11 Holiday Traditions to Start this Year

Family Matters on 12.10.12
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When my husband and I were married in an inter-faith ceremony, the Rabbi advised us to figure out what traditions we wanted to observe in our family. We have chosen to not practice any formal religion, but we do like to celebrate holidays from a cultural perspective and to honor the way we each were raised.

Traditions certainly don’t have to be religious. However, they are shaped by your family’s values and will become something your children look forward to each year. There are simple, inexpensive activities your family can adopt and repeat each year as you celebrate what’s important to you.

1. Attend a tree lighting.

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Our local community hosts a tree lighting with lots of Christmas carols and hot chocolate. It is the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit. Make lighting your own family’s tree a celebration if you don't have a community event locally.

2. Support a holiday marketplace. 

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Visit a holiday marketplace or bazaar to support local artists and crafters. They can be a great place to find unique, cost-effective gifts for everyone on your list. It's also a terrific place to build your family's ornament collection.

3. Check out the holiday lights.

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Local neighborhoods, botanical gardens, and even the city zoo offer a colorful holiday lights display. It’s fun to get out as a family for a walk among the glistening scenery. Who knows, maybe you'll be inspired to decorate your own house to the nines.

4. Welcome an Elf on the Shelf

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Not only does the Elf watch for good behavior, but the kids also get really excited about him going back home with Santa after delivering presents. They get to name their elf, and every morning after he arrives they search through the house to see where he is watching from that day. 

5. Leave a plate of cookies for Santa.

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It’s hard work delivering gifts all night, so why not leave a little something as a thank you for Santa. My toddler’s eye’s lit up when I explained that we were going to leave milk and cookies out for Santa and a carrot for his reindeer. You can add to this tradition by making your own special cookies each year.

6. See a holiday themed show.

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Whether a live theater performance or a video, enjoy a holiday-themed production. Some favorites include The Nutcracker and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 

7. Count Down to Christmas.

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Use an advent calendar to count down to Christmas. Our family uses a magnetic calendar with a nativity themed magnet inside a numbered box. Be inspired to make your own by numbering brown paper bags filled with little goodies.

8. Go to a tree farm to find the perfect tree.

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The easiest way to deck the halls is with a Christmas tree. Make it an event to pick out the tree by visiting a local tree farm. The whole family will enjoy a romp in the outdoors and you might be motivated to cut your own tree down. 

9. Sing carols.

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Christmas carols always put my family in the holiday spirit. Gather a group of friends and spread some cheer in your neighborhood. If singing isn't up your alley, hum along with your favorite recordings. 

10. Help those in need.

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The holidays can breed a lot of materialism. Remind your family how fortunate they are by volunteering your time with those in need. Start a donation for a specific charity or  serve food at your local soup kitchen.

11. Enjoy a special breakfast.

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Growing up, we enjoyed eating Christmas cookies and drinking eggnog while we opened presents, followed by a hearty breakfast. Decorate the table and whip up your favorite special breakfast foods. In my house we enjoy gluten-free pancakes or potato latkes during the holidays.

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