Dave and I were married, we began sending a holiday card each year. We were married in October, and sent Christmas cards a couple months later to everyone on our wedding list. The tradition continued with our own family. The last eleven years, we have sent a holiday card every year. One year, being a little behind during December, I turned the holiday card into a New Year version. Another year it backed up into Valentine’s Day. It has always felt important to maintain that line of connection to friends and families who have been part of our lives at one time or another, even as we have moved away, and don’t stay close on a regular basis. Another fun part of sending regular Holiday Cards is how it has encouraged us to take regular family photos, which then are my favorite memories frozen in time. This year, knowing we were moving we did our family photos in August, and I’ve been loving them ever since.
I was so excited to choose cards this year, and went to Mixbook, who I have been following along with for a while. They have a really beautiful line of holiday cards that are incredibly customizable (you can even upload your own design files to use) and I fell hard for the new gold foil cards. Oh man, they are gorgeous! I had already decided on a single, landscape photo for the card, so I was able to easily narrow down the options using the style filters, which made the choice so much easier.
While I normally go for a full-photo card, I couldn’t get over how beautiful this black and gold foil design was, and I was able to preview our photo right on there. It is so pretty, festive, while still being simple. I love them. In fact, this may be my favorite holiday card we have ever sent!
I added a sweet, candid shot to the back, and ordered the beautiful 100% cotton paper. The cards came a couple weeks ago, and I’m dropping the last of them in the mail today. Some friends and family have already started to receive them in the mail and it makes me so happy to know that people we love, who have impacted our lives in some way are knowing that we think about them. Even if we don’t call often and feel semi-connected on social media, the tangible, beautiful piece of us sent away in the form of a card feels like a more meaningful connection. It is one I will continue throughout my life.
While I was ordering my Christmas Cards, I noticed these new metal prints that Mixbook also offers and I was so intrigued. For all of our years of family photos and holiday cards, I have only ordered family photo prints a handful of times. In fact, it is something I think about every year and just don’t do. So, I decided to try one out and chose an 8×10 metal print of this favorite shot of Plum and me.
I had no idea what to expect, and when I opened the box I was floored with how beautiful it turned out! The photo is printed directly onto a thin sheet of metal that has options to hang on the wall or set up as a standing photo right on the back. It is such a beautiful, simple way to display a photograph without having to think about a frame, and I am so in love I am ordering our first large family photo as a metal print, too!
2. Neighbor Gifts
The second holiday tradition we have that creates meaningful connection is to deliver neighbor gifts to our friends and neighbors each year. For some people, this tradition can feel like an expectation or a burden, and I have always considered it such a fun and special friends to show our love for the people right around us who we care for. In this digital age, stopping by someone’s actual house and dropping by a real gift feels so intimate, and really creates and strengthens connection.
My neighbor gifts are always useful, consumable, and not perishable. I like to keep them to a couple dollars each, and make them thoughtful with a little card. In the past we have done cough drops with a “Deck the Halls and stay healthy this season!” message, a package of holiday sprinkles with a “A Sprinkle of Extra Cheer for you this Season!” message. These gifts are so much more about the act of getting out and delivering something to someone in person than they are about the gift itself. It is all about connection. It is about stepping across the street, offering a smile and an in-person “Merry Christmas!”
Being in a brand new neighborhood, we are excited to deliver small neighbor gifts to people we don’t yet know very well this year. In some cases it might be the first real hello we have offered. That is what the holidays are about, isn’t it? Letting people know we see them and care for them? Extending a hand of love and thought to those around us. This tradition needn’t be overwhelming or forced. Even simply hand-delivering your Christmas card to a few nearby neighbors gives you a chance to have a real connection.
3. Secret Santa
The third holiday tradition we have for creating meaningful connection is to adopt a child, or a family, and be their Secret Santa. There are an abundance of service opportunities around the holidays, and we have been able to easily connect with people in need through angel trees at the kids schools or at our church. I love the chance to take my kids shopping during the holidays and invite them to think about the needs of someone else.
We have tried to match with families with similar ages to our kids, so my kids can feel a kinship with the anonymous kids they are shopping for. I love seeing them choose gifts and say “I would love this! This kid is going to be so excited!” Thoughtfully creating some Christmas magic for someone outside of our own family is such an amazing way to feel a meaningful connection to the community, to society, and to humanity. We begin to recognize how much the same we are. How much we have, and how full it makes our life to give.
I’m convinced that our family enjoys a huge abundance of meaningful connection during the holiday season because of these three traditions: Sending Holiday Cards, Delivering Neighbor Gifts, and participating in Secret Santa opportunities. People all around us, and across the country know that we care. Rather than feeling alone, by reaching out to those around us in love, we feel part of many different communities and extend that same connected feeling to our entire circle of influence.