#WestchesterAngels: A Family Holiday Tradition Inspired by “The Angels on My Tree”

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“The Angels on My Tree”

When I first heard the story of “The Angels on My Tree,” Christmas was the furthest thing from my mind. It was June, and over 100 degrees that day, as I sat in a small meeting with local mom entrepreneurs. Our guest speakers that day were Lu Ann and Eve, local Hudson Valley moms and the author and illustrator of “The Angels on My Tree.” Before she read us the book, Lu Ann told us how it was the true story of her family’s first Christmas after her father died. As the family trudged through their grief, her mom decided to make that Christmas season about giving rather than getting.  Each time they did a good deed for someone else, they would place an angel on their Christmas tree. The story of the family’s journey to healing was moving, and the sentiment of making the season more about giving than getting really stuck with me.

Our Story

Growing up, my mom was basically the human Pinterest (and we’re talking the 80s here, so pre-Elf on the Shelf and all that jazz).  She made our entire childhoods magical, but Christmas was really her time to shine. The month of December was packed with holiday fun: from tree decorating, to visits to NYC to see the Rockettes and the Rockefeller tree, to gingerbread house decorating parties, to matching Christmas pjs for the whole family, we were never at a loss for a way to enjoy the holiday spirit. My mom made sure we knew that Christmas wasn’t so magical for everyone else, though. Each year, we adopted a family to shop for. My sister and I loved carefully selecting and wrapping gifts for our secret Santa family.  We learned a lot about charity growing up, and while I loved this particular tradition, it wasn’t something I could do on my own until I was well into my twenties.

 

When I heard the story of “The Angels on My Tree,” I knew it was something I needed to implement in my family. My kids are only two and three, but my husband and I are working hard to teach them to be kind, courteous, and respectful little humans, so that they can grow up to be kind, courteous, and respectful big humans.

What I love most about “The Angels on My Tree” is that it empowers my kids to do good by themselves. They don’t have to rely on mom and dad’s money to buy something for someone; through this new tradition, they are learning that acts of kindness can be small, don’t require money, and that anyone can do them.  They are learning that an act of kindness doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture that everyone else can see. They are learning that they, even at two and three, can make a difference in someone else’s day.

Our new motto.
Our new motto.

#WestchesterAngels

I’m so excited to add this new tradition this year. Here’s how it’s working in our house:

  • I let the boys pick out a small Christmas tree for their playroom (hello, 50% off at Michaels! Nice to see you.) While we were at the store, we also picked up some color your own ornaments.
  • I explained to the boys that each time they do something nice for someone else, they can color an ornament and put it on their special tree.
  • As they’re coloring in their ornaments, we talk about what they did, why it was nice, and how it made the other person feel.
  • Throughout the day, we talk about ways we can help other people, and I point out things other people do that is kind/helpful (“Did you see Dad bring Miss Alyce’s garbage can back up to her house? That was really nice of him to do. Now she doesn’t have to go out in the rain.”)

It’s only been a week, but I’m already loving the effect it has on my family. I love using this as a tool to teach my young toddlers about giving, charity, and kindness. I love watching their little faces when they realize they’ve made someone else happy, or when they’re on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness. I love showing them that part of the magic of this season comes from helping others, and not just from tearing open presents. I love showing them that experiences mean more than things.

The Angel Tree
The Angel Tree

Want to Join Us?

One of the best things about this “project” is that you can tailor it however you want. Is your tree already full of ornaments? Hang some string on the wall and let the kids clip up a paper angel for each act of giving. Are angels not your thing? Make it a holiday star or a special snowman instead. Lost for ideas of things to do? Try these fantastic ideas here, here, herehere, and here.

Want to read the story for yourself or learn more about these amazing Hudson Valley mamas? You can find it here.

We’d love to see how your family is implementing this fantastic tradition in your home.  Tell us in an email {[email protected]}, message us on Facebook {here}, or show us a photo on Instagram using the hashtag #westchesterangels. Let’s work together to be #westchesterangels this holiday season!