How to make the holiday season more meaningful

As a single sister, I have tried harder during the holiday season, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, to bring happiness into others' lives. I do this through the following:

Finish all my Christmas shopping by the end of October. Then, in November and December, I can concentrate on my many blessings and spend time helping others prepare for the holidays.- Take the elderly grocery shopping before their family arrives for the holidays. I can also do the shopping for those who cannot go to the stores themselves.

Help the elderly decorate their homes and trees. Offer to help wrap packages.

Invite people to come spend time the night before Thanksgiving to help with the preparation. This makes them feel needed and not so reluctant to come to Thanksgiving dinner. After dinner, make several small dinners that they can take home for later occasions.

Do "Secret Santas" throughout November and December. Send ward members Christmas cards; deliver cookies.

Invite single sisters or the elderly over to do some holiday baking. They don't have to worry about purchasing ingredients and they can take some home to share with their families.

Take people who cannot drive out to see Christmas lights.

Gather up the neighborhood children. Take them caroling and then for refreshments.

Serving others makes the holiday season more meaningful in my life. - Timilie Ann Carragher, Thatcher, Ariz.

What we did:

Christmas music

I start playing Christmas music the first of November. We get out the piano, guitar, violin and saxophone and clarinet music and all start practicing, playing some of our favorite Christmas songs. We participate in various Christmas concerts and attend our local carol festival every year. Usually some of us participate either with our school or the Church in the carol festival.

We decorate practically every room of the house and have a scripture chart to read a new one every day in December, along with a whole bunch of advent calendars. Every morning in December, we read the scripture of the day.

We draw names in our family, so other than a present from Santa, this is all we have to worry about, the one person whose name we got. We quite often make presents. Families also draw names, and we exchange about $30 worth of food storage items. We also have a missionary fund in our extended family and usually give every new missionary a suit or a couple of dresses for their mission. All of this helps to keep our family closer and to keep the spirit of Christmas alive. - Sheila Wright, , Alberta

Finding beauty

Many find the holidays a hard time of year. For some the commercial aspects and, for others, emotional pain overshadow what should be a joyous season.

By seeking ways to serve others, finding beauty in all that surrounds me no matter how simple or overdone the expressions of the season, and taking time to thank my Father in Heaven for all my many blessings and for His Son, Jesus Christ, I find my holidays more meaningful and the season truly joyous. - Ali Bridge, Moscow, Russia

Simple traditions

My husband and I did a little poll in family home evening a few years ago and asked our children what their favorite traditions and activities were during the holidays. We were surprised to learn that it was the more simple things that were memorable and important to them. Baking favorite cookies, making gingerbread houses, Christmas Eve at Grandma's and Grandpa's, acting out the Nativity and seeing the lights on Temple Square. Now we focus on these favorite traditions that have made Christmas more joyful for everyone.

Another wonderful event that has taken a lot of stress out of Christmas is a gathering that our neighborhood started a few years ago. Instead of making treats or gifts for each other as neighbors we have a gathering in December for all of the families in someone's driveway with hot chocolate and donuts. We choose two charities that people can make contributions to. It is a blessing in three ways: We get to see each other during the holidays, we help someone in need and the pressure of gift-giving for neighbors is gone. Christmas can be a joyful time! - Liz Cowan, Salt Lake City, Utah

Yearlong gift

Our family finally discovered that on Christmas, we busily bought and wrapped lots of gifts for different people. But we never saw any gift for Christ - the one whose birth we celebrated. This bothered us to the point that we made a resolution to get one.

So we made reading the Book of Mormon throughout the year our gift for Christ. Every year since 1991, we have read one chapter each day, except Saturdays and Sundays. Those two days were left for Sunday School, Relief Society or priesthood lessons reading. In early December, we would finish the Book of Mormon.

This gift was given for Christ. But it has done much more for us. It has blessed us tremendously. And it has also brought us closer to Christ. For us, this was how we made the holiday season more meaningful. - Kuulei T. Lavaka, Liahona, Tonga

Christmas letter

Each Christmas season when my children were younger, we made packages of goodies and drove around our then-rural valley and visited with our neighbors. Many have told me since how much those visits meant to them.

This year, I will follow the tradition I started a few years back of writing an inspirational Christmas letter to my loved ones. With much prayer and thought, the Lord helps me to know what to say each year. - Gilda Sims, Evanston, Wyo.

Set a goal

Set one specific goal to start working on, such as paying a full tithe or keeping the Sabbath Day holy - as a token of coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him. This should begin from one "holyday season" to the next one. - Semisi Lavaka, Liahona, Tonga

How to checklist:

1 Remember whose birth you are celebrating.

2 Serve; help the elderly, volunteer at homeless shelters.

3 Establish simple holiday family, neighborhood traditions.

4 Find the beauty in the season; listen to sacred music.

Write to us:

Nov. 21 "How to apply teachings of Church auxiliaries in your home."

Nov. 28 "How to help someone cope with death of loved one."

Dec. 5 "How to maintain spiritual strength after full-time mission."

Dec. 12 "How to cope with an anxiety disorder."

Dec. 19 "How to remember Christ beyond Christmas.

Dec. 26 "How to enhance your temple worship."

Jan. 2 "How to better appreciate the Atonement through studying the New Testament."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to avoid seasonal depression," "How to make a will that will foster love, not jealousy, between children," "How to make transition from being newly married to becoming new parents," "How to plan ahead for the different stages of life."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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