“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
I don’t know about you, but I love that Christmas song, and it’s fitting because I love the Christmas season. There’s nothing more wonderful to me than the lights, the decorations, the music, and especially, the time spent with family. It was always fun and meaningful when our kids were growing up, and now that they’re adults with families of their own, it’s even more special for Margaret and me to create memories with our children and grandchildren.
Few things bond people together like a shared memory. Even during tough times, recalling a memory brings people together. This is great news for families. Even better news is that you can be proactive about creating memories. Margaret and I did that intentionally with our kids when they were young, and we continue that tradition with our grandchildren.
If you want to be intentional about creating a memory this Christmas season instead of just letting the holidays happen to you, keep these five things in mind:
1. INITIATIVE: CHOOSE TO MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.
Memories don’t find us, we find them. Think about the next four weeks before the end of the year: What special moments do you want to create with your family? Make a list of experiences that you want to share, then decide what you need to do to make them happen.
2. TIME: SET ASIDE TIME FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN.
If you’re like most families at this time of year, the word “busy” is an understatement. In the month of December, most of us have parties to attend, school performances to watch, and other obligations that have already been scheduled for us—not to mention bringing the work year to a close.
Since the only way to make memories is to spend time together, we really need to schedule that time during the Christmas season, or it will just slip away. Sit down with a calendar this week and schedule the experiences that you listed under point #1. If they don’t get on the calendar, they might not happen.
3. PREPARATION: PLAN TO MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.
By now, you have a list of memories that you want to make, and you’ve scheduled time on your calendar. Now plan them out. What do you need to do ahead of time to make the experiences a reality–buy tickets, make reservations, or gather supplies? Be prepared. Then you’ll be able to enjoy the time together and make those memories.
4. CREATIVITY: FIND A WAY TO MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.
What do you do when the memories you’ve planned don’t turn out the way you expected? I believe that we can get discouraged—or we can get creative. How can you turn things around? What can you do instead? I’ve found that a sense of humor is really important at times like this. Sometimes even the most frustrating circumstances can be funny, if we choose to look at them that way.
5. MEMENTOS: SHOW THAT SOMETHING HAPPENED.
In this age of selfies and social media, it’s pretty easy to record an experience digitally. And that’s definitely something you can look at years later to relive the memory. But I always recommend finding some other memento to remind you of the experience. It doesn’t have to be expensive; maybe you save the program from the show you saw, or you pick up a rock from the trail you hiked. I have friends who buy a coffee mug from every destination that they visit as a family. Then with every cup of coffee or hot cocoa, they’re reminded of the experiences that they enjoyed together.
Making memories is great. But the most important part of creating a memory is reliving it. It’s the payoff!
In our family, everyone knows that at the end of any experience together, I will ask them two questions. Usually, I do it during a meal, so now they all come to the table prepared. The questions are, “What did you like best?” and “What did you learn?” The answers we share always lead to rich conversations, full of laughter and/or groans. Even if things didn’t go as planned, we celebrate the time spent together. In fact, some of our favorite memories are of times when we had to get creative in the moment to redeem the experience. It’s even sweeter when we recall a memory weeks, month, or even years later.
In this season filled with traditions, some memories will be made without any planning on your part. But I challenge you to be intentional and strategic about making memories.
If you do that, and be prepared to get creative, you can share experiences with your family that you will talk about for a long time.