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What we did: Holiday season

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

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