Ask Amer­ica’s Ul­ti­mate Ex­perts

Our ex­perts share sweet ideas that’ll fill your Christ­mas with more joy! Sharon Love­joy is the author of 10 books in­clud­ing Camp Granny— win­ner of the Gold Award from Na­tional Par­ent­ing Pub­li­ca­tions Awards—filled with cre­ative projects for kids. “My kids

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“I started my fa­vorite Christ­mas tra­di­tion 15 years ago—the golden thread,” says rit­u­als ex­pert Sharon Love­joy. “I get each of my grand­kids one spe­cial gift. Then I pick up golden thread, al­most as thick as twine, at the crafts store, and tie the end of it to each present, wind­ing the thread around the house, un­der books, around the sofa, etc. Each child has to fol­low his or her thread to find their gift hid­den in the house, be it un­der a pile of quilts or in a stor­age bas­ket in the bath­room. The par­ents love watch­ing their kids’ faces light up as we all fol­low them fol­low their strings, and the kids al­ways look for­ward to it— even the 15-year-old!” The golden moral of the golden thread? “Kids learn it’s not re­ally about what’s at the end of the string that mat­ters. It’s about the an­tic­i­pa­tion and the whole fam­ily com­ing to­gether.”

Cel­e­brate fam­ily his­tory!

“Grand­par­ents are in a unique po­si­tion to give mean­ing­ful gifts,” says fam­ily rit­u­als ex­pert Sue John­son. “Just pull out your son’s old truck, give it a fresh coat of paint and add a per­son­al­ized li­cense plate with your grand­son’s name painted on it. Or make some new clothes for your daugh­ter’s old doll, and give that doll to your grand­daugh­ter.” An­other way to give from the heart? “We have a tra­di­tion of read­ing a dif­fer­ent Christ­mas story with the whole fam­ily every Christ­mas Eve,” she re­veals. “I’ve made a scrap­book of all these sto­ries and will pass copies along to the next gen­er­a­tion.”

Be in­spired by your roots!

“Cel­e­brate your her­itage,” urges John­son. “We have Swedish rel­a­tives, so every Christ­mas, we tell the story of how St. Lu­cia wore can­dles on her head so she’d have her hands free and could see at night while car­ry­ing food to those in need. Also in Swe­den, each gift is per­son­al­ized with a light­hearted poem that hints at the con­tents of the pack­age. So for a friend who loves bath bombs, I might write, A lit­tle gift you can fit in your palm to fill up your bath with fizzy calm! Every cul­ture has a spe­cial tra­di­tion. In Poland, for ex­am­ple, Christ­mas fes­tiv­i­ties start when the youngest child in the fam­ily sees the first star in the sky. Just check out your her­itage for in­spir­ing ideas!”

Send a round robin box!

Far from loved ones this Christ­mas? “Con­sider start­ing a ‘round robin box’—you fill it with fa­vorite pho­tos, say, of the past sea­son, and send it to a loved one, ask­ing her to add her pho­tos and for­ward the box to the next fam­ily mem­ber,” ex­plains John­son. “You could also in­clude ‘I love you be­cause—’ state­ments or share mem­o­ries of an ear­lier hol­i­day when you were all to­gether. The round robin box will go full cir­cle around your fam­ily, mak­ing you all feel more con­nected even if you can’t be to­gether in per­son.”

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