5 Ideas for Starting a Tradition of Service

By: Martianne Stanger

‘Tis the season to be gifting
Fa la la la la la la la la
Off’ring service is uplifting
Fa la la la la la la la la
New traditions to discover
Fa la la la la la la la la
Make some time to help another
Fa la la la la la la la la

No matter what year-end holidays you and yours celebrate, the current season offers ample opportunities to come together in a tradition of love and kindness.

So this season I challenge you to build fond memories for your family while also helping to build community through offering your time, talent, or treasure to others.

Not sure where to begin?

I can help you get into the mindset of service…

1. Start in your own home with a countdown chain!


Brainstorm ideas of random acts of kindness that you and your children can act upon and write these ideas on paper chain links.  Then, create a chain to help you countdown to Christmas, Chanukah, the New Year, or whatever holiday you and yours celebrate.

My children and I make an Advent chain like this each year to help us prepare our hearts and homes for Christmas.  Then, we create another one to countdown to Easter. Both of these chains have become much looked forward to traditions in our home and my children always clamber to take down a link, discover what’s written on it, and go act with kindness.Your children might like doing so, as well.

2. Secretly gift others on your street


Years ago, after a St. Nicholas playdate with friends, my children and I began a yearly tradition of secretly ‘snowflaking’ a neighbor’s door and leaving a note and basket of goodies.  We also like to go ‘candycaning’ during this season and egging during others.  There’s just something extra special about going on covert missions to spread kindness. I highly recommend developing such a sneaky smile-inducing tradition.

3. Thank those who add convenience to your life

A friend of mine took a cue from a blog post and began leaving treats on her stoop for delivery people.

Another makes cookies for her librarians.

My husband, children, and I like to regularly bring donuts, pizza, and other not-yet-touched leftovers from holiday gatherings and meetings to our local fire and police stations. In fact, we enjoy this all year round! We also like to offer hot drinks and snacks to those plowing our street and to others who work out in the cold.

There are plenty of ways to gift an unexpected token of appreciation to the people who provide services day in and day out.  Who might you thank with such a surprise today?

4. Give to those in need


Many churches and community organizations create ‘Giving Trees’ or ‘Angel Trees’ where you can take a tag with the name of a person in need and buy that person a requested gift.

Each year, my children like to find a tag for a child of similar age or interest to them or an adult or baby in need.  Then, although they never meet the people they help, my children feel connected to those they choose by personally picking out a tag and shopping for gifts.

Such programs are a wonderful way to be an anonymous giver and you can even make such a tradition a memorial to a loved one that has passed by gifting someone of a similar age. (A friend of ours does this for her lost-too-soon children.)

5. Offer helping hands to local charities


Food pantries and charities often look for extra helping hands during this season, and some welcome young hands, too!

While some organizations cannot let children serve due to liability or other reasons, there are plenty that welcome whole families to volunteer together.

For example, my children always look forward to packing Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter meal boxes for the needy with a local St. Vincent de Paul organization.

My children are also thrilled each year when we honor our tradition of helping at Santa’s Workshop for the whole day at My Brother’s Keeper. This incredible local organization gifts 3,000 or so families each year a bountiful supply of holiday gifts and spends the rest of the year offering furniture and food to those in need.


Undoubtedly, there are countless other places and ways for families to serve together. I’d love to hear some that you know about.  For, as I can attest, fond memories are made when families give their time to serving others. Building new traditions of giving warms the heart.

What new tradition of gifting your time, talent, and treasures might you and yours begin before this year ends?


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