A New Twist on Holiday Joy Teaches Kids to Keep on Giving

By Daniella Guzman

holiday traditions


She starts off on the mantel – all knowing smiles and wide eyes – seemingly watching your kids’ every move. The next day, she moves to another spot in the house, still smiling, still watching, waiting to tell Santa who’s being naughty or nice. Does your family use one of Santa’s elves as part of your holiday tradition?  

I love the stories behind holiday traditions – how each of us can take a tradition and put our own little twist on it. At my home, we place a huge focus on spreading joy and kindness as a family and we use our elf to help us do that. We named our family’s elf Joy, and also like to refer to her as our “kindness elf.” 

During a time when kids receive a lot of gifts and treats, my husband and I make it our mission to remind our daughters to keep giving well beyond Thanksgiving. After we put up our Christmas tree, Santa leaves a box filled with holiday-themed pajamas for each child, a holiday book, some treats and Joy. Santa also leaves a note in the box, asking the children to partner up with Joy to complete one act of kindness every day in December.  

Each morning, Joy leaves a handwritten note under the tree, detailing the day’s act-of-kindness assignment. Our daughter Sofia, eager to see what Joy has in store for her each morning, runs downstairs to grab the day’s assignment. Some acts of kindness we’ve done in the past include making a sibling’s bed, delivering a meal to someone in need, taking food to a food pantry and beautifying our neighborhood by picking up trash or sweeping leaves off the sidewalk.  

On the last day of December, Joy leaves a goodbye letter, thanking the children for all the good things they’ve done and congratulating them on creating wonderful memories. 

Another tradition we enjoy is placing a large bag under the tree before Christmas Day. In the bag, there’s a note from Santa, asking my daughters to place five to 10 gently used toys inside the sack. Santa explains that he takes the toys to the North Pole before delivering them to underprivileged children. Then, on Christmas morning, Santa leaves new toys for our children in exchange for their used ones. It’s a fun tradition and a great way to make room for new gifts – the material ones and the immaterial ones left inside our daughters’ hearts. 

You can find more acts of kindness at NBCLA.com/Wishingtree 

Daniella Guzman is the anchor on NBC4 Southern California’s “Today in LA” weekday morning newscast, 4:30-7 a.m., and a mother of two. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @daniellanbcla. 

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