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Go Beyond “Secret Santa”: Try “Primerrily Poinsettia”

We’ve all enjoyed the Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange. Those holiday pastimes can be fun, but they also can be a waste of your money or a major bummer if you get stuck with some tchotchke that a busy mom pulled out of her regifting bin (not that we’ve ever done that . . . ) 2020 is a year that has been unlike any other most of us has experienced, so why not mix up how you do gifting surprises with a “Primerrily Poinsettia”? Throw in some chocolate and sing a carol or two as a door opens, and your kids will think this new holiday activity makes for even better reactions than the fleeting thrills of opening the latest LOL doll.

What do we mean by the “Primerrily Poinsettia”?

Next time you’re at the grocery, pick up an extra poinsettia or two. A bar of peppermint dark chocolate is a nice accompaniment, too. Bundle your kids up one evening, don the tacky but oh-so-fun holiday light necklaces (which help me know where my kids are at all times in the dark!) and have the fam walk on over to a neighbor’s house.

Don’t worry if you don’t know their names; the “Primerrily Poinsettia” is all the better when you share it with someone you haven’t met. Ask your kids to place the seasonal flower and any other goodies by the front doorstep, ring the bell, and take six (Abominable Snowman-sized) steps back. When your neighbor opens the door, belt out a favorite holiday tune and say you wanted to bring some cheer. A further spin on this idea: as you sing, hold up a festive sign nothing that your family is here to bring some cheer. It might help some quizzical neighbors get the picture a little quicker. After all, there aren’t many people ringing doorbells these days unless it’s Amazon delivery!

If you want to jazz it up even more, consider dropping off a little note with your names and address (so they know which house is yours) and sign it from your family.

For a free printable you can use to make this festive greeting a cinch, click here.

My kids love this activity. I dress them in their matching PJs, and they take turns carrying the flowers and the chocolate, and picking the songs they’ll sing. We’ve been heartened to see how our neighbors join in the singing and even find a treat or two to give back to our kids. One woman even ran back inside to put on her reindeer suit to join in the fun! If you’re on the fence about trying the "Primerrily Poinsettia," ask yourself, when’s the last time you experienced a Christmas caroler? Exactly.

If you’re on the fence about trying the "Primerrily Poinsettia," ask yourself, when’s the last time you experienced a Christmas caroler? Exactly.

Still, what if your kids (or you) aren’t comfortable meeting a neighbor uninvited, let alone singing a cappella? No worries. Turn the activity into a game by asking your kids to see how fast they can put the flower down, ring the bell, and run . . . just make sure you leave a little note that says “From a Caring Neighbor.” Or perhaps a “Secret Santa” does make his appearance again after all!

P.S. You can teach some American history and entertain your kids with a mysterious legend about the poinsettia! Here’s the scoop: the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, introduced Americans to the plant in the 1820s. As you might have guessed, his surname is where we get the name for the flower. Its association with Christmas started in Mexico in the 1600s where it was called the Flor de Fuego (Flower of Fire) or Flor de la Nochebuena (Flower of the Holy Night). Mexican legend has it that a little poor girl wanted to offer the baby Jesus a gift in celebration of his birthday, but she lacked the money. An angel appeared to her and told her to find some weeds and place them by the church altar. Miraculously, they were transformed into red petals and verdant leaves - the poinsettia. A lovely Christmas book by Tomie de Paola Joy to the World: Tomie's Christmas Stories includes this tale and had my kids actually sitting still for once at the breakfast table. Joy to our world for that!


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