Holiday traditions are fantastic for family bonding and making great memories, but sometimes they seem so complicated — how do traditions even start, anyway?
Really, it’s as simple as just doing it the first time — and traditions don’t have to require the advance planning of an Advent calendar, the expense of a family trip, or even the patience of a gingerbread house. If you’re trying to squeeze every bit of Christmas cheer out of this holiday season, it’s actually not too late to start a simple but meaningful new tradition today.
Amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays, focus on a few small things you can do to slow down and appreciate those around you. Beyond piling on the couch to watch your family’s favorite holiday flick, here are a few simple traditions you can start right now to keep the holiday spirit flowing.
Ask every family member to write one happy memory or thing they’re grateful for during this time on a slip of paper. Put all the papers into a jar or bowl you’ve designated as your “Memory Jar,” and commit to adding a new memory, note about a special event, or moment of gratitude once a week or once a month, whatever feels manageable. Then this time next year — and every year thereafter, once it becomes a tradition — you can celebrate the holidays by reading everyone’s memories and remembering all of the great things that happened in the year before.
Pile up your favorite holiday treat and pass it on to someone who needs some holiday cheer. Store bought treats are always appreciated, but you could make it even more special by gathering in the kitchen to make something together. Pick a friend, a stranger, or someone in your area who may not have a lot of visitors this time of year, and leave the (securely wrapped) cookies, hot cocoa mix, or other treat on their doorstep or in their mailbox for them to discover. Or, instead of dropping the gift and dashing, you could head over singing Christmas carols for an even more spirited surprise.
This is also a really nice thing to do at fire stations, hospitals, and other places where municipal and service personnel still have to work, even on holidays. It’s a great way to show your appreciation, while teaching your kids about giving back to the community.
Note that it’s a nice idea to include the recipe in your package — that way the recipient can make more if they like, and it’s a great way to let them know the ingredients in case they have a food sensitivity or allergy.
Christmas Eve Wishes
Christmas Eve is the perfect time to make a wish for the upcoming year. Family members can write or draw something they hope will come true by next Christmas on their own slip of paper. Each person can share their wish or roll it up and keep it private, then put the wishes into clear plastic ornaments (available online or in craft stores) or folded paper ones (like this or this), either decorating the outside or leaving them plain. Hang them on the tree to be opened the following year, when your family can either add to the wishes already inside their ornament or create new ones.
If you’re planning a family, friend or work get-together, ask that everyone bring a recipe to share. You can collect them and create a book of everyone’s recipes, then share copies with all the contributors at a later date to commemorate your holiday together. Continuing this tradition year after year is a great way to document the times you had together and the food you shared, as well as share dishes that are special to you personally or culturally. If they have a story behind the recipe that can be included, that’s even better!
Put out an extra stocking to fill with items that can be donated to a charitable organization; your family can decide where the stocking will be donated to help you determine what should go inside. For example, if you’re donating to a homeless shelter, you can take a trip to the store where your kids can help you pick out new socks, toothbrushes and other personal care items to include. If you choose a food pantry, you can “shop” from your own pantry, go door to door in the neighborhood to ask for donations, or fill the stocking with grocery gift cards. You can even tell guests about your family stocking in case they want to contribute when they visit!
No matter what new holiday tradition you begin, the most important thing you can do is choose to be in the moment as you celebrate this holiday season. Let go of the pressure of perfect photos and a spotless home and create memories that revolve around giving back to the community and enjoying the company of those you love.