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Be the Gift: How to Make the Holidays Merry & Meaningful

I love the word “merry” because it implies a sense of cheerfulness, rejoicing, and festiveness. I savor this season where all manner of themed attire is welcomed, from sequin dresses to candy-cane earrings that border between cute and tacky, and not to mention all the plaid, velvet, and sparkles.

Merry-making helps us get in touch with the childlike wonder and fun of the season. It helps us take ourselves a little less seriously. One of the words associated with “merry” is “frolicsome.” That word makes me want to go skip outside. We never grow out of our desire to play; we just grow into being a “serious adult.” There is a reason why the characters of Peter Pan and Patch Adams resonate so deeply with us — we all deep down know there is still a child within us. It can be hard to find that part of yourself, but the holidays are a perfect time to bring her back to life. A merry person is one who knows how to rejoice. She is a joy to be around. She is a fountain, not a drain.

This holiday season, I hope your life is filled to the brim with merry-making. I hope the glad tidings of great joy and the weary world rejoicing gets down into your bones. When you live this way, with a light heart and a sense of happiness, especially in the midst of all the hustle, stress, and materialism, you help others see a window into deeper, more lasting things.

Here are reflection exercises to help you bring on the merry!

  • I will decide to be cheerful about _____, even though I’ve been a real grump about this issue so far this season.

  • Something I can rejoice in is _______.

  • I will be festive by doing/wearing/decorating/attending this: ________________.

  • I will remember what it feels like to be light of heart and then make a mental note of recapturing that feeling this holiday season.

  • I will try to do some frolicking (when nobody is looking or even if they are). I’ll choose to have a heart of gratitude that I am physically able to skip or prance around, and I’ll make sure to give thanks for my healthy body.

And after you’ve made your holidays merry, you can think about how you want to make them meaningful. A meaningful holiday means it was purposeful, weighty, and worthwhile. It’s a season that is less worried about stuff and more worried about souls. It means being more tender to the needs of others who are less fortunate and less privileged. Sadly, it is quite possible to go through an entire holiday season — from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas to New Year’s — without doing much of anything that truly matters, but this year can be different. This year you can create new traditions that are sincere and significant.

Here are questions to help you make this a meaningful holiday season!

  • Of all the holiday traditions in your life, which one is the most meaningful and why?

  • The holiday objects in your home, the relics of the things you believe in or hope for – what do they say about you?

  • How can you take an action, big or small, to help out those in need? How can you do something not to get credit or to make yourself “feel good” but out of a heart of compassion and gratitude?

  • What is the most worthwhile thing you’ve done this year?

  • What are the ways you can use words or actions to create meaning for those you love?

  • Can you make someone you care about feel more loved and seen than they have all year? All it will cost us is our attention and our time. No distractions, no phones, no agenda — just time face to face.

It turns out the things we want most can’t be wrapped up in a box.

So what if you and I both promise to take a night this month to sit in front of the lights in our home and ponder these questions? Maybe we curl up with a warm cup of cocoa, put on our fuzzy socks, wrap ourselves in a blanket, and pull out a journal. As we take in the quiet (maybe even a silent night), we’ll answer the questions above.

I guarantee if we spend time asking ourselves how we can bring more merriment and meaning to the holidays, we will. By changing our mindsets to a merry and meaningful holiday, we’ll be a gift to others and maybe that is the best present of all: learning to live life with two priceless things — joy and purpose.

Happy Holidays!

Love, Steph


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