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Celebrate the real meaning of the holiday season

We just celebrated Christmas. For many, this season of holidays is a time to get together with relatives not seen in a long time or to reflect upon the year that is almost over and what to accomplish for the next year. But for many others, unfortunately, it mistakenly becomes a season for buying. Every year, we are constantly bombarded with ads to make us buy things that we don't really need. We have lists of presents that seem neverending. We become so distracted by all this that we have forgotten the real meaning of the season.

Every year, many families — including mine — spend so much money buying different things for their relatives. For many people, the holiday season is a time to buy the newest iPod, the most expensive Apple watch, the newest model of smartphone, the newest, coolest video game console, or even a car. We have been focused for a long time on spending money to give things, instead of moments, as presents. We have made the holidays about what we buy for others, instead of what we do for others.

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We spend a lot of money on things that, sooner rather than later, will be sitting around the house, unwanted and unused. We spend money on things that we will most likely end up donating because that thrill of getting something new will wear down sooner than we expect. We spend money on things that, unlike memories, quickly lose their value.

That's why this year I decided to do something different. I refused to spend money on material things that in a matter of months will be put aside and forgotten. Instead, I made it my goal to create memories and moments that my family will forever treasure in our hearts. That doesn't mean I didn't spend money — unfortunately, it costs money even to create memories — but at least it was spent on moments that we will forever remember; it was spent on time together as a family.

This year, I planned on doing, not buying. I created opportunities for quality time together. I planned to do things that are special to us but that we don't get to do often. We went to go see a musical together, went ice-skating, watched a play, had a family movie night once and a week, went to museums, went to Gaylord's National Resort and Convention Center's winter wonderland, in National Harbor, and even took a train ride.

This year, I planned on giving instead of getting. I went through all those things that have been forgotten around the house and donated them to those less fortunate so that they would also have a different season and feel the joy of what this season should be about: making a difference.

I invite you to make a difference in someone else's life for the rest of this season and the upcoming ones. I invite you to also make a difference in your own family. Count your blessings, share them with others and spend time with your family. Talk to your children; call those who live far away; send that letter that you should've sent a long time ago; and reconnect with that friend with whom you haven't talked in years. Live the true meaning of the season by giving to those in need and sharing with those you love. Live the joy of this season in its fullest by reconnecting with your heart and "letting that little light of yours shine."

Marta Cruz-Alicea writes every other week for the Life & Times section of the Carroll County Times.

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