Saturday, December 17, 2011

Creating Your Own Christmas Traditions

Yesterday I posted about why your 20s are a great time to experiment with non-traditional Christmas decor. While I love the idea of playing with different types of Christmas decorations, I do still like the idea of establishing Christmas traditions while you're young. Establishing your own traditions can be just as comforting as participating in the ones you remember growing up.

This year the boy and I participated in a Christmas tradition together for the third Christmas in a row. And I'm not gonna lie, it's probably one of the most mature things we do together all year.

A couple years ago I was volunteering with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing's (APAH) annual Secret Santa Christmas gift drive. APAH is a great organization that owns 12 affordable housing properties throughout Arlington County, Virginia. I really like them because they build mixed use, mixed income properties, they preserve a lot of affordable housing along transit routes, and they provide community-based services for their residents. Oh yeah--I should mention that I value these things because I work in affordable housing as my day job (but not for a provider) and I very much support the targeted and well-planned work that APAH does.

Anyway, I was helping APAH's resident services coordinator sort gifts that were donated by families in the community who had adopted families in APAH properties. When we finished sorting gifts, we determined that there were three families who were not yet adopted. Although I was working an unpaid internship with another local affordable housing developer at the time, I called up the boy and asked him if he would be willing to adopt a family of three with me. He was down with the idea, so I got information about the family and we went shopping at Target for items together.

Two years later, we still adopt one of APAH's families for Christmas together. This year we got to shop for two little boys and their mother. We have our routine down--we try to get the kids a jacket or sweatshirt, pants or a t-shirt, one "big" toy, and one little one. For the mother, we get a gift card to a store depending on what kind of thing she said she needed. APAH recommends a budget of $25 per person, but we spend closer to $100 for a family of three when all is said and done. We try to shop at Target and get gift receipts because it is accessible by public transit from all of APAH's properties, so it's easy for the family to return things if they need to.

I'm really glad that we're able to give back to our community together every Christmas and I hope we continue to do it in the future. I totally encourage you to establish a Christmas tradition like this with your friends, family, or significant other. Stepping up and making donations to your community is definitely a grownup thing to do, and it is a great way to embrace your quasi grownup maturity together (for a little while at least)!

P.S. Props to Maizie from Chic Done Cheap for organizing a group of friends to donate gifts to the Salvation Army's angel tree gift drive. I was happy to participate in it and meet a bunch of new friends in the process!

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