12/09/2011 04:12 pm ET

Giving-Back Holiday: A Family Dinner Table Talk

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

As the year winds down and the presents pile up, it's easy to get caught in the shop-and-buy frenzy of the holiday season. It's important to remember this is a season about giving though, not just buying. Instead of asking for the gifts you want this year, what if you asked for glasses to help a child who can't see, or a mosquito net to prevent a family from getting malaria?

In The New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof's "Gifts That Say You Care" gift guide, he highlights five great organizations to think about giving to. A $5 donation to Against Malaria will provide a bed net to a family in the part of Africa where many young children are getting sick. Would you be willing to give up one of the gifts in your stocking for that?

If being green and keeping the earth a comfortable place to live for everyone, including animals, is something you're passionate about, check out the NRDC's "Green Gifts" gift guide. You can help protect forests from being chopped down or preserve the habitats for all kinds of wildlife. Even at home, rally some people together and volunteer to plant trees in your neighborhood.

Caring about charity doesn't mean you have to give up presents altogether. HuffPost High School has compiled unique DIY gift ideas for the artsy, the tech-y, and the geeky that take time, but not much money to make. Or you can go even simpler while staying creative -- write a poem for someone and express through words their importance in your life.

So as we get closer to Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa, let's talk about giving -- and getting -- new kinds of gifts.

Questions for discussion:

  • Is there a charity you'd want to support instead of getting all your presents this year?
  • What's something you could make as a gift for your parents? Your siblings? A friend?
  • What do you think about having a no-gift-at-all holiday?


In her new cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.

Subscribe to receive HuffPost Family Dinner Downloads by email every Friday afternoon.

For more tips and recipes, check out The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt (