Create Your Own Christmas Traditions
Many Christmas traditions are passed down within families from generation to generation, but there’s no reason why you can’t create some special traditions of your own to mark the season. There’s also no reason why those traditions can’t adapt over the years as children get older and families change. The key is to make the traditions ones that are meaningful, enjoyable, and special for you and those close to you.
Facing an entire house—or even just a tree—that needs decorating for Christmas can be a daunting task. Why not turn it into a family event or invite friends who might be spending the holidays on their own? If it’s easier for you to decorate on your own, you could arrange for friends or family to “borrow” your children for their own shopping or decorating party, giving you time to get your house looking festive.
You can also turn buying your Christmas tree into an event, whether you’re choosing one from a tree farm in the country or a tree lot in town. Find the tree as a family, armed with a Thermos of hot chocolate or another favorite drink.
Many families buy a special ornament for each child annually—they might have the year on them, or simply reflect the child’s interests, from hockey to ballet. Ornaments are also available that tell the Biblical story of Christmas. You can also involve the family in putting together the Nativity scene, whether it’s a large outdoor version or a smaller tabletop set. If your scene has great emotional value for you, it might be wise to buy another inexpensive set of figures that the kids can help with.
Advent calendars and wreaths not only add to the seasonal feel, but also provide children with a tangible, visual clue to how long it is until Christmas. You could make the calendars or wreaths as a family, or purchase them and create a little ceremony out of opening the calendar windows each day of December or lighting the candles in the wreath each Sunday before December 25. And every member of the family could use a stocking: Perhaps older children can help make stockings to welcome new family members or even pets.
Family Activity Traditions
The holiday season offers special events and activities pretty much every evening and weekend, so there’s never any shortage of things to do. If your family has a favorite activity, then by all means indulge! Some families choose a different activity each year, perhaps even voting for it at a family meeting (helping to show how democracy works) or coming to a decision together (demonstrating consensus building in action).
Activities can range from those with a fee (local zoos, museums, sports facilities, and science centers, for example) to those that are likely completely free (such as carol services, tobogganing, and many neighborhood skating rinks). Christmas light displays can make for a great activity, too: Simply pile the kids into the car and head to your local display (many towns and cities feature a special light display)—or even take a stroll around your block to check out the neighboring houses.
Depending on the age of your children, you may want to involve them in holiday shopping, too. This is an opportunity to help them practice planning, budgeting, and decision-making skills. Or you could plan for them to enjoy an activity supervised by family or friends, while you head out with your shopping list unencumbered.
One of the best ways to both create a tradition and share your family’s goodwill is to help families who might be less fortunate. Involving the kids, in an age-appropriate way, and even having them help make the decision about how you help others, can truly reflect the Christmas spirit. Consider donating time to a toy drive, food bank, or homeless shelter near you. You could also raise funds for a cause that’s important to your family, or sponsor a child or family overseas.
Traditions Around the House
One favorite tradition that can take place well ahead of December 25 is writing a letter to Santa. Make it a festive occasion, to help little ones for whom tasks such as writing neatly and spelling correctly are a challenge: Special cookies may be a great incentive.
After Christmas, make writing thank-you letters an equally enjoyable time for your children. Smaller children can draw pictures, while older children can print messages on cards or write proper letters. Let them know that the letters don’t have to be perfect, but they do need to be sent.
If you’re looking for a little quiet time around the house, especially on a busy day such as Christmas Eve, you could try instituting a tradition to match your mood. Try a Christmas-movie afternoon or time together reading Christmas books. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day also make great times to read the Christmas story aloud as a family.
Make your children feel special by including them in kitchen activities. Older children can help with baking and holiday food preparation; younger children will likely enjoy using colored icing to decorate cookies. At the dinner table, try including them in the festive atmosphere by serving them special juices or smoothies.
Family traditions include parents! Consider creating a tradition of your own when the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve. If you’re not off to midnight Mass, you might want to wrap presents together, or just enjoy a quiet moment in the midst of a sometimes hectic season.
If you have family members who live too far away to visit at Christmas, make it a tradition to create a special family gift for them: Videotape the children playing, sending greetings, or singing carols, and then create a CD or DVD for them to play on their television set or computer. Software programs can also be used to design and print calendars with family photos for each month.