Starting new family traditions for the holidays can feel both exciting and intimidating. Having had a new baby this past year, I find myself wondering what kind of traditions I want to start for our family as his first Holiday season approaches. The traditions themselves are not always important. It’s the meaning behind them that really matters. Be intentional when selecting family traditions and remember what you are trying to cultivate – positive family bonding and memories. You can’t go wrong with that motivation!
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Very Well Family wrote this beautiful article on how family traditions help form stronger bonds. It says “traditions can provide families with a sense of identity and belonging. They can inspire positive feelings and memories upon which family members can reminisce. Family traditions also provide a sense of continuity across generations. In other words, they are a way of transferring the family’s values, history, and culture from one generation to the next.” I mean, does it get any more heartwarming than that?! Carrying on existing family traditions is a beautiful way to honor loved ones who have passed.
Pick a Date
If you are carrying forward family traditions from your own childhood, like opening gifts with grandparents on Christmas Eve, it can feel challenging to fit your traditions in. There is no rule book saying these new traditions need to take place on the actual holiday itself. You can customize these to fit you and your family’s schedule! Plan it for December 1st or December 26th. It doesn’t matter. The memories will remain strong, regardless of the date. Keeping your traditions on a day that isn’t already jam-packed with other traditions or holiday gatherings can help keep your new traditions more relaxed. There is no rush, no interruptions, and no one else’s say in the matter. This will make it much more enjoyable for you!
Sharing is Caring
Share these memories with family, friends, your partner, or even just yourself! You get to choose who you create memories with, despite all of the obligatory family events. Pick people who will truly appreciate your traditions and the intentions behind them. As a military family, I understand not being able to spend the holidays back at home with your loved ones. Find virtual ways to celebrate! Schedule a Zoom or FaceTime call to stay involved.
Family Tradition Ideas:
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Taking a Holiday Photo
What better way to capture love and joy than a photo?! My husband and I started this tradition our first year together with the picture above. It’s fun to be able to look back on the memories!
25 Books of Christmas
Read a Christmas book for each of the 25 days of Christmas. Celebrate the reason for the season with this list of 25 unique and diverse books.
Christmas Tree Camp-Out
Pull out all of your blankets and pillows. Build a fort, hang some string lights, and camp out in front of your Christmas tree!
There are so many cute matching pajama sets out there for ultimate the ultimate bonding experience. Plus, they make for some pretty adorable pictures!
Take a Hike
Take a hike or go snowshoeing. Get out into nature and have a moment of peace.
Paint a Dreidel
Design your own Dreidel with this kit. These are easy enough to collect over the years or even display in a shadow box as holiday decor!
Ugly Christmas Sweater
Walk into just about any retail store during the holidays and you are bound to see at least 3 or 4 ugly Christmas sweaters. Collect them over the years and see who can find the ugliest Christmas sweater of all!
Gifting Ornaments or Small Holiday Gifts
Be careful what items you agree to buy each year. I have heard of people gifting snow globes without realizing that one day they may end up with 15+ snowglobes and no more shelf space! My grandmother used to always give a personalized ornament for major life events. She also really loved finding special snowmen ornaments!
If you were to find a meaningful ornament each year, you would be able to fill your tree with memories! You could even consider making your own ornaments each year. There are kits you can purchase to make it simple or you could schedule a time at a local pottery workshop to create more unique ornaments!
Christmas Eve Box
Having a special box to open filled with goodies for Christmas Eve can be an easy and fun way to bond! Fill it with cozy socks, a blanket, movies, and some snacks for the perfect holiday night.
Decorate a Gingerbread House
Whether it’s pre-built or you do-it-yourself, decorating a gingerbread house can be so much fun! It’s a great excuse to be creative (and eat some candy). We built our houses with our friends, Caitlin and Breck. Even though mine completely collapsed at one point, we made some amazing memories!
Board Game Night
One of my personal favorites! I love board games. In fact, I’m a self-proclaimed board game champ/ultimate card shark. My top 5 choices are Egyptian Rat Screw, Monopoly Deal, Code Names, Chickapig, and Sorry!
White Elephant Gift Exchange
For those of you who are not familiar with a white elephant gift exchange, it is a game where people try to walk away with the best holiday gift. You can find the official rules for the game here. This is best played in a medium-large group. It’s perfect for work or family parties!
Picking out a tree
Pick up some hot cocoa and hunt down the perfect tree! There are plenty of Christmas Tree lots open around the holidays or you could consider the environmentally friendly option of renting a tree. The next step is another popular family tradition…
Decorate the Tree
I remember being so excited about this part as a child! Not only did I do this at home with my family, but also at my grandparents’ house. You could spend the night cooking or order food from your favorite restaurant. Many people decorate their trees on Black Friday. You could make that part of your tradition as well.
Give to others in need and spread the holiday cheer. Pick out a gift to donate to those in need. Volunteer at a homeless to give the gift of a good holiday meal. Drop off women’s toiletry supplies at your local women’s shelters. Donate blood. Give in any way that you can.
You could try a Kwanzaa inspired meal like curried banana soup, a fancy winter dish, or even just a family favorite.
A perfect activity to bring out your inner creativity. Do this at the beginning of the holiday season and keep the wreath hanging proudly on your door!
Go Look at Christmas Lights
I don’t care how old you are, this is always a hit! Bring along some apple cider and some holiday treats. You don’t even have to leave the warmth of your car. During the pandemic, our local Aloha Stadium held a light show in their parking lot. The lights were synched up to a local radio station and they offered dinner and snacks. Santa was even there waving at all of the children!
Watch a Movie
My dad watches It’s a Wonderful Life every year on Christmas Eve. He used to do it while he wrapped our Christmas gifts and still does it every year, even after we’ve moved out. No one said this needed to be just one movie either. If you want to watch the entire Star Wars series on your holiday break, I applaud you. I’ll probably be watching it too!
DIY Candle Making
Make your own Hanukkah candles with this kit! This tradition is great for all ages.
Watch a Sports Game
In my experience, there is usually a sporting event on the TV at most holiday gatherings. Team loyalty runs deep in families. Watching a game together makes for easy conversation and natural bonding.
The Four Gift Rule
Quickly becoming more popular, the idea is to give only four gifts during the holidays. Something you want, something you need, something to read, and something to wear. This helps to promote more gratitude and less spending.
We used to bake and decorate Christmas cookies with my grandparents. I feel like I can still perfectly imagine the taste of them! It’s always fun to be creative with the decorating and these make great gifts for loved ones or guests on holidays. You could even turn the baking into a Nailed It style challenge, virtual or in person!
Breakfast in Bed on Christmas
Start your day out peacefully by having breakfast and coffee in bed. Try one of these make-ahead breakfast casseroles for an even easier morning!
Elf on a shelf
The Elf on a Shelf is a fun holiday tradition. It’s great for kids but not just limited to the younger generation! Bring this mischievous little elf with you for fun around the office or use it as a silly prank between friends.
Traditions Create Memories
Regardless of which traditions you decide to start for your family, remember that traditions are really just about creating memories together and sharing the joy of the holidays. Infuse your traditions with love. It won’t really matter what you are doing, just who you are doing it with.
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