Health & Well-BeingLife & Lifestyle

Five Meaningful Non-Traditional Ways to Celebrate the Holidays

Though families are thankful to be together again, we all know the holidays can be busy, stressful, and overwhelming, filled with packed social calendars, long shopping, and longer to-do lists.

If you’re not feeling the holiday spirit, or your inner voice is pleading to make this year different, listen to yourself and get creative.

For the past several years, our family has found non-traditional ways to spend the autumn and winter holidays. At first, we wondered if we’d regret it.

But we didn’t. At all.

Instead, we discovered more joy and meaning in finding different, creative ways to experience the holidays. You can, too.

Plan a Family Getaway

How do you feel about a warm tropical beach? What about a snow-covered mountain?

Consider a vacation rental instead of a typical hotel. Everyone can get personal space but convene in common areas to share stories and make new memories.

One family member should take the lead on planning the getaway, but make sure others have shared input.

Gift an Experience

Our family gives the gift of experience instead of anything wrapped. It’s a winning idea for both givers and receivers.

These experiences could be a romantic dinner for two, a skydiving package, a sunset sail, or tickets to a sporting event or concert. It’s so awesome to see the look of delight on recipients’ faces!


There is so much need in our communities — and not just during the holidays. Homeless shelters, clothing-based charities, educational organizations, and animal shelters are just a few of the places that could use some extra hands.

Giving back feels good, but knowing we’re doing something meaningful for others is priceless. A few years ago, our daughter and son-in-law volunteered at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving Day. Now, they volunteer on mulitple weekends throughout the year. If you have children or grandchildren, it’s the perfect way to introduce them to the “pay it forward” concept of giving to others less fortunate.

Provide a Holiday to a Needy Family

When my husband was a U.S. Navy officer, his organization chose two families each year and provided them with a beautiful Christmas. This tradition included a live tree with ornaments, a week of holiday meals, and presents under the tree.

There’s nothing better than ensuring a family that’s had a hard time have a happy and fulfilling holiday season. The families were so grateful, and participation was impressive.

But you don’t need an organization to provide for a family. Perhaps there’s one in your neighborhood or your church, synagogue, or mosque.

American editor Hamilton Wright Mabie once said, “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

Whatever way you choose to celebrate your holidays this year, promise to do something extraordinary! It will fill everyone’s heart with joy and gratitude.


Noreen Kompanik

Noreen Kompanik is a freelance journalist, associate editor, and speaker from San Diego. A retired registered nurse, she now travels the world and writes about her adventures. Her stories have appeared in TravelPulse, Edible San Diego Magazine, Europe Up Close, International Living and more.

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