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Counting Blessings Over the Holiday Season

December brings us right into a heavy holiday season with celebrations for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and New Year's Eve. For many, holidays seem to be a time of rushing around stores looking for "the perfect gift" or the "right" theme for a holiday party, and sometimes becoming more harried than happy, coping with hectic schedules and people everywhere. At such times, it can be easy to overlook the intent behind celebrating holidays. Materialism runs rampant in the 21st century, as we see various companies gearing up to promote their goods and services for the holidays sometimes as early as Halloween! Maybe it's time to take a breather and get back to basics.

Dr. Bill Doherty, director of the Family Social Science department of the University of Minnesota, recommends integrating family traditions as one way to bring the true intent of holidays back down to earth. For some, that may be a tradition involving serving specific foods for a holiday meal…like lutefisk and lefsa for some of us Minnesotans, or tamales in the Latino community. Other traditions may include the whole family gathering for a religious service or a quiet time of sharing memories. You can also begin to create traditions for your family if you haven't already. Remember also that family can be a family of intent, as well as a family of origin or family of creation, and close friends can factor heavily into that intended family.

Dr. Doherty shared one of his family traditions on a program on NPR several years ago. He recommended it as another way to move toward the spirit of giving and away from materialism. In his family, each time someone gives another a present (be it Christmas, birthday or other occasion), the giver must also be prepared to give a verbal gift as well. That verbal gift is an acknowledgement to the recipient of how he or she has given to the family, or enriched the family, in some way during the past year. We often take so little time to verbally recognize how important people are to us and it means so much when we do. Our blessings truly are the people in our lives, which is why we get so crazed at holiday time to celebrate them. Perhaps this holiday season, each of you can take the time to let those important people in your life know how much they mean through words and other non-material deeds. Count all your blessings and make it a tradition to do so every year.