Holiday traditions are fantastic for family bonding and making great memories, but…how do traditions even start, anyway? Really, it’s as simple as just doing it the first time—and with so many things being different this holiday season, it’s the perfect year to add something new and fun to your festivities!
Expand your horizons
Grab your (imaginary) passports and pick a different country or culture to learn about each year. Research their holiday traditions and choose one to incorporate into your own. Find out why Ukranian Christmas trees are covered in spider webs, leave a space at your Portugese Consoada supper to honor loved ones who recently passed away, or celebrate the Night of the Radishes by trying your hand at carving the little vegetable like they do in Oaxaca, Mexico!
Ask each family member to write (with words or drawings) one happy memory or thing they’re grateful for from the past year 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.
Pass along a favorite treat for some holiday cheer! Pick a friend, stranger, or neighbor and leave (securely wrapped) cookies, hot cocoa mix, or other treat on their doorstep or in their mailbox for them to discover.
You could also drop treats off at fire stations, hospitals, or other places where people still have to work, even on holidays. It’s a nice way to show your appreciation, while teaching your kids about giving back to the community.
Tip: If you send a homemade treat, include the recipe. Then the recipient can make more if they like, and it’ll let them know the ingredients in case they have a food sensitivity or allergy.
Choose a special night (Christmas Eve, the eighth night of Hanukkah, etc) to make a wish for the upcoming year. Family members can write or draw something they hope will come true in the coming year 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 paper ornaments (look online for a DIY) or another special container, to be opened the following year. Then your family can either add to the wishes already inside their ornament or create new ones.
Ask around among your friends, family, or co-workers for their favorite recipes. You can create a book containing them all, then share copies with all the contributors. You can even pick a theme (like “best office pitch-in dishes” for co-workers, or “favorite childhood dinner” from friends). Continuing this tradition year after year can be a great way to learn more about each other, document the times you spent 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 org; 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, 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, ask neighbors to leave donations on their porch for contactless pick-up, or fill the stocking with grocery gift cards.
Designate one activity you’ll do each year that will ensure you all focus on your own family—after all, the most important thing you can do is choose to be in the moment as you celebrate this holiday season. A few ideas include:
- Play a whole game of Monopoly or try a multiplayer video game
- Cook up a big holiday breakfast together
- Watch a favorite holiday movie
- Read a special book out loud
- Have everyone make cards for each family member
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. 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.