These millennials demonstrate there's no wrong way to make a little holiday magic.

Leah Ableson is a 24-year-old wedding planner living in New York City, and she’s made it her mission to create traditions that bring others joy.

On paper, Leah could be quintessential material for the opening of a Christmas movie: a millennial who’s overtaxed by work and too busy to think of anyone other than herself before having an unexpected run-in with Santa that reminds her of the true meaning of Christmas. But Leah’s already begun a tradition of helping others around the holidays with no Santa run-in required.

Busy as she is, Leah sets aside her birthday every year — just a few weeks before the holidays — to go shopping for as many toys as she can afford, and then she drops them off at Toys for Tots. She’s also part of a bigger annual tradition: She’s a member of a specially trained team that helps Macy's host Santa and his elves during their month-long residency at SantaLand on 34th Street.


All images via iStock.

Leah created her holiday traditions to be about one thing: keeping the magic alive for others.

She sees much of that magic firsthand as children — and adults! — interact with Santa. "There have been kids who have asked for peace in the world, or peace in their families, or for their parents to get everything that they've ever wanted," she writes in a message. "You really see so much good.”

That human goodness — and Santa’s ability to coax it out of people and into the open — is what constitutes holiday magic in Leah’s book. The idea that she, too, could spread some magic of her own is what inspired her to start her own toy-drive tradition.

"Seeing the kids at SantaLand every year really drove home to me how special Christmas and the magic surrounding it are for a lot of them," she says. "To a lot of kids, toys aren't these material objects, they are treasures that inspire their imagination and creativity. Going out and picking out toys for kids felt like a way that I could sort of encourage that magic."

There's a common misconception that millennials are universally uninterested in traditions. But Leah is definitely not alone in using rituals new and old to celebrate the season.

Across her generation, people are doing the same thing: picking and choosing which traditions are important based not on an older generation's input, but on what rituals bring them and their communities the most joy.

For 23-year-old Mae McKenna, midnight Mass is the event that completes her Christmas. She goes with her seven-person family, and as she begins to think about starting a family of her own, she says that church will be a tradition that she keeps with her.

"There’s a lot of really sweet magical stories that come out of the religious end of the holiday that keep people humble," she shares. "It’ll be important to me to pass that onto my kids so they care more about spending time with family and celebrating than focusing on the gifts they get."

For a family of swing dancers, it's raucous cooking-and-dancing Christmas prep that defines the season. "We listen to the same six CDs in the same six-disk CD changer," explains 22-year-old Carolyn Chadwick. "It's not so much about the gift-getting or giving. My family doesn't get along very well, but something happens to us when we dance. I can't quite describe it, but it's important that we keep doing it."

Some traditions are downright ridiculous but no less treasured. "I created a tradition of always getting my brother and sister wooden shapes from Michael's for Christmas. It's the worst gift ever, and it's always funny," says 24-year-old Ryan Creamer, who says he started giving at least one truly terrible present every year to lighten the pressure associated with trying to give the perfect gift.

That Leah, Mae, Ryan, Carolyn, and others put so much thought into their holiday traditions contradicts the notion that their generation is too "self-centered" to care about such things.

"I think millennials have a way of saying when we think something is pointless, or being done for the wrong reason," Leah wrote. "And so I think a lot of the traditions that older generations may have held onto are being questioned, but I don't think it's because we don't respect tradition. I'd like to think our age group upholds fewer traditions, but the ones that we uphold have great value."

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A new Harriet Tubman statue sculpted by Emmy and Academy award-winner Wesley Wofford has been revealed, and its symbolism is moving to say the least.

Harriet Tubman was the best known "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped thousands of enslaved black Americans make their way to freedom in the north in the early-to-mid 1800s. Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849, then kept returning to the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead others to freedom. She worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war dedicated her life to helping formerly enslaved people try to escape poverty.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

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The Hillary Clinton email scandal was a major right-wing talking point during the 2016 election that aimed to create an air of suspicion around the candidate.

The media played right into it turning Clinton — one of the most qualified candidates to ever run for the office — appear just as unworthy of the presidency as Trump, a vulgar, politically-inexperienced pathological liar.

The controversy surrounded Clinton's use of a private email account in which over 30,000 emails were sent during her time as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. An FBI interrogation found there were 110 confidential emails sent from her private account.

Clinton was never criminally charged, however FBI director James Comey said she was "extremely careless."

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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