Once again we find ourselves immersed in the holidays- whether we were ready for it or not. You can smell it in the air, see it in the lights that shine brightly everywhere you look, you can hear it in the music playing softly, it’s very energy is in the air, as people rush around to get everything done on time.
It’s Christmas time once again and a great time to look at all the wonderful new and old holiday traditions people do with their families. Some of these have been handed down from generation to generation while others are new family traditions people came up with to make this time of year their own.
Here’s a list of 50 top holiday traditions for you to enjoy with your family.
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For many, the Christmas holiday starts with a bang on Black Friday. In spite of the controversy of starting on a day set aside to show our thanks for all the wonderful things in our lives and to enjoy the company of family and friends, many have made this a tradition shared by the entire family!
Hours are spent combing through the copious amount of sales ads, and elaborate plans are laid out to make the best use of the time and energy such a project requires.
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Usually, beginning right after Thanksgiving, we start to hear the sounds of Christmas wafting through the air. There is nothing quite like the sounds of “Oh, Holy Night” or “Jingle Bells” to put us in the Christmas spirit.
Search For The Perfect Present
This brings us to the grand search for that oh so perfect gift! Many families make this a family affair as they split up and go their separate ways to hunt and discover all the new goodies and gifts to choose from to show their love to the special people on their lists.
Gifts For The Needy
People have also made a tradition of searching for gifts for the less fortunate members of the community. Some draw names from the many giving trees strategically placed in convenient locations so they can’t be missed, while others “adopt” a family and shop for every member.
Some people offer to donate their time to local charities, food banks and organizations set up to feed people over the holidays. Giving to others, who are not as fortunate, is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. And please don’t forget all the fur babies out there.
Time and love can be shared at your local animal shelters, offering the dogs and cats some support during what can be a very scary time for them. Donation of time can be done as a solitary adventure or something the whole family can participate in, teaching little ones that giving is just as important as receiving during this time of year.
Pay It Forward
One suggestion was for everyone in the family to pick 3 people to pay it forward to. This can be as simple as an act of kindness costing nothing, to gifts thoughtfully purchased for another. A kind deed, gift certificate, hot coffee or small gift does wonders at this time of year and puts everyone in the holiday spirit.
Gifting Own Toys
Many families share the tradition of clearing out the old to make room for the new, while also teaching the gift of giving to young ones. Each child picks a set number of their own toys to give to a child who may not have such nice things.
I will always remember doing this at our house. Since I always had an abundance of stuffed animals, my parents had me pick one or more that would be donated to another child and brighten their lives like it had done for me. I would pick out the treasured animal and decorate it with a large bow to make him pretty for his new home.
I included a handwritten note telling the new child the animal’s name, etc. It always filled me with joy knowing I was helping another child have a merry Christmas by giving them a furry new friend.
Sibling Secret Santa
Instead of a big holiday gift list, have each sibling choose one name to shop for. It is amazing how much effort they put forth to get the perfect gift for their special sibling and these are often the receiving child’s most anticipated gift. Another twist on this is to make it a stipulation that each gift has to be handmade.
Search For The Perfect Tree
Well we certainly can’t forget the Christmas tree! This one aspect of Christmas is done in a variety of ways. Many make an adventure of heading to their favorite lot and picking out the perfect tree, while others make it an all-day adventure to the mountains to find the perfect tree.
This often comes with a trip to the snow, making this a multi-faceted adventure which often includes a thermos of hot cocoa to warm up from the cold. Still others drag out their already found perfect, artificial tree from storage and set it up in its proud place of honor awaiting the decorations.
Which brings us to the next on our list…Decorating the tree! Some have some very strict rules on how the tree should be decorated, while others throw caution to the wind and let the ornaments land where they may, so to speak. Another variable in the tree decorating department is when to decorate.
Many start immediately following Thanksgiving while others wait till Christmas Eve to complete this task. Whenever and however it is done, this is one of the all-time favorite traditions of Christmas!
Tree Decorating Campout
Once the tree decorating is complete, some families finish the evening out with a slumber party under the tree. There is nothing quite like falling asleep surrounded by your loved ones, while staring up at all the festive lights of Christmas. And don’t forget the snacks and cocoa! What a fun tradition this would be to add to any family.
Hot Cocoa Bar
A tradition that can last all month long is a continuous hot cocoa bar. Pick a special spot where all the fixings can remain set up where people can make hot cocoa as the whim strikes them. Don’t forget the sprinkles, candy canes, Red Hots, special flavorings and whipped topping.
We cannot forget all the other special drinks during this time of year. Here are a few to add to your holiday cheer: Hot Cocoa- Variety of special flavors, Hot Mulled Cider, Egg Nog-Many varieties, Coquito, Hot Spiced Wine, A large variety of holiday punches, Hot Buttered Rum, Hot Toddy, Variety of Wassail, Variety of Alexanders and many, many more!
This leads us to another Christmas time favorite…Holiday baking. There are a variety of holiday goodies to meet everyone’s desires. Baked goods, creamy, rich desserts, cookies, breads, snacks, candy and delectable entrees. The sky, and your imagination, is the limit.
Baked Goods Gifting
After all the holiday cooking, don’t forget to make gift baskets of all your wonderful goodies to share with others. Food is a great way to bridge the gap between people and lift holiday spirits. Give the gift of food and don’t forget those working hard among the community; police, fire department, nurses, teachers, postal workers, etc.
One of the biggest traditions happen in the kitchen and can involve the entire family. There are a variety of cookies that can be baked and many lend themselves to the equally fun tradition of…
The entire family can join in the fun, while adding their own special touch to Christmas cookies that come in a variety of flavors, shapes and sizes. Have a blast while creating individual masterpieces that lend themselves to all the holiday snacking and basket giving you’ll be doing this season.
We can’t talk about Christmas cooking without including the age-old tradition of baking and decorating gingerbread houses. Imagine a house filled with the wonderful smell of fresh baked gingerbread! But don’t worry, if you’re not feeling up to the task of all the required baking needed for this timeless tradition, you can easily purchase one of the many pre-baked kits available, or use graham crackers.
Just whip up a frosting “glue” and build away. Make it a family affair when it comes time to decorate all the houses and let your imaginations run wild. At the end, you can build your own gingerbread village and can even give the individual houses as gifts to your guests. What a special takeaway during the holidays!
Hallmark Christmas Movie Marathon
Something I am currently in the midst of, is the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movie marathon. It typically begins mid-November, featuring returning favorites as well as some brand-new ones which can be enjoyed by the entire family. What better way to ring in the holidays than to immerse yourself in the holiday cheer and sentimentality of Hallmark movies.
Special Christmas Movies
Speaking of Christmas movies…everyone has their all-time favorite classic movie to celebrate the joy of Christmas. Here are just a few: A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Miracle On 34’th Street, Elf and Home Alone.
Chocolate Fondue Party
Another fun idea is to host a chocolate fondue party for family and friends. Have the fountain or fondue pot going with an array of yummy dippables nearby.
Marshmallows, pretzel sticks, Rice Crispy Treats, mini cream puffs, mini chocolate eclairs, angel food cake, caramels, peanut brittle, biscotti, macaroons, breakfast bars, granola bars, sponge cake, breads, fresh, frozen and dried fruit, cookies, waffles, donut holes, frozen Twinkies, potato chips, and a variety of other goodies make great choices.
Homemade Christmas Ornaments
Many wonderful ideas can be found at your local craft store such as Michaels, to create magnificent and unique holiday ornaments. Make the shopping and idea gathering trip part of the family fun and then take your treasures home to spend the afternoon or evening immersed in crafty heaven. The finished ornaments can be used to adorn the family tree or given away as gifts.
Decorating Christmas Stockings
Another fun decorating idea is to buy a plain stocking that each person can make their own. When my daughter was young, I bought a high-quality stocking, used a stencil of a holiday bear and filled it in with puff, fabric paint. I added her name and other adornments and she now has a truly unique stocking she uses every year, making it a special memory the two of us share.
Special Christmas Ornaments
Along these same lines is the search for the perfect, truly unique ornament, that marks a special occasion or event in yours or your child’s life. Buy a special ornament each year, and when your child is ready to move out, they will have an assortment of personalized, keepsake ornaments to decorate their own Christmas tree and begin their own holiday traditions.
Personal Letter To Your Child
Every year, write your child a letter with all the year’s events, big stories, accomplishments and special memories. These can be kept in their baby books or a special scrapbook or journal to be given to them when they move out on their own. What a wonderful way to hallmark their lives and give them special memories to always keep near.
Family Yearly Letter
You can also write a one page letter chronicling all the family highlights and challenges of the past year, which are then stored away in a special box for later viewing.
Writing Letters to Santa
When the kiddos have finished their yearly letters to Santa, add shaved sparklers to the inside of the envelope when they aren’t looking. At night, have a ceremony to light them on fire to send to Santa. Tell your kids that if the letter sparkles, it means they have been good. (Remember safety)
This is a new take on Elf on a Shelf, and concentrates on all the positive things your children do. These elves come to visit with your children during the month of December, leaving daily notes praising your child for any kind act that was witnessed or to give suggestions on how they can help others.
These happy, cheerful elves can be bought or made, and each child can even have their own unique elf. The first day they appear, they leave your child a note explaining they have heard the child has a kind and loving heart and they wanted to share the holidays with them. They continue to leave the children daily notes, filled with positive and motivating statements. There is no negativity in these notes. Your children can also write notes to the elves to share in the interaction, making it even more fun.
The elves appear somewhere new each day, which adds to the excitement, and they can leave suggestions to the kids on a Daily Kindness Act the children can do throughout the day. They can also do nice things for the children by arranging their shoes, picking up toys or leaving all the ingredients out for a holiday baking project.
The kids can decorate a special book or box where they can keep their letters from the elves. And on the last day, which is Christmas Eve, the elves write one last letter to say goodbye and let them know they will be coming back next year to visit again. They tell the children how much they enjoyed hanging out with them and highlight some of the wonderful things they witnessed. They can even give suggestions on how the kids can continue doing nice things all year long.
Frosty Or Teddy Daily Activity
Make your own Frosty the Snowman or Teddy Bear out of paper, cotton and ribbons around a small whiteboard tummy. Each day, write a new daily activity on his tummy that the kids can do during the day. Each morning, they will run to see what the new activity is and then set forth to complete it over the course of the day.
Surprise Gift Exchange
For Family and friends that may not be able to be with you on Christmas Day, plan a night before to get together and do a gift exchange. Don’t forget the snacks and drinks! Here’s one way we did it when I was younger:
Everyone one buys 5 gifts, can be good items from thrift stores, dollar store, re-gifting etc. (It can be any number of gifts you choose.
Wrap each gift with the leftover wrapping paper used for your other Christmas gifts.
Put all the wrapped gifts in a large, brightly decorated or wrapped “Gift” box with a hole cut out to draw the presents from
Everyone takes turns drawing gifts until all are picked.
Trades can be made at the end, if both parties agree.
The Dice Game
Here’s another fun get-together idea. This can be done with family, friends or a combination of both.
Have a pile of wrapped gifts, dollar store items, scratchers, inexpensive items etc.
Take turns rolling a pair of dice
Roll 7 or 11 – You get to open a gift
Roll 5 or 9 -You can steal someone’s gift
Roll Doubles – Must trade a gift with someone else
After the last gift is opened, everyone takes one more turn
This long-time holiday tradition can be done during a community event or on your own going door to door with your family, friends and neighbors. Print out the words to some holiday favorites and hand these out so everyone can join in and cheer up the night with your music.
Viewing Christmas Lights
One holiday tradition I have always loved, is driving around with my family to see all the elaborate Christmas light displays. If you find a street full of festive homes, why not get out and experience the magic up close. To top off the evening, don’t forget to include the hot cocoa and Christmas cookies. For an awesome twist on this, rent out a limo and go out in style!
Many communities, schools and churches put on a festive holiday show full of music and performances to fill us with holiday cheer. Another take on this would be to have your kids write and perform their own holiday play, or make it a family affair, with everyone participating in the show.
You can videotape the whole event to be viewed later. So, gather up the kids and make a night of it. Don’t forget the cookies and cocoa!
New Matching Pjs
This tradition is a big hit and is practiced every year as families wait patiently for their new, often matching, warm and cozy pajamas. These can be serious and practical, to downright whimsical, homemade or store bought. All that matters is that everyone is sharing in the spirit of the holidays. So, don your new pjs, breakout all the goodies, and make a memorable night of it.
Christmas Eve Snacks
Christmas Eve is often a time to drape the tables with all the holiday treats and goodies that have been given, made, baked, bought or created. It’s time to do some serious devouring of all that yummy goodness! So, turn on the holiday tunes, grab yourself a plate and indulge to your hearts content.
Watching the Yule Log
Whether this is the traditional Yule log of yore, or the TV screen version, many spend hours snuggled up in front of the cozy fire, telling stories and adventures, made up or real, and passing down the wisdom of the ages to the youngsters.
Christmas Eve Surprise Box
This is a brightly wrapped box, full of goodies you’ve been collecting for just this night, to be opened by the entire family. Inside they will find any assortment of things, such as; new socks, pjs, snacks, movie, book, candies, special games or activities, cooking supplies, etc. Let your imagination be your guide.
It goes without saying that one of the favorite holiday traditions is the big family meal enjoyed by countless families and friends. Some have quite the elaborate spread full of pomp and circumstance, while others have a more sit down, relaxed dinner.
For a new twist on an old favorite, some families have begun cooking the big holiday meal on Christmas Eve to leave Christmas Day open for relaxation and visiting. All we know is whether it is on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the dinner is a cherished favorite.
As a tradition bringing Christ back to Christmas, many people bake a cake for baby Jesus to celebrate his birth. After sharing of the cake, they set up the Nativity scene, often leaving out baby Jesus until the morning, when he will magically appear.
There are an array of Christmas Eve services available within most communities that add to the ambiance of the season and bringing focus back to its religious roots.
Reading of, “The Night Before Christmas.”
Many wonderful memories come from a loved one reading the beloved, “The Night Before Christmas.” It is typically read at bedtime to get the little ones to finally go to sleep after a long day full of excitement and sugar. Many a child has fallen asleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, while awaiting the arrival of Santa.
A fun tradition you can start with your family is to welcome the arrival of Santa by “planting” Red Hots in the snow or ground outside and then in the morning see how they “bloomed” into candy canes.
What could be more fun than to track the progress of Santa’s sleigh on NORAD (North America Aerospace Defense Command) has a website where you can see exactly where he is at any given time and track his progress.
Searching For Santa
Make a trip outside with the little ones to search the skies for sightings of Santa and his sleigh. When you catch sight of anything bright or red in the sky, rush home because you know he is on his way. It helps to be near an airport.
Feed The Reindeer
Before settling in for a good night’s sleep, don’t forget to put out some reindeer dust. Make a mixture of oatmeal and edible glitter and give each child a small bag to put out with the traditional carrots for Santa’s hardworking reindeer as a special treat.
Search For The Christmas Star
Take a trip outside where all members of the family search the skies for the Christmas Star, the brightest one in the sky. A special gift can be given to the first one to find it.
Remembering Our Loved Ones
A great way to memorialize our loved ones who are no longer with us, is to light a candle for each one in Heaven. Everyone would then take turns sharing a thought or memory of them. What a great way to include loved ones in the festivities, even though they are no longer with you.
Opening Of Gifts
It is finally time to open the presents! Some families choose to do this during the beauty of Christmas Eve, with the ambiance of sparkling lights, Christmas music and the array of holiday goodies and spirits. This would leave Santa’s gifts and stockings for opening in the morning, prolonging the fun. Other families choose to wait for Christmas Day, usually beginning with the opening of Christmas Stockings and gifts from Santa, followed by the rest.
It is not only when the presents are opened that is important, but how. Some families appoint a “Santa” to hand out the gifts, often one at a time so everyone can join in the excitement of each gift, while others tear through the pile of gifts all at once.
No matter how or when you decide to exchange your gifts, this tradition will certainly be one of the favorites of this season and every season following.
Jack Skeleton Gifts
Here’s a fun, if not a bit demented little twist on the gift giving. Wrap up horrid gifts from Jack Skeleton, wrapped in foil, trash can liners, newspaper, or old wrapping paper, taped with Bandaids or duct tape. Let your imagination run amok!
Many Catholic churches open their doors for Midnight Mass with all its pomp and circumstance. The age old traditions, beautiful music and the spoken message have a special place in many people’s hearts. The whole experience can be quite awe inspiring and surround you with the true meaning of Christmas.
Another way to share in Midnight Mass is to watch the live viewing straight from the Vatican itself. This can be done from the warmth and comfort of your own home while you snuggle up in your new pajamas.
No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays, make this a special and loving time of year. Share the special moments with your family and friends, invite your neighbors over and just enjoy the togetherness of Christmas. This is a time of remembering, of being thankful for what we have, a time of sharing and giving to others, a time to make new memories and start new traditions. It is a time to fully immerse ourselves in the love and beauty of the season and to cherish our loved ones.