Well, here we are again … leaves have fallen, the air is crisp, apples are ready for picking and the holiday season is nearly upon us. It’s this time of year when we start reaching out to family, searching for the perfect Christmas gifts and planning the most scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner the world has yet to taste. Many of us are chomping at the bit to start enjoying the holidays (as best we can). With all of the negativity and angst flying around, a good holiday season can be a blessing. Let’s all make an effort to really jump into the festivities this year with love and good will. You never know, maybe you will start a new family tradition or experience that lost child-like wonder again.
If you’re feeling a bit “hum-buggy” this year, why not experience a few of these ideas with the family to help jumpstart the spirit.
Make a Leaf Album
I know it’s a bit old school, but making a colorful leaf album can be a fun family treasure hunt. Grab the kiddies, throw on a hoodie and get looking. How many different leaves can you find? How many different colors? Set a realistic goal to find certain leaves in certain colors and see what you can do in an afternoon. Have some cider when you’re done; there’s no reason not to!
Build a Scarecrow
Build him, name him and display him prominently. Grab one of dad’s old flannels (everybody has one sitting in the back of the closet) and grab a pair of Suzie’s discarded jeans and start packing them with straw, leaves, etc. What does your family’s scarecrow look like? Is it scary or fun? Let the kids decide. Hmmm … what is the best name for a scarecrow?
It’s Chili Time!
Fall is the very best time for making chili. Set the slow-cooker in the morning and when early evening rolls around, it’ll be ready to enjoy. Pull on a warm sweatshirt and sit out on the porch or in the backyard with your bowl of spicy goodness and watch the beauty of the falling leaves. Be content in the moment.
Knit a Scarf or a Sweater
Knitting is a hobby for everyone: man, woman or child. If you don’t know how, take a local class or teach yourself via the internet. If you could, what would you make? What color or pattern would it be? You could knit your own Christmas stockings to hang over the fireplace, make a small but warm (and cute) hat, or go full-on sweater. Once you have imagined your final product, go make it happen!
Make Your Own Candied or Caramel Apples
One caveat: You have to pick your own apples! This is a family adventure that could easily become a yearly tradition. Head out to your local orchard (Greater Flint has some beautiful ones), pick a basket of apples, and then head home to start the process. It’s remarkably simple and immediately rewarding. Remember to set aside enough apples to bake a scrumptious apple pie.
Host a Board Game Night by the Fire
This is family fun at its finest – invite some friends, too! It doesn’t even matter the board game. It could be something simple like “Clue”, time-consuming like “Risk”, or in-depth like “Gloomhaven.” Whatever you choose, just make sure it is NOT “Monopoly” (the point is to have fun and still like each other). If you don’t have a fireplace, any cozy room will do. Spice it up by decorating the room to make the atmosphere more festive and the game memorable.
Go to a Hockey Game
Round up your crew and head to the arena. Fall and winter are the seasons for hockey and Flint’s Firebirds offer some great action on the ice. If local isn’t your thing, make the trek down to Detroit for the Red Wings or one of the nearest colleges with a program. I am firmly convinced that hockey is the best sport to watch live – just keep your eye on the puck and have a pretzel.
Take a Holiday Card Photo
Oh, boy. We are treading on thin ice here. The goal is classy, not cringe. You don’t have to dress in matchy-matchy outfits, or as elves, or reindeer, or wrapped in tinsel, etc. All joking aside, holiday photos can be so much fun for your kids. They get a chance to dress up and look their best. Holiday photos make memories and deliver smiles for years to come. Don’t be too serious about it. Make sure to mix in some fun poses – those will be remembered the most.
Attend a Tree-Lighting Ceremony
There is nothing that will get you more in the mood for the Christmas season. Tree-lighting ceremonies are full of spectacle, beauty and community love. Local ceremonies usually take place in the beginning of December, just in time to kick-start your holiday spirit. Your kids will be anxious to get busy decorating the family tree if you haven’t already done so.
Build a Snowman
Yeah, it’s an easy one – but let me ask you: when was the last time you built a snowman? Five years ago? Ten years? Not since you were a kid? It’s time to get outside and get rolling! If a snowman (or woman) is too pedestrian for you, maybe create a snow sculpture and make your lawn a great winter scene to delight the average passerby. Perhaps an homage to the great “Calvin & Hobbes” style of snowman … the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Build a Gingerbread House
Have you ever? Even if baking isn’t your forte, enjoying this creative project with the family while Christmas music plays in the background is a real holiday mood-setter. How would you make your gingerbread house? Is it a single level, double, one room, or two or three? Let the kids decide what to use for decorations. Build it and eat it or use it as a centerpiece.
Take in the Neighborhood Lights
Go for a walk or hop in the car and take a drive through the neighborhood to look at all their great seasonal decorations. Have your kids count the nativity scenes, Santas or reindeer. Head to a brilliantly displayed downtown or old Christmas village like Crossroads. The season can be a magical time if you just slow down and take it all in every once in a while.
Send a Care Package to Soldiers
Not everyone is able to be home with loved ones for Christmas. Some will be miles and miles away doing their duty and defending our country. Show your appreciation by putting something nice together for them. Organizations such as Desert Angels, Inc. are there to help you put it together and get it to a soldier in time for the holidays. This could become your next and best family tradition.
Make a Donation to a Worthy Cause
Genesee County has a tremendous number of charities in need of clothing, toys, books, funds and more. Take time as a family this season to go through your closets to find those items you may no longer need that are in good condition. Old coats, mittens, hats and gloves are important this time of year. When was the last time you donated to a food drive? If you can afford it, sponsoring a family during the holiday season is an amazing thing to do. What can you give?
Sometimes, the only thing we can give is our time. Fortunately, time is one of the most valuable donations to those on a mission to help others. Soup kitchens, food pantries and other organizations need all the help they can get throughout the year and especially during the holidays. Nothing embodies the spirit of the season like helping those less fortunate. What can you do?
Your friends at MCM wish you a spirited, fun and wonderful holiday season!