14 Holiday Traditions You Should Start With Your Family This Year
Christmas is more than just opening a pile of well-wrapped presents under the tree, but the holiday season can sneak up on the most well-prepared parents. Those few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s really do pass by in one big, festive blur. Before you spend another year just going through the motions, why not start a few family traditions you can always revisit, time and again?
From personalised ornaments to matching PJs to a Christmas tree campout, these ideas aren’t hard to pull off or even too time-consuming. In fact, each one adds just enough holiday magic that you – and your kids – will actually look forward to it.
Host a cookie bake-off
Gather loved ones for a good old-fashioned Christmas cookie bake-off! Or, have everyone bake their cookies and then congregate to complete a festive taste test and to, of course, split up the batches so that every family has a fun assortment of sweets to last the rest of the season. To make it more official, each year, require competitors to use a specific ingredient – the best use of eggnog, perhaps, or real ginger – in their recipes.
Wear matching family PJs
It sounds silly, but it makes for an adorable photo op! Encourage all family members, young and old, to wear matching pajamas to bed on Christmas Eve so that when Christmas morning comes, everyone is already in fun, festive apparel! Combine traditions and let the PJs serve as the special Christmas Eve gift.
Watch the same holiday movie every season
No matter if you’re a Miracle on 34th Street kind of family, a claymation-loving Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer clan, or if the hilariously ridiculous National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is more your household’s speed, make a point to set aside a movie night to watch the same classic flick together. Even if you talk over some scenes, it’ll make for a blissfully nostalgic event.
Marvel at neighborhood lights displays
Every town has that street with the warring houses, each trying to outdo the other’s electric bill for the month of December. Take a walk (or a drive) with the whole family to see the brightly decorated homes in all their glory and have an impromptu vote on which one wins top prize.
Open one special present on Christmas Eve
A thrilling lead-up to the big day can involve each child (and parent!) choosing one gift to open the night before. It’s wise to set some ground rules – the gift in the smallest package gets unwrapped the night before, for instance – and if you want to infuse a little bit of Santa’s magic, orchestrate a doorbell ring that evening with a small sack of gifts left at the door to open.
Plant Santa's footprints in your home
After the kids have gone to bed on Christmas Eve, grab some big boots and either flour, baby powder, or carpet deodorizer (perfect multitasking!) and stomp a path of footprints. Each year, the path can take sillier turns. Maybe he beelines from the chimney to the milk and cookies, perhaps he takes a pit stop in the bathroom, or maybe he sneaks a peek in the fridge. Just be sure this is the very last thing on your to-do list, so you don’t muddle the shoe prints.
Give each child an annual ornament
Build your collection of ornaments – and turn tree decorating into an immensely personal experience – by giving each family member a new ornament to affix to the tree every year. The ornament can be anything: handmade, a festive dangler engraved with the child’s name and the current year, or something based on an interest. If your daughter just started playing a musical instrument this year, mark the experience with a clarinet tree-hanger! If your son loves Star Wars, we have a feeling there’ll be some beeping BB-8 droid figurines to choose from.
Give back to your community
Make sure your children know that the holidays aren’t only about receiving by giving back to the community. Whether that’s serving food to the less fortunate at a soup kitchen, gathering provisions to give to a local food bank, or donating new and used toys to kids in need, make sure you take time to help others as a family. Do the same thing every year, or switch it up – each year, a different family member can choose the charity closest to them.
Get a Christmas tree from a tree farm
Not only is it a fun excursion – most sites offer activities for kids, like sleigh rides and hot chocolate – but it’s better for the environment to get a real tree over an artificial one. Every acre of a Christmas tree farm produces enough oxygen to sustain 18 people for a day! Plus, getting the entire family involved in choosing just the right tree makes everyone that much more excited to trim it once you get home.
Record a year-in-review
Gone are the days of writing a three-page family newsletter chronicling the highlights of the past 365 days for your family. Instead, shoot a fun video that you can share on Facebook that reminisces about what you and your kids have been up to this year, including fun vacation memories, close-ups of new pets, and major milestones. Keep it short, but if you have video-editing skills, consider adding in photos and videos from big events!
Leave Santa a late-night snack
Before the little ones go to bed on Christmas Eve, have them prep a plate of goodies for Santa Claus (homemade cookies and a glass of milk) and some crunchy carrots for his reindeer. If you want to teach them graciousness, have them write Santa a preemptive thank-you note, too.
Have a Christmas tree campout
It’s time to break out the sleeping bags! Pick one night during the holiday season to camp out under the Christmas tree as a family. Consider having this living room sleepover the same night you decorate the tree, start things off with a roaring fire (that you extinguish before bedtime, of course!), and tell holiday stories while sipping on hot chocolate.
Take a themed family photo
Some families get family portraits taken several times a year, but if that’s not you, consider making the holidays a time to set your camera’s self-timer and snap a smiling photo of your family. Keep it classic, or get festive with Santa hats, coordinating red ensembles, and a stocking-filled mantel in the backdrop. Just be sure to actually print out the photo and hang it prominently in the house, to be updated each year.
Read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
It might seem a bit cheesy to read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on, well, the night before Christmas, but there’s nothing more traditional or mood-setting. It’s not a long read, but consider dividing it up, so each member of the family has a passage of the poem to recite.