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7 Fun Holiday Traditions to Start with Your Family

7 Fun Holiday Traditions to Start with Your Family

The holidays are here! Toy catalogs! TV specials! Decorations that have been around since Halloween!

In the words of a favorite comic strip, “Good grief.”

One way to tame the chaos: bring in a little family holiday tradition. Creating something unique not only bonds the family today, it creates those all-important memories for children to take to their own families down the road.

Whether you’re stringing lights, lighting candles, or doing neither, here are a few ideas for fun holiday traditions to start with your family:


7 Fun Family Tradition Ideas for the Holiday Season

Create Grandma’s Recipes: If you’re lucky enough to have actual recipes from grandma, dig in. But remember, grandma’s recipes don’t have to be the kind already handed down; they can be the ones (like favorite cookies) you hand forward to your grandchildren. It’s never too late to create something that everybody cooks together.

Bring Out the Ugly: Holiday sweaters are only one form of distasteful holiday gear. Passing around the hideous holiday vase or candelabra? That works, too. Whoever gets it must display in tackiest fashion and then secretly pass it on like a baton; the family member who unearths it in their stuff back at home assumes the role as next year’s host.

Create a Non-Holiday: This time of year is tough for kids who don’t celebrate. But the party doesn’t have to stop just because you’re not singing carols around the Whoville tree. The mood in the Chinese restaurant and the movie theater (common stops for non-celebrants) is mighty festive. Never underestimate the joy of strangers sharing the same boat.

Spread Out the Joy: Community service is popular this time of year — so popular that the same groups that are hungry for volunteers the rest of the year find themselves turning people away at the holidays. Instead of participating now, make a service night to help everyone in your family choose a single project to do later. You’ll not only do good, but you’ll remember the holidays all year long. (Our Growing Givers resource can be a helpful guide to find age-appropriate activities.)

Photo Op: These guys had a great idea. But instead of waiting 30 years to restage those old family photos, why not take the same picture every year? Assemble the family, same place, same pose, leaving room for new additions. You’ll end up with a time-lapse series to laugh at for generations.

Write a Quiz: Sparking lively conversation can be tough for extended families that only connect a few times a year. Conversation-starter games are great ice-breakers. But why stop with the pre-fab versions? Before you get together, ask everybody to write down a question or two. Throw ‘em into a hat and designate one person as the transcriber. It’s a great way to learn and record some interesting (and often surprising) family history.

Have a Family Day: The ultimate irony of the holidays is that one of the things that can get lost is the very thing the holidays are supposed to be about: family time. Set aside one single day as family only — no exceptions. Give it a code name (“Operation: Smith!”). Designate it a movie day, an ice skating day, a baking day — anything but the obligations of the season.

These are just a few ideas. Try some or create your own. Be creative, go wacky, and your family (yes, even teenagers) will have fun. And silly or serious, there’s nothing like setting the stage for your kids to have the joy of saying to future offspring, “We used to do this when I was a child.”

Lisa Oppenheimer Bright Horizons loggerI’m Lisa. I’ve spent a career chronicling the travels, challenges, and delightful messiness of fitting together work, life, and parenting. I’m the mother of two grown daughters. I currently live in Massachusetts with my husband, two cats, and endless homeowner responsibilities.

This article was first published in December 2015.


One comment

  1. Kat February 17, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Love the “photo op” idea – as well as “bringing out the ugly” holiday sweaters and other types of holiday clothing!!!

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