Inspiring family traditions: Ways to support those in need during the holidays

By Kathryn Dunmore, Canadian Red Cross

The holiday season is finally upon us, and many families are honouring timeless traditions such as gift-giving, “decking the halls” with decorations and ornaments, and get-togethers with their loved ones.
Two dogs in holiday costumes, one is sitting up and one is laying down
Photo credit: Karsten Winegeart / Unsplash

However, not everyone experiences the holidays the same way. For others, the holidays can be a time of uncertainty, stress, and financial and emotional hardship.

That said, there are many ways to give back and support those in need during the holidays, so we asked families and friends to share their holiday traditions that are sparked by a sense of community, generosity, and compassion.

The Jeffries family from Ontario spends this time of year donating back to the community in specific ways, using charity gift guides to show how to help others:

“We let Evan pick a gift from a charity holiday gift guide that he thinks someone would like,” says Kim Jeffries. “Usually, I overspend on this one and it turns into three or four gifts. We also do a toy clean out, something my mom used to do with us as children. Before Christmas, we go through our toys and select any toys we may have grown too old for but are still in good condition and donate them. We let him pick the charity he would like to donate them to – we feel this helps raise his awareness of what is out there and why.”

The Babineau family in Nova Scotia says they allow their child to help in making the decision on where to give during the holidays, and why: “When we decided Matéo was old enough, we wanted him to start gaining an understanding of the value of money, where it comes from and how not everyone has enough money to get what they need, much less what they want,” explains Janice Babineau. “So, when we give him his weekly allowance, the amount he receives is divided into 3 categories: money he can spend as he wishes now or later, an amount he must save, and an amount he has to give to charity (his choice).

“We always make donations and find ways to give back at this time of year so this year, Matéo will also choose where to make his donation. We’ll help him if he has any questions, but we want him to feel like he has a choice about how he can make a difference. Our goal is to raise him to be compassionate and empathetic, to care about others in his community and beyond. I think this is a small part of that.”

The Smith family from Ontario uses their time as a way to give back during the holiday season:

“My parents always reminded us that presents and toys weren’t the most important thing,” says Mathew Smith. “We moved around a lot when I was younger and no matter where we lived, my parents wanted to ensure we gave back to the community as a family. Whether it was volunteering at food banks, delivering Christmas baskets, or shopping for families who were less fortunate, we found a way to give back around the holidays. I think it was my parents’ way of teaching how to acknowledge our privilege and treat everyone with kindness.

“I’m grateful and very lucky to have been exposed to this as a kid. They’re core memories I’ll never forget. As an adult, I feel it’s important to continue these traditions in whatever way possible. The most important thing I remind myself of is that you can give back in so many ways — there’s no one-size fits all approach.”

Do you have a family tradition? Share in the comments below.

Wishing you and your family a safe and happy holiday season!

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