Something New for Your Holiday?

Five Ideas for Changing Times

By Joanne R. Alloway

As the holidays approach, we begin thinking about how we spend those special days with family and friends. As we get older, our situations change. Our children have moved far away. Our aging parents need us, or they, like other relatives, may have passed away. Traditional holiday plans made great memories, but we can still make new ones. Here are some ideas:

Charity: A few years ago, in my large (six siblings) family, we were experiencing changes and stress at holiday time. The prospect of exchanging gifts was out of the question. We decided instead to use the money that would be spent on gifts to help an agreed-upon charity. That year, our charity was St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. We felt good about helping sick children, and have done this in other years for different charities. On the holiday itself, we still gather to spend a peaceful, happy day, enjoying each other and a good meal. There are many worthy causes you can donate to instead of exchanging gift cards or buying soon-forgotten items. You can check your charity’s standing at or

Plan a Family Event:  What better time to have an extended family gathering potluck style, making it a low-key event. When everyone brings something, even when the menu is unscripted, a great party ensues. Having it before or after the actual holiday will net a better turnout than if it is held on the actual holiday. This is a fun way for grandchildren to get to know their cousins and distant relatives. Ask someone to find a place for the gathering, if your family is large. A teen can plan games for kids; someone else takes care of music. Make new holiday and family memories, and maybe a new tradition.

On the Water:  Ever thought of spending part of your holiday on a cruise ship? If you’re an empty nester or you’d like to do something different with your family, cruise ships depart the Port of Baltimore for the Caribbean during November and December. For information log onto If you can get to other departure cities, your choices will be greater and perhaps warmer. Last year, my friends visited parents in Miami for the holiday, then boarded a cruise ship for five days, celebrating Christmas in St. Thomas. There are many ways to celebrate onboard ship and at ports of call. If you decide to cruise, watch for last-minute discounted rates such as second guest pays 50 percent less or onboard credits.

Invite Someone Who is Alone:  Everyone knows someone who is going to be alone during the holidays – not by choice. This is an opportunity to do something rewarding for both of you. Start by asking for help decorating your tree, wrapping gifts or making food for the feast. Everyone likes to be needed; ask if they could bring their special dish the day of the holiday. Plan on spending the whole day together, including them in all your planned family activities, making sure they are in your photos so you can frame one as a memento.

Drive to a Nearby City:  We are fortunate to have great cities within driving distance of our area.

Philadelphia – A holiday weekend in the City of Brotherly Love can be very festive. Combine history, ice skating, shopping, film festivals, light shows, the Waterfront Winterfest and the Christmas Village, for entertainment ideas.

New York City – There’s nothing like the Big Apple in December. It’s alive with energy and color. If you haven’t done this yet, put it on your bucket list; it’s worth the trip. Try Broadway, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, shopping at the fabulously decorated department stores, visiting the historical monuments or tasting international cuisine. Make this a memorable, though pricey weekend. Oh, don’t forget the nightlife!

Alexandria, VA – Charming and close, Old Town Alexandria is a small, but warm holiday destination. The town is decorated with trees and white lights on lovely, historic streets. The Scottish Christmas Walk and Parade is notable. A visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, especially on Dec. 20, will feature a rare evening of special programs, old-time crafts, fireworks and music. Alexandria’s Holiday Market is open for gifts, European foods, beer, wine and entertainment.

We’re in a wonderful area for endless holiday fun. Watch the local newspapers for local events. No matter what you do for the holidays, make memories and enjoy the experience, and maybe this year it will be something different.

Joanne can be contacted at [email protected]









Please support OutLook by the Bay with a subscription.

OutLook by the Bay magazine and this website are made possible through the support of our advertisers and subscribers. We guarantee you’ll learn something new each issue. Please subscribe today.