Family traditions are important. They make up a big part of what we hold onto as we grow older. Family traditions come in all shapes and sizes, and can be seasonally specific, or not. Holidays are meant to be celebratory, but if for some reason yours have been feeling stale or otherwise lacking, try instituting some new traditions. The variety will spice up your family’s holiday and either give you something to look forward to each year, or something to ditch in favor of yet more new holiday family traditions!
Here are some ideas for holiday family traditions. Some are Christmas-centric, some are not, and there are ideas to fit all budgets.
New Holiday Family Traditions
1. Bake something!
Baking is a big part of pretty much every holiday, but you can always adapt to each specific season. If you don’t have a go-to family recipe (for us, it’s cutout cookies and homemade icing), then close your eyes, pick something random, and add your own twist. Make an apple pie with a cheesy crust…or don’t! Holiday family traditions are what you make them!
2. Decorate a Christmas tree
Make your Christmas tree an event. If possible, bundle up and go out to a tree farm to cut down your own tree. If not, buy a plastic one. Fake trees don’t smell the same but they are less messy. Buy or make a new tree ornament for each family member every year. Decorating the tree as a family with Christmas music playing in the background is a recipe for instant atmosphere.
3. Go to a show
If you live in an area with good live theater options, go see a play. Something apropos of Christmas like The Nutcracker is fun, but you can also use the season as an excuse just to go see any play. Treat yourselves…it’s the holidays!
Holidays are often associated with vacation (from work or school) and unfortunately, materialism. Take time with your family to be reminded of what this time of year is supposed to be about. Sharing the love and giving back to those less fortunate will help you get in touch with the intended spirit of the holiday, and is an experience we could all use at least once a year. Ask on your social media if anyone knows of a child or family that needs sponsoring and have them direct message you. Taking the family on a shopping trip for a specific kid or family could be a new holiday family tradition and really, being Santa for some one in need is fun and rewarding like nothing else!
5. Build something
As a family, come up with an item that would improve your home. Then make a family project out of building it. Maybe you want to make a new end table, or a bench, or a tree house! For most common items, you can likely purchase a kit to get you started. If you have a full carpenter’s suite of tools, then you could even make it from scratch. Practicing carpentry is a very appropriate way to celebrate the Christmas season.
6. Read aloud
Reading a few holiday classics is an especially good idea if you have young kids. Twas The Night Before Christmas or The Polar Express are great places to start. You can take turns reading each year or even take turns selecting the book. You can even write and read your own stories! Holiday family traditions are best when flexible and creative.
You can always find the perfect movie for any occasion. Maybe you want to designate a rotation of Christmas movies (A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and Elf will never get old for me) or other holiday-adjacent classics (Die Hard or Batman Returns anyone?) to churn through each December. Or, for something completely different, you could always try to track down all of the current year’s Oscar contenders before January. No matter what your holiday inclinations are, there will always be a movie to fit.
8. Admire the lights
No matter where you are in the country, you are bound to be within range of some stellar Christmas lights displays. Whether you can find lights in local neighborhoods, or you have hoof it to Times Square, making a special trip one evening each year to go light-gazing will be memorable family time.
9. Write a “family update” letter
This is an especially good idea if you live far away from most of your extended family. Write about the key events in the lives of you and your immediate family from the past year. You can take turns within your household, with a different person writing it each year, and everyone else helping to contribute content and photos. Feeling ambitious? Have a family photo shoot and throw in a Christmas card with the letter!
10. Make time for your nuclear family first
Christmas is a holiday to spend with as many loved ones as possible. If you live near your extended family, then that probably means driving around on Christmas Eve and/or Day to see them all. This is important to do and has great traditional value, but make sure you spend the right amount of time with just your significant other (and children if you have them). Whether you gather in the wee hours, or later Christmas morning, set aside some close family time before making the rounds.
If you are single and unable to visit family, reach out! Friendsmas is a thing, and for many, the preferred way to spend the holidays. If family dissension means you need to be elsewhere, then send your family love from a (safe) distance, and enjoy some (un) family traditions.