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Wellness Blog

The Christmas Challenge: Getting the Most Out of the Season

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Are you looking for ways to make the most of your Christmas season this year? Join us for our Christmas Challenge! We’ve laid out an activity for each week of December to help you keep the true meaning of Christmas at the forefront of your celebrations this year.

Week 1, Dec. 2-8: Learn the Origins of Some of Your Favorite Christmas Traditions

“Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling.” —Edna Ferber

There are so many wonderful Christmas traditions to enjoy this time of year. We all have our own mix of personal traditions, like watching a specific holiday movie, and wider cultural or religious traditions, like putting up Christmas lights or attending Midnight Mass.

The challenge for this week is to ask why. Why do we have Christmas trees? Why do we light Advent candles? What’s the significance behind these traditions?

So often we do things out of habit without stopping to reflect on the reason behind our actions. To add meaning this year, spend time researching the origins of some of the traditions you partake in. It’s a fun exercise that may lead to new discoveries!

To get you started, Crosswalk shares this list of Christian meanings behind ancient Christmas traditions:

  • Evergreen Trees were the symbol of eternal life. Martin Luther introduced them to the Reformation Church as a picture of our endless life in Christ, by bringing in a tree to his family on Christmas Eve lit with candles (Isaiah 60:13).

  • Candles are a picture that Christ is the Light of the world (John 8).

  • Holly speaks of the thorns in His crown (Matthew 27:29).

  • Red is a color of Christmas that speaks of Christ's blood and death.

  • Gifts are a reminder of the gifts of the Magi to baby Jesus. Each of them speak to a component of His incarnation: Majesty in life, Bitterest Agony in Death and He as God’s Perfect gift to us (Matthew 2).”

What will you discover?

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Related: Holiday Traditions of The Esquiline Residents

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Week 2, Dec 9-15: Spread Good Will by Giving Back

“Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” ―Washington Irving

There’s a lot of talk about our society losing sight of the true meaning of Christmas. However, with all the wonderful avenues to give back and donate this season (and year-round), it’s hard to believe that we’ve truly forgotten what really matters as a society. In fact, sometimes there are so many volunteers at charities over Christmas that they have to turn people away.

Here’s another heartwarming fact—did you know that from 2016 to 2018, the number of volunteers in America jumped from 62.6 million to 77.3 million?

The challenge for this week is to become one of the 77.3 million people volunteering their time. Chances are, you already have a favorite charity to donate to or are already planning on volunteering your time this Christmas. If you need some ideas, though, use our infographic, 10 Ways To Give Back This Christmas.

Here are three of those ideas to give you a sneak peek:

  • Bake some treats. Bring some Christmas cookies to a local shelter, or to the library, post office, or police station to thank civil servants for their hard work.

  • Share your gifts. Do you sing or paint? You could teach a class or give a performance at a local hospital or assisted living community.

  • Perform random acts of kindness. Brighten a stranger’s day by paying for their coffee or meal. Who knows, they may pay it forward!

Week 3, Dec 16-22: Take Time to Reflect Each Day

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Christmas can quickly become stressful and overwhelming. The season often brings in a whirl of social obligations, shopping, and decorating.

The challenge for this week is to take 20 minutes each day for personal reflection. Find a quiet space and reflect on the season.

Here are some ideas for Christmas reflections:

  • Read and reflect on one of the Advent readings. You can find a list of them, as well as Advent reflections, here.

  • Bundle up and take a walk outside. The serenity of nature will help clear your mind. As you walk, reflect on what Christmas means to you. If the cold is too much for you, perhaps take a nice drive to see the Christmas lights.

  • Remember loved ones who have passed away. Christmas brings with it many memories of loved ones we have lost. Reflect on or even write down your memories of Grandpa or your beloved Aunt Jane. Take time to remember the impact that person had on your life and carry the warmth of that memory with you this holiday season.

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Related: Finding Answers in Pope Francis’s Christmas Messages

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Week 4, Dec 23-29: Focus on Friends and Family

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

Christmas is the perfect time to reach out to loved ones. Even if you are separated by distance from your friends and family, technology has made it easier than ever to keep in touch.

The challenge for this week is to call a family member or friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Or, ask a friend or neighbor what they did for Christmas as a child to spark a meaningful conversation.

You’ll notice that this week’s challenge extends beyond Christmas. There are two reasons for that. One is that it may be a nice surprise for a loved one to receive a call from you after Christmas day (and they may have more time to chat). The other is that there’s no reason not to continue living out the Christmas spirit of fellowship and joy all year long.

Additional Spiritual Resources

You may also like to follow an advent calendar this season. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has an online advent calendar with daily readings, reflections, and actions to help you find fulfillment in the season.

If you’d like to continue receiving tips for enriching your spirituality,  you’ll find tips and ideas in our guide, How to Incorporate Spirituality into Your Life. And you’re invited to join us in March for our yearly Lenten Challenge.

Lastly—and most importantly—we wish you a blessed and merry Christmas!

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