Posts tagged with ‘Christmas’

14 nov

The Greatest Holiday Gift

JayForteAh, the holiday season. And we are already bombarded with a Sunday paper that tips the scales with gift ads. TV and radio ads remind us of the best gifts to give, who not to forget and how to make the holidays special. Buy, buy, buy.

I don’t know about you but this can do a great job of interfering with the kind of holiday I want to have if I let it. I don’t want a holiday of stuff – I want a holiday of experiences and stories. I want a holiday of emotions and connection. I want the memories.

As kids, it wasn’t just the gifts that made us feel so terrific about the holidays, it was the memories of feeling important, cared for, loved and special. I remember very few of the gifts I received over so many past holidays. What I do remember instead is singing carols, having neighbors over, decorating the house and eating treats that only showed up at the holidays. When I think of these, I am immediately brought back to sitting by the Christmas tree. I can smell the evergreen. I can see the lights and tinsel. I can smell the cakes baking and can hear the laughing from the other rooms as neighbors come by. I am immediately transported to happy times. It was the event. It was the feeling. It wasn’t the stuff.

So here are some of my ideas of holiday gifts that move away from the stuff and go for the memories:

Hosting a party with friends where we celebrate our time together.

Having brunch with my kids where we can talk about life, their dreams of starting families and loving the moments we spend together.

Sending and receiving cards that say, though we haven’t spoken in a while, you are still in my thoughts.

Playing music that is festive and celebratory, inspiring a feeling of peace and calm.

Walking with friends, or as a family, through towns and streets decorated with things that are bright, happy and festive.

Telling stories around the table with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, about what life was like, how each celebrated the holidays, and what made life great.

Stopping for a hot chocolate on a cold night, because we haven’t done it in a while and nothing beats the smell of hot chocolate – with whipped cream or marshmallow.

Taking an extra day off from work to be at home (not out shopping) and playing games, working on family projects or inventing a new recipe together.

Making a video where each person in the family, or each friend, records a memory of the holidays, then shares the message with the rest of the world on YouTube.

Committing the time to learn how to discuss and communicate about the things that are important to each member of the family – to help them discover their talents, strengths and passions and build a life they love.

Buying recycling bins and having everyone in the household learn how to recycle everything that can be recycled – a gift to the planet.

Being invited to, and sharing in, another person’s holiday traditions with an open mind and an appreciation for its importance to that person.

Selecting something that the receiver adores, and the giver does not add to his debt.

Holidays are terrific. They make us stop the routine and come together to celebrate. And giving seems very much a part of the holiday. But we don’t have to give until we’re broke. We also know that things never truly bring happiness, memories do.

A good friend of mine has a small artificial Christmas tree that he leaves up and lit all year. Each month, he, his wife and his son, exchange small gifts. As he told me, it is not about the gifts. It is about a small Christmas tree that stays lit all year in their house to remind them that every day is to be celebrated. Brilliant.

So as the holiday approaches, may you find new ways to celebrate. May the gifts you give and receive be personal, focused on feelings and create memories. Wishing you amazing holidays that you fondly remember forever.

Jay Forte is a business and motivational speaker, life and workplace coach. He is the author of the books, The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform the World, and Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, and the on-line resource, Stand Out and Get Hired. He works to connect people to their talents and passions to help them live fired up! More information at and

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jay Forte on November 14th, 2010 in Family, General, New Directions, Personal Stories, Relationships, Teens, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , ,

22 dec

Holiday Traditions: Family, Feelings and Festivities

JayForteTraditions are the passing on of customs and beliefs from one generation to another. At this time of year, there are many traditions that focus on celebration, fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving. It may be Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza. It may be December 25th, January 6 or any days before or after. It may be with candles, lights, gifts or song. It may be with pageants, rituals, food or religious ceremonies. Regardless of the manifestation, the essence is the same – family, feelings and festivities.

Different, but the same

Many people are upset lately by the use of the phrase Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Actually, Happy Holidays shows the awareness of and respect for the variety of holiday traditions that are celebrated this time of year – each meaningful, valid and right for those who celebrate them.

What makes our society so successful is its diversity. We are no longer a melting pot – where we have all blended to be like each other. Instead, we are now a tossed salad – together, but we maintain our identity and uniqueness. Our traditions are part of our uniqueness – they reflect our backgrounds, histories and perspectives. Our traditions help to keep us grounded, connected and happy. And whether we celebrate Dec 25, the week before or the week after, we celebrate with family and friends; we celebrate our feelings for each other – and we commit to the process of celebration.

When we accommodate and respect what and the way others celebrate, we actually learn more about each other; we better understand others and get closer to our own traditions. We are more connected as people.

The need to accommodate change

The second great thing about traditions is they evolve. Because people are influenced by life and today’s world, we constantly update our holiday traditions; we focus on their core meaning but change the way we celebrate them.

I remember the first Christmas after my parents divorced. The center of a close Italian family and its years of holiday traditions changed almost overnight. My brothers, sisters and I were determined to reinvent our celebration of family, feelings (because we’re Italian I’ll add “food”) and festivities and created a new manifestation of our Christmas Eve traditions; we created our “sibling party.” Though my five siblings and I are close, we committed that for at least for one night in the year, all six of us and our partners/spouses and families, would get together and celebrate the family, food, feelings and festivities that had always been so important to us. We maintained some of our prior holiday traditions and added some new ones. We stayed focused on the reason for getting together and rebuilt our (new) holiday traditions around it.

And as our kids start to meet their significant others and become part of another family as well, we will modify our traditions again. But the essence of our traditions is family, feelings, food and festivity. And if we need to create it in June instead of December, then June is just fine. If we need to host it on New Year’s Day instead of Christmas Eve – then we do. No complaints. No lamenting. No whining. We keep the spirit of our traditions intact – the date, time and place will move as life moves.

So, what is the real reason behind your traditions?

How do you keep the meaning of your traditions alive, as your family changes, grows up, moves out and moves on, and not allow these changes to undo what is important?

How do you work with life’s changes to keep adding more value to your traditions, share their meaning with the next generation and love the event, whenever and wherever it is?

What will you do to keep its essence clear and alive in a world that constantly changes?

“Christmas (Holiday) gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” 
~ Oren Arnold

Wishing you “Happy Holidays” – a time for the celebration of your traditions of family, feelings, food and festivity. May they be extraordinary.

Jay Forte is a motivational speaker and performance consultant. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and the on-line resource, Stand Out and Get Hired. He works to connect people to their talents and passions to work strong and live stronger. More information at

Posted by Jay Forte on December 22nd, 2009 in Family, New Directions, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,