If you like to play Christmas music on the radio this time of year then you’re sure to hear “Silver Bells” at least a few times. The song paints a picture of BUSY sidewalks with people passing by and streetlights changing color as shoppers RUSH home. When you think about it, it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of the holiday season… shopping, school pageants, work parties, traveling to see family, and more shopping. Lots of busyness and rushing around. But “Silver Bells” also describes laughing, smiles, and the snow crunching as families come together. That’s the part of the season we often miss when we become too busy and focused inward. Here are some practical ways to go above all the bustle and love those closest to you (in proximity), your neighbors.
1. Hold a “Best of the Neighborhood” contest
If you live in an urban area, chances are you will have more than a few neighbors that really like to display their Christmas spirit through their yard’s decor. (You know the ones!) This year, instead of complaining about the brightness of their multicolored lights or questioning if they could possibly fit another inflatable within their property lines, try a new tradition that brings holiday cheer and utilizes your children. Have them design and create awards for as many neighbors as they see fit. For instance, a “Best Lights” category, “Most Spirited” or whatever else they can come up with. Let it become an activity for the whole family to have fun with. Then let the kids (with your supervision) deliver the awards to the respective winners. It will not only bring a smile to their faces, but also create a sense of community based around appreciation and thoughtfulness.
2. Host a wreath or ornament exchange party
Maybe you know a few women on your street or maybe you can’t even name one. In any case, you probably DO know all their addresses. This year, step outside your house-shaped shell and organize a Christmas themed get together. A wreath exchange will get everybody in the spirit and excited to meet the neighborhood ladies. It’s also a great way to build comradery when other women can visibly see their gift warming your door. Of course, if you question the taste of your fellow neighbors and want to avoid hurt feelings it may be safer to organize an ornament exchange. In any case, have each guest bring a wrapped gift and set them in out on a table. Write down numbers on slips of paper and have everyone draw a piece to determine the order. Then proceed as a “white elephant” where each woman can choose to open a gift or steal a previously opened one. Each item can only be stolen twice and the first woman to go gets a chance to steal at the end. Serve up some peppermint hot cocoa with sugar cookies and you’ll be set!
3. Propose a street-wide themed yard decoration
Remember John Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas?” Or perhaps the movie version “Christmas With the Kranks.” In the story, the characters’ street held a tradition of placing a towering Frosty the Snowman on each roof. Outside of the fictional realm, that probably would be an unrealistic request of your neighbors. But maybe you could propose something similar on a smaller scale. In my husband’s hometown, there was a street within his parents’ neighborhood that each put out a small live Christmas Tree at the end of their driveway every year. One individual took the initiative to go around and drill the holes for each stump but left it up to each family to find their tree and decorate it. I can only imagine that it’s a tradition the residents look forward to every Christmas. Even as an outsider, I’m always excited to see the unique style of each tree and even more amazed at the ability of an entire street to come together during the holidays.
4. Progressive Dinner
Planning a party for the neighborhood can be a daunting task. So why not divide party planning among four other families and have a progressive dinner? Start at the front of the street with drinks or small appetizers and end at the back with dessert or coffee. In the middle you can have houses serving heavier hor d’oeuvres, soup/salad, and a main course. No one home should have to feel the pressure of making too much because there will be so many other courses involved. And families that want to participate without opening up their homes could just bring dishes to add to each course. It will not only help you learn more about the people you share a locality with, but give you a chance to show off the decorations that took you an entire weekend to put up and only stay for a month.
You might be surprised at how many people would be thrilled for an opportunity to get to know YOU this Christmas. And all it takes is a little initiative, some creativity, and heart for loving others.