How to put the meaning back in Christmas

Published on November 17, 2014 By Lauren

The smell of pumpkin pie and turkey in the oven, the hustle of getting everything on the table at the same time are some of my early Thanksgiving Day memories. My absolutely favorite Thanksgiving Day tradition was cleaning up after dinner and then rushing up into the attic to pull down all those dusty blue storage bins full of Christmas decorations. We would blare the Christmas music and work together as a family to decorate our house from top to bottom. It was one of the best nights of the year, and it is still a memory that I smile when thinking about it.

The entire month leading up to Christmas was magical for us as family. We would make hundreds of Christmas cookies and deliver them to family members and friends. We would wrap Christmas presents for our cousins and siblings, and have Christmas music on for basically all of December!

I loved our tradition of making gingerbread houses together. It was always a special time with my brother and 2 younger sisters. We would usually have another family over every year and do it together. It was a fun time of fellowship and stomach aches from too much candy.

Christmas morning was also a magical time. I remember being tucked into bed on Christmas Eve with books hidden under my pillow. I would be too excited to go to bed, so I would curl up under my covers with a flashlight and read books until my eyelids were too heavy to stay open. I was always up early (VERY early, like 4 am-early); my brother, two sisters and I would tiptoe downstairs and grab our stockings from the banister, then gather in someone’s room and open the contents piece by piece. By the time my parents let us downstairs around 6:30 am, I had already eaten a pound of candy and played with my small stocking stuffer toys. It was the best day ever!

I can hardly remember many gifts that I opened on Christmas morning, but one sticks out in my memory. It is the doll house that my dad made for us girls – a modest 6 room doll house made of cheap wood, but he made it just for us. We didn’t have the money to buy one of those expensive doll houses we asked for, but this doll house was the one present that I continue to think about into my adult years.

After we were done with presents we would gather around our oval Christmas table and have a big family breakfast. Eggs, Pancakes, Bacon, Orange Juice, and orange slices were always on the menu. This was my favorite meal every year – a meal with my family, and a family tradition. One that I always looked forward to and would miss when I moved away from home and lived on my own.

Now as an adult, I look back on those years as magical. Magical, not because of the gifts that I was given (I can’t event remember them), but magical because of the time that was spent together as a family.

In today’s society there is so much emphasis put on stuff and things, and less time put on traditions and experiences.

Mark and I have decided to stop with the stuff and start with more traditions this year. Instead of having a money spending ‘hangover’ in January, we decided to be proactive and plan ahead using this holiday planning guide.

This year we are striving to be ‘Meaningful within Our Means’. This is a challenge to try or do something differently this year so that you can avoid a case of the “overs-” and create lasting and meaningful memories of the holidays.

There are 3 parts to this challenge:

1.) Take care of YOU – no one’s holiday is going to be enjoyable if you are not able to enjoy it yourself. You need to make time for yourself.

Let go of perfectionism this year. The bows and wrapping paper don’t have to be perfectly crafted. The Christmas tree doesn’t have to look like it came out of a Pottery Barn Magazine. Let go of perfection, and increase your JOY!

2.) Do it TOGETHER – Being with family and friends is what the holidays are all about.

In lieu of gifts, you and your friends do something together as a group. Do a group potluck dinner with a White Elephant Gift Exchange. This would be much more fun and memorable than a gift.

3.) GIVE back this year – there are many opportunities to give during the holidays. This is also a great time to teach children the importance of giving.

This is something that also makes a great TOGETHER activity, giving your time to volunteer as a family.

At SunTrust Bank, their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. They want to help you reduce holiday stress through tools, advice, and inspiration that encourages you to make your holidays meaningful by spending within your means and focusing on meaningful experiences.

To get started visit

Meaningful spending made easy with a budgeting tool to help you make a plan and stay on track with your holiday spending.  Download here.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.