Are your family holidays full of meaningful traditions? Or do they feel weighed down by things you do by rote, or worse, expectations that leave you drained or fighting with your family members?
Family traditions can make the holiday season more enjoyable, add deeper meaning and can also help strengthen family bonds.Yet many family traditions are adopted from your own childhood or because they are familiar or expected. If your family’s traditions aren’t really adding deeper meaning and aren’t something that excites you, consider changing them up! It’s okay to add new traditions, tweak old ones or even get rid of some all together!
Consider these questions when thinking about family traditions:
- What is meaningful to your family?
- What values do you want to focus on at Christmas time?
- What kinds of activities are reasonable to repeat every year (and won’t become a source of stress down the road)?
- What is your cultural background?
- What traditions does your family look forward to most each year?
- Looking back, what activities has bonded your family the most?
The answers to these questions will help guide you in determining what traditions to repeat or add and which to let go!
Whether you have a new baby, young children, or just wanting to change it up, here are some fun family traditions for you to consider.
Holiday traditions you can do with a baby
- Make an ornament with a handprint or footprint.
- Make or buy an ornament with a recent photo of your child. Add a new photo ornament each year.
- Take a cute photo for your holiday card.
- Make or give a special new stocking for the newest family member.
- Gift a Christmas music box with a favorite carol.
- Write a letter to your child (and do it every year).
- Start a Christmas scrapbook.
- New Christmas pajamas or a blanket.
- Visit Santa Claus. Make a holiday photo album and add a new picture each year!
Holiday traditions that involve the kids
- Make a batch of ornaments (grandparents love these) and keep one for your own tree.
- Leave milk and cookies out on Christmas Eve night for Santa Claus.
- Write a letter to Santa each year (Or for tech-savy kids, you can email Santa!)
- Give a special ornament to each child. When they eventually move out, they can take that collection with them to decorate their own tree.
- As a family, write your holiday letter. Have each member contribute one memorable moment from the year to be recorded to share with friends and family.
- Make cookies, have a cookie decorating party.
- Count down to Christmas with a themed advent calendar.
- Wrap up “Christmas Eve in a box” with new pajamas, cozy socks, movies, hot chocolate and popcorn.
- Check out holiday lights in your area. Get in the car, turn on your holiday playlist, and find brightly lit houses.
- Volunteer together (adopt a family, staff a food kitchen, support a cause, donate toys, food or warm clothing).
- Go to a Christmas tree farm to cut down a tree (or pick out a fresh tree) and decorate it as a family.
- Have special books or readings that only come out at this time of the year.
- Set aside one night each week to watch a holiday movie or television special, such “Miracle on 34th Street” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
- Practice giving: Help your kids make gifts for other family members, choose a special toy to pass on to a sibling, and help wrap gifts for others. Some gifts kids can make themselves are coupons (let them pick what the coupon can be traded for!), craft projects, handmade ornaments, those cookies you made together, or writing letters to soldiers or others who are far from their families.
- Go caroling in your neighborhood.
- Attend the late service at your church on Christmas Eve, even if it is way past bedtime.
- Go to a Christmas music concert.
- See a local production of ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ or another holiday-themed show.
- Create a scavenger hunt for special presents.
- Take turns opening presents so everyone gets to see all the gifts.
- Make gingerbread houses.
- Have silly Christmas Eve fun, like having a themed dinner, have your kids put on a show or have a family-wide talent show.
- Take the same picture each year of the whole family.
Remember that an activity can be full of meaning and still be fun! Be sure to talk to your kids about why your family continues certain traditions and the importance of doing it every year. And make sure you get your children involved in deciding what traditions to keep or toss. You might be surprised to learn what activities mean the most to them!