Editor’s Note: Tanya is back to share some great activities your family will love this holiday season.
Christmas is my favorite holiday. When I was child, I loved it for the presents, but as I grew older, it became less about the presents and more about the traditions. I think this happens to most people. Presents decrease in importance while traditions and memories grow in value. Unfortunately, too many still over-emphasize gifts and overlook creating valuable traditions.
This has never been a problem in our family. We always spend Christmas Eve at my Grandma’s house. She always makes oyster stew and eventually added chili to the menu because too many of us didn’t eat oysters (myself included). But, if she didn’t make oyster stew, even us non-oyster stew eaters would throw a fit, because making fun of the brave souls who eat those slimy suckers is part of the tradition! In honor of my family’s holiday traditions, I put together a list of ideas for those who want to start or add some new family traditions to their holiday season.
20 Favorite Holiday Traditions
It is the traditions we celebrate during the holidays that we remember and cherish. Here are some fun and frugal ideas for you.
Take an Evening Tour of All the Christmas Lights
Whether there is a neighborhood in your community renown for their holiday lights or you just drive around, marvel in the beauty of all the houses lit up for the holidays. Put some hot chocolate or apple cider in travel mugs, turn on the Christmas tunes and start cruising.
Best Snowman Competition
If you live somewhere with snow, there is nothing more fun than building a snowman. Hold a competition to see who builds the best snowman (turn into a neighborhood event to ramp up the competition and holiday cheer) and warm up afterwards with a big mug of hot chocolate (this was my favorite part!).
Go Ice Skating or Sledding
Grab your ice skates or sleds and invite friends and neighbors to join you in some winter fun. Invite everyone back to your home afterwards to enjoy some holiday treats and hot chocolate.
Tip: This is a great activity for the holiday break.
Watch Your Favorite Holiday Movie
There are so many great holidays movies from oldies but goodies, like It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas to more modern classics, like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf. Make your family’s favorite meal, put on pajamas and get comfy while you watch your favorite holiday movie. Finish the night with a special holiday treat.
Attend Holiday Concerts and/or Plays
There are a ton of concerts, plays, ballets and events celebrating the season throughout December. Many are free or very low-cost. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit and support your local community too.
Go Christmas Caroling
This may seem a bit old-fashioned, but kids really LOVE singing Christmas songs. You can gather a bunch of kids and have them carol in the neighborhood or take them to a nursing home or hospital to sing to the residents or patients.
Visit Santa Claus
I used to beg and beg and beg my Mom to take me to the mall to visit Santa. She’d eventually give in and take me. And when it was my turn to sit on Santa’s lap, I would either refuse to do so or sit on his lap and cry. I like to say I was starstruck instead of scared. While I agree Christmas has become heavily commercialized, sitting on Santa’s lap is something every young child should experience.
Bake Holiday Treats
Nothing beats homemade holiday treats. Turn into a family event by inviting your kids to bake cookies and other treats with you. They can roll out dough, cut out cookies and decorate them. They may not be bakery perfect, but they will taste delicious and your kids will be so proud to serve them to guests.
Host a Holiday Potluck or Progressive Dinner
Gathering with friends to celebrate the season is always fun, but it can be a bit spendy if you do everything yourself. The good news is people are happy to help out. Host a potluck or a progressive dinner, so that you don’t have to buy and make all the food in order to spend time with loved ones.
Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen
Christmas is a time of giving, so consider volunteering at a soup kitchen. It will be an eye-opening experience for your kids who may be more (or too) focused on the receiving aspect of Christmas.
Collect Toys to Give to Shelters
Have your kids pick gently used toys to donate to kids at your local homeless and/or women’s shelters. Invite friends, neighbors and church members to join your efforts.
Sponsor a Family or Child
This is a popular holiday favorite for a good reason. We have so much, but not everyone is so fortunate. Too many kids would not receive a gift or big holiday meal without the kindness of strangers. When you sponsor a family or child, give to Toys for Tots or participate in some other program, you’re truly embodying the holiday spirit.
Make a Gingerbread House
Play some favorite Christmas tunes and pretend not to notice when some of the decorations disappear into mouths instead of going onto the house. Consider making two and sharing one with someone who is alone for the holidays or bring it to a local nursing home.
Roast Marshmallows and Read a Christmas Story
Gather around your fireplace in your pajamas and roast some marshmallows while you read one of your favorite Christmas stories. Even if you don’t have a fireplace, your kids will love reading a favorite holiday story out loud together.
Make Homemade Christmas Cards
Turn Christmas cards into a fun crafts project. There are a ton of ideas on Pinterest and your cards will be treasured gifts to be displayed, rather than discarded.
Create a Holiday Video in Lieu of a Christmas Cards
If making traditional Christmas cards doesn’t appeal to you, then consider creating some sort of a holiday video — a montage of highlights from the past year, kids reenacting their favorite Christmas story or just a holiday message from the family — to share with loved ones. You can post the video on YouTube and Facebook and send the link to family and friends.
Purchase a Special Ornament Each Year
While a coordinated Christmas tree looks gorgeous, there is something special about a tree filled with ornaments that have a story or meaning behind them, even if they are not color coordinated. When I have the opportunity, I like to pick up an ornament for my Mom when I travel. She always asked me where I bought it so she can note it on the box.
Complete a Holiday Puzzle
Pick a big jigsaw puzzle to work on every night with the goal to complete it on Christmas Eve. It’s a fun, family project and a great way to enjoy a low-key evening together.
Tip: Pick up the puzzle for next year during the after Christmas clearance sales.
Make Holiday Crafts and Decorations
You can literally find thousands of Pinterest boards on making holiday crafts and decorations and they look gorgeous, often times better than what you can buy. If you’re crafty, or even if you’re not, this is a great family project and your home will look so festive.
Create Christmas Eve/Day Routine
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the two days that everyone tends to focus on, so think about what you want to do those days. We’ve done the same thing my entire life, and it wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t go to Grandma’s house for oyster stew (or chili for me!), then off to Church for the candlelight service and then back to Grandma’s to open presents and eat holiday treats on Christmas Eve. This is comfort to me. What you choose to do is what your kids will remember forever and emulate with their kids some day.
The Family Traditions Golden Rule
We have a tendency to overdo everything at Christmas, from the amount we spend to the commitments we make. Don’t say “yes” to everything but take a step back and really think about what you TRULY want to do this season. Too much of anything can lower its value, even family traditions. Take your time and decide which traditions matter most to you and your family and make them a priority.
What are your favorite holiday traditions?