SCARBOROUGH — It’s the night of Black Friday, and I’m watching TV news coverage recalling this crazy day.

I see cars circling full parking lots trying to find vacant spaces. People huddle in blankets waiting for stores to open. They stand in the bitter cold on endless lines for many hours. Others camp out in tents until they can grab their bargains. Unbelievably, even a few infants and children wait with adults.

There are no smiles, just grim faces thinking about their shopping strategies. When the stores finally open, crowds push and shove to be the first to buy their desired items. Gleeful folks are interviewed while holding up their purchases as if they hold the secret to happiness.

We’ve all seen children crying in stores because they are tired and overstimulated while their parents struggle to find and afford the most popular items of the season. Exhausted shoppers travel from store to store looking for theme toys and games from the latest movies, thinking that this will make their holiday special. People get hung up buying “things” and “stuff” trying to please their children.

I can’t help but think how much happier families could be if they focused on togetherness rather than on purchasing more electronic items that isolate people. Individual pursuits like playing video games do nothing to bring families together. Cranky grown-ups who spend hours looking for the perfect gift aren’t much fun to be around.

Although holidays can be joyful, they can also be the most stressful times of the year. Families struggle to afford things they believe are essential to having a special day.

This is a fact: Holidays don’t need to be about shopping. I asked friends to recall their fondest childhood memories. With few exceptions, they remembered doing things with their families, visiting relatives, carrying on traditions and playing with friends.

Things don’t make memories – people do. Toys and video games get lost and forgotten, but memories last forever. What is best for your children is spending quality time with you and with the people they love. Your time and attention are the most essential and important gifts you can give.

Take the time to be together as a family during this holiday season. Talk with your children and really listen to what they have to say. Don’t pretend to listen while you are thinking of what you need to do next. Create a home environment of peace and caring. Togetherness is what will make any holiday memorable.

Reflect on the blessings in your life. Children look up to you for more than shelter and food. They need to know how special and important they are to you.

Tell your children how thankful you are to have them in your life. Take time to have fun with them and enjoy their presence in your home.

There are many free or inexpensive ways to make the holidays special for your family without wasting endless hours shopping and spending tons of money. Visit your local library to borrow books and create family reading time.

Work on a puzzle together, build a snowman, take a walk, cook and eat dinner together, make homemade cards and gifts, visit an elderly neighbor or shut-in or help someone who needs it. Donate gently used coats and boots to keep others warm.

Bake and decorate cookies. Children love to cook and can learn a lot while doing so. Sing a song together. Tell your kids how other cultures and religions celebrate their holidays. Explain the concept of a random act of kindness and then perform one.

Talk with your children about their ideas and goals for the future. You will be surprised at how much they have to say if you really listen. Look at old photos and tell your children the story of your family. Tell them about your own childhood memories.

Yes, you need to do some preparing, cleaning, wrapping, cooking and all those things that go into the holidays. But shopping isn’t what will make your holiday memorable. Being together as a family is what really matters.

Whatever way you choose to spend the upcoming season, enjoy your family for the wonderful people they are and have a happy, healthy 2015.

— Special to the Press Herald