Holiday Magic

When I was a kid, the holidays were magical. During most of the year my parents worked long hours to provide for our family. My brothers and I were latch key kids who thought nothing of coming home from school and starting dinner before doing homework or watching TV. It was just the way things were (and probably still are for a lot of people). But at the holidays, things were different.

There was always a big family get together. My mom’s family was in Jamaica, but my dad’s family was primarily in Canada and the USA and holidays often meant as many of his siblings and their kids as were able would get together for a meal or two.

I loved it.

All that together time with my parents and my cousins? Heaven.

my family

Anything that gets my family together is A-OK with me. Add in a holiday celebration, my brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles and I’m at my happiest.

Recently I had the chance to reminisce with one of my cousins about those early days, about how much we loved our “framily” – friends who spend so much time together you forget you aren’t blood-related. And how the magic of those moments shaped us.

We agreed that time together was the real gift of the season.

The holidays are so important as a “stop and breathe” measure for so many of us. Yet, the pressures of perfect presents and work demands often mean that we squander this precious time.

Holiday magic: Together time

Time together is the reason for the season, right?

This year why not indulge in some new ways to manifest the magic of the season?

Need some tips? Try one of these:

Advent /Reverse Advent calendars –  December 1 may be behind us but there’s no time like the present to start a calendar full of surprises. The internet is full of great ways you can make every day feel a little more special. I love the reverse advent calendar idea from Julie Van Rosendaal. She suggests filling a box with 24 things for the food bank as an act of holiday giving. Another twist on the advent theme comes from the writers at Bit of Momsense and A Peek Inside the Fishbowl. Both create activity advent calendars for their families to make sure time together is part of the holiday fun.


Charitable giving –  There are so many charities out there that it can be tough to figure out where to give. When deciding consider organizations where your donations are matched or have an exponential value through the work it can do. One of our favourites:  Cuso International. I’ve interviewed several of the Cuso International volunteers and I’m convinced that the work they do is having an impact. I wrote about their latest initiative, the Maternal Health Project in Ethiopia last month.  I strongly believe that when you support health care for women, you are supporting the social and economic status of their families and communities too. Healthy mothers can take better care of their children, and they can work to contribute to the economy, reduce poverty, and prioritize health and education spending for their families. That means your donation can affect generations.

If you can give, I encourage you to. Your monthly support will send Canadian volunteers with medical expertise to improve the skills of health workers in developing countries like Ethiopia. Want to learn more? Click here.

Holiday magic charity

Feeling charitable? Gifts to Cuso International can change lives far beyond the holiday season.

Making Great Memories  – Sharon DeVellis is a fantastic writer who recently shared her thoughts on holiday giving and the importance of making memories with her kids.  Her article on is a great practical list of things you can consider gifting the kids that will help them create memories and make sure the meaning of the season doesn’t get lost in a Wal-Mart aisle.

Leaving Town: What kind of travel writer would I be if I didn’t suggest you pack up your family and hit the road over the holidays? Travel is actually what started us on our “No PresenTs, just PresenCe” approach to the holidays. Stepping off the shopping hamster wheel and the stress it was causing our home gave us a chance to stop and think about why we were doing it in the first place. Maybe the breather you need is only a plane, train or road trip away.

Holiday Magic Africa christmas toast 2011

Our family on Christmas Day 2011. The first of our gift-free holidays.

Going back to basics – I grew up with a mother who has never cooked a meal that couldn’t feed 25 people even though we only had five in our home. Having people drop in unexpectedly and find there was more than enough dinner prepared to feed them for a week was a common occurrence. Today, most of us cringe when the doorbell rings unexpectedly. But maybe it’s time to embrace the idea again – if only for a season. My friends and family have had to say goodbye to a lot of people we love this year. I don’t want to waste one more moment of not seeing the ones who are still here. So, this season, I’ll be all about the drop-in. It would make me really happy if one day my kids have some of those same kinds of memories to look back on that I still treasure and I’m wishing the same for you and yours.

How are you getting into the Christmas spirit this year? Any tips for us?

This post was sponsored in part by Cuso International. As always, the opinions are my own.