The holiday season is truly a magical time of year, and part of what makes it so memorable and joyous are the traditions we share with our loved ones, many of which have been passed down from one generation to the next.
Some of the most practiced Christmas traditions include holiday decorating, lots of cooking and eating, and exchanging gifts, but there are literally hundreds of big and small ways to add sparkle to your family’s holiday experience.
We’ve compiled a list of 15 traditions to keep you and your family busy making memories together this Christmas.
1. Host a Christmas sing-along. This is a fun and simple way to get together with family and friends for something other than food and gifts this holiday season. You can gather around a piano or use a karaoke machine. If you’re worried that your guests will be too embarrassed to take part, be sure to add some extroverts to the invite list to get things going.
2. Start a collection. It can be an ornament, a decorative item or even a piece of holiday China or crystal. Pick something Christmassy to collect and add to it every year.
3. Homemade ornaments. Crafty families can keep busy all season (or even all year) long by making ornaments for an entirely homemade Christmas tree—from the topper to the skirt and everything in between!
4. Set shoes out for St. Nick. December 6 marks the Feast of Saint Nicholas. Families all around the world celebrate by leaving their shoes (or stockings) out on the evening of December 5 for St. Nick to fill with small gifts and treats. Some children even leave their letters to Santa on this night instead of mailing them.
5. Host a Christmas movie trivia night—for the grownups! Date night! Google “Christmas trivia” and you will find countless results for trivia question ideas and free (or cheap) printables. Make it extra fun by wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and serving up holiday cocktails.
6. Try a new holiday recipe. More than likely, your family members have their must-have, all-time favorite dishes they want served every year. But why not add to the menu, or replace a less desirable item with something totally new?
7. Be charitable. Pick a cause to support each year by donating time, money or goods. You can stick with the same one or switch it up. Some popular holiday charities include Angel Tree, local homeless shelters/soup kitchens, food banks and clothing drives.
8. Movie marathon. Pick a day to sit around in your Christmas pjs and binge-watch all your favorite movies of the season. This can be a family day or even a playdate for the kids and their friends. Or do both!
9. Countdown to Christmas with books! Instead of a traditional advent calendar to count down the days to December 25, invest in a collection of Christmas books and read one to the kids each night before bed, starting on the day after Thanksgiving, December 1, or any date you choose. It might take a few years to build your collection, so start with a week or two before Christmas and lengthen the countdown as your inventory grows.
10. Be neighborly. Hosting a neighborhood cookie swap not only fills your pantry with goodies, it’s also an opportunity to make new friends. Expand your baking horizons by having everyone include the recipe along with their treats.
11. Get creative. Some of us are stuck on our traditional meal—turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. But not everyone enjoys the typical holiday fare, so don’t be afraid to branch out and do something different. Plan your menu around a theme (i.e., Italian, Indian or Chinese cuisine), or make reservations and eat out. Larger families can even host a potluck where everyone brings a non-traditional side or dessert.
12. Take part in winter activities. Go outside and play together as a family—winter style! Ice skating, sledding, skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, tubing, and playing in the snow are all fun ways to enjoy winter and stay active.
13. Go to local holiday events. Most communities have tree lightings, parades and other events around the holidays. Most are free and kid-friendly. Check out your county’s calendar or local Parks and Rec for offerings.
14. Honor a loved one. If you’re missing someone this Christmas, consider honoring them in a special way. It can be a donation made in their name, hanging up a special memorial ornament, making a memory wreath, or planting a tribute tree.
15. Take a trip. Some folks revel in the chaos of Christmas, but some really don’t. If your family dreads or just isn’t excited about the holiday season, maybe it’s time for a break. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on traditional holiday trappings, plan a vacation. Go make your family holiday memories at a ski resort or at the beach.
However you choose to celebrate the season, do what works for you and your family. Adopt new traditions, ditch old ones that no longer serve you, and simply enjoy being present with the ones who matter the most. Merry Christmas!
When Someone You Love has the Holiday Blues
The holidays aren’t always happy for everyone. If you or someone you know is struggling with the Holiday Blues this Christmas season, know that you’re not alone. People with preexisting depression or anxiety are especially prone.
Some common signs, according to Cedars- Sinai psychologist Dr. Michael Wetter, of someone dealing with depression are:
- Withdrawn mood
- Erratic or impulsive behavior
- Unusual non-responsiveness to texts or phone calls
Ways you can help:
- Express your concern/ care for the individual.
- Acknowledge that the holidays can be challenging for some and it’s OK not to be in a happy holiday mood.
- Remind them that brighter times are likely ahead, even if they aren’t feeling it right now.
- Simply let them know you are there for them.
If you are experiencing a crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or Teen Line at 1-800-TLC-TEEN.