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5 ways to buck holiday tradition

Every year, the holidays go by way too fast — and we often get far too little out of them. From the whirlwind of cookie-cutter parties to the family gathering that goes south before the first snap of the game, it can get old.

So why not try something new? Buck tradition this year and consider incorporating some new ideas into your celebrations. You just may find they bring a little more comfort, joy (and reward) to the season.

1. Send it off in a letter

Sure, it’s nice when those gathered ‘round your Thanksgiving table take turns saying what they are grateful for – health, family, good friends who made the trip. Just imagine how much more impactful it would be if they each wrote a letter of appreciation to someone from their past or present. Maybe it’s a caregiver who puts your mind at ease when you can’t be with your parent, a teacher who gave you the kick in the pants when you needed it most, or a neighbor you’ve been meaning to thank for dragging your trash bins from the curb while you’re at work. Mail the notes in time for Thanksgiving delivery and truly make someone’s holiday.

2. Feed your genealogy obsession

Many families already incorporate dishes from the Old World into their holiday meal planning. But with the rising popularity of DNA tests like Ancestry.com, 23andMe, and MyHertitage, maybe you’ve only recently discovered a missing piece of your background. Or it could be you were mistaken all this time and have been brewing Borscht when you should have been salting salmon. If you’ve uncovered Native American roots or just want to celebrate a true Thanksgiving harvest, try a ginger, carrot and turnip casserole with candied chestnuts. Unexpectedly Ukrainian? Trade in your holiday cookies for a batch of Kutya porridge, eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity. Or get in touch with your inner Brit by dishing up their famous Christmas Pudding (go a step further and bury a silver coin inside, which is said to bring good luck to whoever finds it). Whatever your genetic makeup, this is a great time to embrace your history and expand your palate.

3. Wrap it up

Even for the most ardent gift wrapper, the thought of barricading yourself in a room alone for hours on end sounds less than festive. Make a party out of it this year by inviting friends over to cut, fold and tape the night away. Just have your guests bring their presents, while you provide an assortment of papers to please (think shiny, eco-friendly, whimsical, classic, non-denominational), bows, tags, ribbon, boxes and gift toppers. Encourage a little friendly competition by giving an award for best wrapped or a booby prize to the most crafty-challenged. Further add to the merriment with a signature holiday cocktail, like the White Christmas Mojito made with coconut milk and garnished with pomegranate arils and mint leaves.

4. Pick a theme

Drawing names among family members for the holiday gift exchange has become commonplace. Unfortunately, so have the presents. A sweater for your brother. Bath products for your sister-in-law. The latest video game for your reticent teenage nephew. All fine gifts, but how much fun are they? Add a little interest and intrigue by selecting a theme. A few possibilities: 1.) Green Theme – anything in the color green, something environmentally friendly, or simply a wad of dollar bills. 2.) Holiday Heat – everything from a Keurig coffee maker or a hot sauce gift set to a stone massage certificate. 3.) Sparkle and shine – think beyond the obvious diamond jewelry and wrap up a bottle of Prosecco, a vintage brass timepiece or a brand spanking new bowling ball.

5. Binge in the holidays

Between the shopping, decorating, baking and socializing, the ramp-up of the holidays can leave you feeling like a limp dishrag. So after the last present is opened, the last latke fried or the candles on the Kinara extinguished, it’s time to finally chill. Your job is done. Now is when you crash on the couch and binge-watch all the shows you were too busy to catch up on when you were running around like a mad person. That’s right, grab your new fleece throw and that tower of Harry & David treats, and settle in for a day of not lifting a finger. Your kids will probably be too busy with their new gadgets to talk to you anyway

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