I invite you to try out the following this year, not to ditch your family traditions, but to expand them.
Thanksgiving/Chanukah: This year, for the first time (and the last time for 77,000 years, according to one source, Thanksgiving and the first day of Chanukah coincide. This year, as you finalize your Thanksgiving day menu, consider a few Jewish specialties, like latkes or matzo ball soup.
Pro-tip: matzo ball soup can be made in minutes using a handy-dandy pre-made dry mix in the Jewish section of your grocery store.) When you and your family and friends are gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table, share the story of the miracle of Chanukah, in which an oil lamp with only enough oil for one night lasted eight nights, providing ongoing light in darkness. Chanukah is an eight-day Jewish feast of enduring, miraculous light--telling this story is is a great time to light the first candle of eight of your menorah, if you have one, or perhaps the first of other candles you have on your table. Allow this to be your segue into a giving of thanks by each person around the table.
Then, when you awake the day after Thanksgiving, consider just staying home. Really. Eating latkes with cranberry sauce for breakfast while sipping home-brewed coffee and wearing fuzzy slippers is a far gentler holiday practice than trampling your neighbor at 3 a.m. to get through store doors. Consider continuing your candle-lighting through the eight days of Chanukah, saying a silent prayer as you light them if you aren't familiar with the Hebrew prayers.
Next, Advent, as in, advent-ure!
That's right--before you pull out your tubs of Christmas glitz, try cutting a few boughs from an evergreen (places that sell Christmas trees may give these away for free, if you don't have any evergreens of your own) and fashion an Advent wreath with your kids.
Why do we want light when it's dark?
What are examples of darkness we experience?
What are ways that we can bring light to dark places?
Allow Advent to be the season of quiet, pregnant anticipation that it's intended to be--because if you do, the glimmer and dazzle of Christmas Eve's light and the bright clamor of Christmas morning will shine and ring out for you in a whole new way.
This post was originally featured at parentwin.com.