Metropolitan Ministries’ annual Holiday Gift Market helps reach the community in need every year.

The holiday season is quickly approaching. The busyness and fast pace of Christmas can be overwhelming and exhausting. However, taking a step back and enjoying Christmas traditions with family can be a release. There are many traditions kids can participate in that bring families closer and help them remember the reason for the season.

One fun tradition to do as a family is to look at Christmas lights. Besides local neighborhoods, there are events in the area that put on light shows. Plant City’s Christmas Lane ( and the Burton Family Light Show in Valrico ( are such options.

There is also the live nativity called Walk Through Bethlehem (WTB) held at Kings Avenue Baptist Church in Brandon. This event is only put on for a few days: Thursday, December 7 through Sunday, December 10. WTB is a live-action nativity telling the classic Christmas story. Reserve a spot at

A local realtor, Sarah Hart with the Hart Group, said, “I enjoy spending time with my family at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, where the riverwalk is transformed into a Winter Village. This transformation includes luxury decorations, ice skating, faux snow and more.”

More information for this event can be found at

At-home traditions for the family include spending December watching a Christmas movie each day or baking cookies and bringing them to the neighbors together. Another idea is making simple, inexpensive crafts, such as cards, gift tags or presents from Dollar Tree finds. Finding items around the house to recycle and make ornaments together can be fun, like turning an empty baby food jar into a snow globe.

Christmas countdowns are also a great way to include the kids in preparing for Christmas. Some Advent calendars have a candy or flavor of coffee for each day. Other Advent calendars focus on biblical Scriptures, suggesting a Scripture a day for the month of December.

Finally, to get into the spirit of giving, there are many local volunteer opportunities that the whole family can participate in. Metropolitan Ministries has events to volunteer at, like toy and food drives or giving out donations to families in need. Many local YMCAs participate in the Angel Tree program; when entering a YMCA location, grab an angel off the tree and return the requested gifts for that child. Reach out to your local YMCA for Angel Tree locations. You can also call the Salvation Army of Tampa for a list of Angel Tree locations throughout the county at 813-549-5303. These are all great ways to encourage giving in the heart of families.

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Ashley Abene
Ashley Abene has written for the Osprey Observer since 2023. She has a master’s degree in writing and literature and a bachelor’s degree in professional writing from the University of South Florida. She has taught college-level writing and literature at USF and Southeastern University for over nine years. She’s a blogger at Peace Filled Family and enjoys writing children’s books. She’s also a mom to three kids, and her husband has been serving in the military for over 20 years.