Want to infuse more magic into your holidays? Hoping to create some new (and hopefully positive) memories your family will cherish for years to come? It may be time for some fresh festive traditions in your home!
Here’s why traditions matter: Years from now, your kids will forget the presents they got — but they’ll remember the experiences forever. (Just think about your own childhood. You can probably still smell your mom’s Christmas cookies or have fond memories of the annual Christmas Eve pageant at Grandpa’s, right?)
You’ve probably got a few of these on your list already, but there may be some you haven’t tried yet. Who knows? You might just discover your new favorite family tradition!
- Make a custom “Christmas Bucket List” as a family. Here’s the first thing you should keep in mind about traditions: They lose their meaning if they become more of a burden than a joy. That said, it’s a good idea to lower your expectations for the holiday season and not try to do EVERYTHING. Have your family create a list of must-do things before the season is over. That way, anything else you do is just icing on the gingerbread house.
- Read your favorite Christmas stories each night. The Grinch Stole Christmas. The Polar Express. The Night Before Christmas. One of the best things about the holiday season is reading those once-a-year holiday classics. Read one each night with the family! If you want to make it even more fun, wrap up 25 Christmas stories and choose one to read by the tree each night. Your kids will love it.
- Make your own advent calendar. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional chocolate advent calendar, but if you want to make things more meaningful, consider putting your own spin on it. You can create a service advent calendar with different ideas for helping people each day leading up to Christmas. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Light the World campaign is a good example if you don’t want to make your own.) Or maybe you turn that bucket list into an advent calendar! Do one activity each day leading up to Christmas.
- Go caroling. Whether you’re a great singer or can’t carry a tune to save your life, this is a fun one. If you’re feeling super ambitious, you can even organize a lip sync battle or a flash mob.
- Drive around and see the lights. Those long, dark winter nights can start to feel a little cabin-feverish. So when you and the kids need a break, pile into the family car, crank some merry tunes and drive around to see the lights. Bonus points if you make a stop for hot cocoa.
- Take a moonlit winter stroll. There’s something extra peaceful about winter evenings, especially after a recent snowstorm. Take a walk around the neighborhood at night and appreciate the stillness. It’s a good way to refresh the body and spirit.
- Send letters to Santa. If your children still hear sleigh bells on Christmas Eve (lucky you), have them write letters to the big guy up North. (Yes, you can actually write a letter to Santa Claus — and get a response back!)
- Watch your favorite holiday movies. It’s just not the holidays without your favorite festive flicks, is it? Take your picks from this list and cozy up with the fam.
- Create a holly jolly music playlist. Nothing can brighten spirits faster than music — especially Christmas music. If you don’t already have a Christmas music playlist, start putting one together and listen to it anytime you need a little extra cheer. (But maybe leave “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” off of it.)
- Create a holly jolly YouTube playlist. In addition to your iTunes or Spotify playlist, make sure you curate your favorite Christmas YouTube videos. (Including music videos from favorite artists, special Christmas messages or TV clips.)
- Sleep by the Christmas tree. At least once during December, make sure you and the kiddos pull out some sleeping bags and snooze by the soft glow of the tree. Even better if you fall asleep watching your favorite Christmas movie.
- Have the kids make some holiday decor. Kids out of school and they’re already bored? Get their hands busy making some decorations for the house! Cut out some snowflakes, make a paper countdown chain… Craft ideas abound on Pinterest, so go wild!
- Make gingerbread houses. Or eat gingerbread cookies. Which is probably more satisfying for those of us who aren’t architecturally-inclined.
- Host a white elephant party with friends. Since Christmas morning is usually reserved for family, get together with your buddies before the big day and host a white elephant gift exchange. Set a spending limit (no more than $20, for example) and see who can cook up the funniest gag gifts.
- Go to a choir concert. While playlists and radio stations are great, nothing beats live music. Find a choir or musical concert near you and enjoy basking in the spirit of the season with other concert-goers!
- Be a sub for Santa. At Christmastime (and any time) there are always families in need. If you’re fortunate enough to have enough to share, find a family that could use a little help this holiday season. Bring them meals, gifts, toys, clothes — anything that might make the season brighter. (Your local community most likely has some type of Secret Santa/Sub for Santa program you can participate in if you can’t think of anyone who needs help.)
- Bake a favorite family recipe. Did your German grandma make her famous pancakes every Christmas morning? Or maybe your mom’s eggnog recipe is second-to-none? Whatever your favorite holiday recipes were as a kid, recreate them as an adult!
- Try something new. That’s right — traditions don’t always have to be set in stone. Your family might like doing something different every year. Try adopting traditions from other families or other cultures. You’ll broaden your horizons and create great memories!
- Go sledding. Assuming you live somewhere with snow, take advantage of that fresh powder and take the family sledding! No snow? No problem! Tape some cardboard down on your stairs and do some indoor sledding, Kevin McCallister style.
- Do random acts of kindness. Let that generous holiday spirit shine through and find little ways to serve those around you! Doorbell ditch a neighbor with a gift card. Shovel some extra sidewalks. Pay for the car behind you in the drive-thru line. Do some good!
- Add a new ornament to the tree. Pick out a meaningful ornament for the Christmas tree to commemorate something unique about the past year. Maybe it’s from your favorite vacation spot. Maybe you have a new baby. Or maybe you just take a picture of the family and turn it into an ornament.
- Buy a new holiday outfit. The tree isn’t the only thing that deserves to look pretty. Get yourself a new outfit for all those holiday parties!
- Have a wrapping party. Who wants to stay up late on Christmas Eve wrapping all those gifts last minute? Answer: No one. Head off the sleep deprivation by turning your gift wrapping pile into a party! Watch your favorite movie or invite friends over and listen to some Christmas songs while you wrap things up.
- Read “A Christmas Carol” by the fire. Watching the many different versions of the story is one thing, but there’s nothing like reading the original Dickens novel.
- Donate toys and clothes. Make room for those incoming gifts by giving away what you don’t need or want anymore.
- Track Santa. You truly can Google anything. Even Santa’s whereabouts. Track his sleigh on Christmas Eve with Google’s help!
- Swap gifts for experiences. Can’t figure out what to get your parents or in-laws (or any other hard-to-shop-for people) for Christmas? Instead of buying gifts, treat them to a fun experience. Go out to dinner, a play or a special Christmas concert. (This takes care of No. 15 on the list, too.)
- Read the Christmas story in the Bible. You’ll find it in Luke 2.
- Visit the cemetery. Whoa — wait — what? Cemeteries? On Christmas? Isn’t that more of a Halloween thing? Well, sure. Most people don’t associate cemeteries with the season of yuletide joy, but Christmas is a great time to remember those who’ve passed on. If you’re missing someone this year (or any year) grab a wreath, put some battery-powered lights around it and leave it on your loved one’s grave. It’s a great way to brighten up the holidays and keep your loved ones close to your mind and heart.
- Give gifts to those you love. Yes, we know that Christmas is about more than presents — but it’s definitely a fun part of it! Plus, there’s something about reaching the phase of life where you truly do find more joy in giving than receiving. Finding that perfect gift for someone you love and watching their faces light up is truly priceless (to quote that one credit card commercial).
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Which of these Christmas traditions is your favorite? If we missed something that should be on this list, let us know in the comments!