As I plan and prepare for a simpler, stress-free holiday season (thank you, Jessica!) this year, I can’t help but think of traditions, old and new, that would help my toddler learn more about celebrating the “real” thing and not just the gifts and goodies.
Here is a list of 56 (one for each day, from now until Christmas day) fun and frugal activities for the whole family to enjoy and make the most of a season that should reflect gratitude and peace:
Holiday Traditions for All Ages and Seasons of Life
1. Read holiday-themed books. Our favorites include The Beginner’s Bible: Baby Jesus is Born and The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree but I plan on introducing my toddler to classics such as A Christmas Carol and I love this collection, My Little Library of Christmas Classics that includes The Night Before Christmas and The Nutcracker along with A Christmas Carol.
2. Bake holiday cookies with your kids.
3. Take holiday cookies to neighbors to encourage giving and gratitude
4. Donating toys to children in orphanages, shelters and slums
5. Making Christmas tree decorations
6. Making holiday wall and room decorations
7. Visiting relatives
8. Visiting friends
9. Hosting a children’s tea party with tree decorating as an activity.
10. Starting a gratitude journal
11. Making holiday cards
12. Making holiday crafts
13. Declutter your closet to take out clothes to donate
14. Waking up 10 minutes early for quiet moments of reflection and prayer
15. Sing Christmas carols out loud with the kids
16. Create a family purpose or mission statement to guide you through the New Year
17. Reach out to a stranger and make a new friend
18. Sort through old holiday photos and create a family holiday collage
19. Take goofy photos of the kids in Santa costumes or just Santa hats. My sister-in-law did this one year and the kids had a ball!
20. Drink hot chocolate…every evening.
21. Play holiday-themed board games or put together a Christmas jigsaw puzzle.
22. Read The Bible with the kids. Answer their questions as best as you can and encourage them to think about what they read.
23. Plan a simple date with your partner. Dress up. Go out. Talk. Have fun.
24. Add splashes of holiday color to your home décor. For me, this means switching runners, towels, a couple of cushions, and the table linen.
25. Write an “I’m Thankful For…” note
26. Share stories of your childhood with the kids (or grandkids).
27. Explain the “real” meaning of Christmas and other year-end celebrations to the children.
28. Take a New Year’s Day family day out. You could go for a picnic or just a walk.
29. Make fun resolutions. Some ideas, eat just a single piece of chocolate instead of the whole bar **laughing**
30. Take a New Year’s Day family photo
31. Put together a holiday recipe folder
32. Spend a day (or a week!) without complaining, about anything or anyone.
33. Watch holiday movies, with plenty of popcorn and hot chocolate. Our favorites include Elf, The Santa Clause and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Yes, I know that last one is not technically a Christmas movie but it does symbolize a lot of what Christmas stands for: hope, family, reaching out to strangers and making friends.
34. Light a candle at your entrance, every day until New Year’s to signify gratitude and shine a light on the good fortune that comes your way.
35. Create a family tree together
36. Make holiday gifts together
37. Decorate wrapping paper. We plan on doing this with our toddler this year. Am sure she’s going to love it. Paint, glitter, glue, crayons. Yes, she will love it!
38. Invite a single person over to dinner. Someone without family can get very lonely at this time of the year, so change that for them.
39. Play, “I Spy” for holiday-themed things at home or in the store while you wait at the checkout counter – candy canes, holly leaves, Christmas tree decorations, Santa , elves.
40. Plan a special holiday menu with simple, wholesome meals that everyone would enjoy.
41. Paint a white tablecloth in Christmas colors with your toddler’s handprints.
42. Have a Holiday scavenger hunt or just hide a special ornament in the tree and give a little gift to whoever finds it.
43. Mix and bake a Christmas cake together. It doesn’t have to be a traditional cake, if that’s too complicated. Just make a plain cake and add some nuts and dried fruit to it. The idea is to spend time together, not fret over a recipe.
44. Create a Holiday Countdown Calendar using a simple wall calendar and marking the days down to Christmas together with your kids.
45. Have a potluck holiday dinner with friends or family or both, if you can swing it.
46. Watch a holiday play, if there is one being staged at a school or nearby theatre.
47. Attend a Christmas Carnival or School Fete.
48. Describe the holiday season using just 3 words. A fun activity for wintry evenings.
49. Get enough sleep.
50. Eat at least one meal together as a family, everyday. Shut off the cell phones, iPod, and any other electronic interruption and instead, just talk.
51. Browse through food and décor blogs for visual delight and inspiration.
52. Send a personal email to a writer/blogger whose work’s really inspired you through the year. Bloggers are real people (yes, we are) and love getting happy notes from their readers.
53. Open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. We always do that. That’s our family tradition.
54. Wear the same type/color of clothes on Christmas Eve. Again, one of our family traditions. Our toddler’s first Christmas, we all wore sweatshirts from Benetton. It was our indulgence and the start of a family tradition.
55. Shop online for Christmas gifts instead of battling crazy crowds at the stores.
56. Smile. Laugh. Breathe.
What simple, frugal, fun traditions does your family have for the holidays?
Photo Credit: Jeff Turner