TRADITIONS bring our family closer, help us have fun together, create life-long memories, help us feel the true meaning of Christmas, reinforce family values, and help our kids feel a sense of belonging. Some of our traditions didn’t really even start as traditions-we just did something together and loved it and continued that activity every year.
PERFECTION PENDING…Don’t worry about every activity being perfect! Few activities ever go as planned! Some of my favorite memories are the ones that went awry. We may have been frustrated at the time, but we laugh and laugh about them now.
PLAN!!! Choose a TIME, an ACTIVITY, and a PURPOSE. What do you most want to do as a family? How much money do you have to spend? What do you want your family to get out of it: Fun, service opportunity, bonding? We’ve found that if we fail to plan, our plans usually fail! As our kids get older, there are so many activities competing for their time-homework, sports, jobs, clubs, etc. We have to plan or we don’t get what get to do as many fun things.
GIVE EXPERIENCES! I have many friends that have told me that this year they are giving their kids experiences instead of things. We too have come up with some things we want to do as a family-and our excited to give those experiences instead. Have any of you given experiences? What did you do?
Christmas Activities Lead to Future Christmas Traditions
Here is a list of different activities for you to try out. Pick a few things that stand out to you as you read through them. Think of what might work for your family. And then go and have fun! As you find things you love-you’ll want to do them again and again…and the traditions continue.
Christmas Lights: We have tried professional ($$$) as well as neighborhoods/city lights (free) with a lot of success. Downtown lights are awesome! We love the houses with a theme or synchronized lights and music. Usually your local newspaper or online will post awesome houses in the city. Also, many parks, botanical gardens, and cemeteries put up Christmas lights. There are so many ways to see the Christmas lights-outside in the cold or driving around in a warm car. You get to decide! We love to get a scavenger hunt to find certain decorations as we drive around. Here are some cute examples of the scavenger hunt: for little kids, and a little older.
Concerts/Plays: We always choose at least one concert or play to go to every December. Tickets sale out fast so that’s where the planning comes in! This year we went to “A Christmas Carol” and found a free A Capella concert to go to. We have found lots of free events in the newspaper, at local schools, churches, the library, online, and of course on social media. Check out your city calendars as well!
Nativities: This is a favorite or ours! Live Nativities are the best! We have some great ones near us, but we waited too long this year and couldn’t get tickets. Oh well, I’ll be quicker next year. This year we found a free Creche event. We were able to see hundreds of nativities all in one place! This definitely helps us feel the true spirit of Christmas! We have acted out the Christmas Story many times-although I do feel bad for whomever gets to play the donkey!
Let it SNOW!!! On years when we have snow, there are so many fun things to do! We absolutely love snowshoeing! All of our kids got a pair for Christmas one year (yay for experiences)! Think hiking in the snow-sometimes even just walking through thick powder is an adventure. There’s also sledding, skiing, building forts, snowball fights, host a build your own animals with snow contest, Snowmen, they even have recipes for snow paint, really there is no end to the fun in the snow!
The 12 Days of Christmas-This is such a fun tradition and so flexible with how you do it. Pick something to do each day for 12 days. You can do a 12 days of Christmas for a needy neighbor-with a treat each day, gift cards, services, whatever. We did 12 days of Christmas ornaments for a neighbor. You can do 12 days of scriptures about the Savior. 12 days of Christmas carols, 12 days of Christmas stories. My cute neighbor did 12 days of games this year. Every day the kids get to open another fun game to play together. You could even do 12 days after Christmas. There is no end to the possibilities.
Christmas Music-This is one of the greatest ways to bring the Christmas spirit into your homes. We sing a different Christmas Hymn every night in December (sometimes a little out of pitch-but always smiling). We listen to all of our favorite Christmas CDs-especially in the car. A few of our favorites are Amy Grant, John Denver, Michael McLean’s Forgotten Carols, and Peter Breinholt. Caroling is also fun-you can get a few families together and go sing!
Christmas Movies-We love watching our favorite movies while doing Christmas puzzles. Some of our favorite movies are The Muppets Christmas Carol, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, Christmas Story, and Miracle on 34th St. I also love watching the Hallmark Christmas movies! So many cute ones! On the 24th of December we pull out some of the more spiritual ones like: Mr Krueger’s Christmas, Nativity videos, and The Other Wiseman.
Christmas Stories-We have a big box we bring out in December full of Christmas books. My husband used to read a story every night to the kids. Some of their favorites were Bears first Christmas, Mr Willoughby’s Christmas Tree, and The Tale of the Three Trees. Now they are getting older so we have them read their own books-The Christmas Carol and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever are awesome! Take the kids to the local library-pick out some Christmas books there. For Christmas Eve, we like to read the Christmas story in the Bible. We loved reading When Jesus was Born in Bethlehem when the kids were little. The pictures are beautiful and go along really well with the story!
Christmas Service-Service really helps bring your family closer together and helps create positive memories. There are a lot of organized ways to help like helping at the local Food Bank, serving food to the homeless, helping at the Ronald McDonald House, for instance. You can also visit the elderly, send thank you cards to teachers and loved ones, you can take treats to neighbors, shovel walks, really so many options for serving.
Christmas Day Traditions-I’m from a big family. One of my favorite memories is going down the stairs to open presents youngest to oldest. My kids still carry on that tradition. My family wears fun Santa Hats on Christmas morning to open our presents-(that way you don’t have to worry about combing your hair!) If you buy the hats the day after Christmas you can get Santa hats for 75% off-My daughter has one with a crown. My husband has one with his favorite sports team. Each of ours are unique. There are so many options. When I was little, we used to pick our favorite present and go visit Grandma. We still follow that tradition. My kids really like to show off their favorite gifts and tell their grandparents all about them. We always got up so early that we didn’t eat breakfast until later. So we started putting little boxes of cereal in their stockings with a chocolate milk so they can munch while they open presents. My kids get a toothbrush in their stockings and they really love that.
There are so many things you can do to create lasting memories with your family. Find things that will help bring your family closer together. Try something new this year. I’d love to hear what some of your traditions are. We are always looking to try new experiences and have fun together.