By Pam Molnar
January is always a letdown. Just a few weeks ago, we were more joyful people. We gave more of ourselves, reconnected with family and friends, and exchanged gifts with the people who are a part of our lives. After weeks of celebrating, we are back to our pre-November life of rushing from thing to thing with our heads down and blinders on. While we easily blame the shorter days and colder weather for our winter blues, it is really so much more.
Blowing through like the winter wind, the holiday spirit is gone as quickly as it appeared. Every January, as we pack up our holiday decorations, we store away that wonderful feeling of peace and goodwill to save for next year. It’s as if we think that kindness towards our fellowman looks as out of place as a Christmas tree in March. Instead of packing away your holiday spirit in storage, encourage your family to carry it in their hearts and share it with others throughout the year.
Practice random acts of kindness – The best thing about the holiday spirit is the kindness people show to strangers. Do something nice for someone else and watch how it comes back to you. Simple things like holding the door open for the person behind you or letting someone ahead of you in line is enough to make a stranger’s day. Teach your children to return a loose cart to where it belongs or pick up trash left by a litterbug. By helping someone load their groceries in the car or bringing a neighbor’s trash cans in, your children will see your example and start to practice it in their own way.
Be charitable – People are most generous during the holiday season. They don’t want to imagine someone without a holiday feast, warm gloves or presents under their tree. Sadly, people are hungry all year long and food pantries need your donations well after the holidays are over. Continue to collect items during the year by holding food drives at your church, school or children’s activities. Proceeds from a child’s lemonade stand or garage sale can go to programs at senior centers or animal shelters.
Praise often – Everyone loves to hear a compliment. It validates their choices and makes the receiver instantly happy. Tell people how you love their bracelet or how cute their new hairstyle looks. If you noticed someone has lost weight, let them know that their hard work has paid off. Encourage your child to share someone’s excitement when they get an A on the test or make the winning goal. Kind words are especially heartwarming when you least expect them.
Bake cookies or prepare meals – Home cooked meals and baked goods are a special treat during the hustle and bustle of the year. As our neighbors get busy with everyday life, they may not have the time to cook or bake. If you are cooking for your own family, make a double batch. Set aside time once a month to try a new recipe and share it with others. Your thoughtful act may encourage your neighbors to pay it forward.
Give gifts for no reason – How many times do we see something in the store and think about a friend who it would be perfect for? Most of the time, we don’t pick it up because the next gift giving occasion is months away. It doesn’t have to be about the day, nor does it need to be expensive. If you see the perfect gift, pick it up and give it to your friend now. People love to know you are thinking of them.
Stay connected with friends and family – How often do we say, “We should pick a date and get together,” but never find the time to do it? This year, make good on that promise and set up a date. Reconnecting with old friends and extended family is not only for holiday time. Set up those play dates, host a party in the spring or go on a picnic in the summer. Grow your relationships beyond the exchange of a yearly Christmas card.
Talk about the ways your family kept the holiday spirit alive each night at dinner time and create a positive habit for yourself and your family. The magic of the holiday spirit becomes a way of life when you share it each day. It’s a shame to bury it in a box full of ornaments and lights.
Pam Molnar is a freelance journalist and mother of three. Her family enjoys spreading the cheer long after the holidays are over. Follow her on Etsy at Pam’s Party Printables.