5 Ways to Spice Up Your Holiday Traditions This Year

Family Matters on 11.30.11
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Now that we are proud parents, my husband and I think we should start a family tradition. After all, we're officially a family this Christmas. And in surveying other families and friends, it turns out there are a lot of themes when it comes to traditions -- but I have lots of creative friends who have come up with some fun twists on classic holiday traditions.


1. Games

The Tradition: The most popular game that came up was Elf on the Shelf, a genius invention dating all the way back to 2005 where elves are the eyes and ears for Santa helping ensure children aren't naughty, at least during the month of December.

The Tradition With a Twist: On December 6, some (good) children wake up to oranges, apples, nuts and other treats in their shoes. This is in celebration of St. Nicholas Day, a tradition most popular in northern Europe (and the inspiration for the Americans tradition of stockings).


2. Photographs

The Tradition: Pictures with Santa are the classic tradition. While I've been (sticker) shocked at the cost associated for having my child pose for a five-second photo with the big guy in red, she will nonetheless being sitting on Santa's lap this year.  

The Tradition With a Twist: Have an annual family holiday photo session. Get cousins and extended family together for a holiday picture. Include your pet(s). It's a great excuse to see one another and also capture growing babies and kids throughout the years.


3. Recipes

The Tradition: Turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, grandma's homemade noodles, these are all favorites at any holiday dinner. Moms and grandmas get offended if you request something different this year, but that doesn't mean you can't switch things up a little bit.  

The Tradition With a Twist: Draw dishes so different people get a turn to make the family recipes, or ditch the family recipes all-together and have everyone bring something to put on the grill. Have a family bakeoff for dessert, or get creative with the sweets by trying new recipes. I have a friend who discovered Paula Deen's Donut Bread Pudding recipe that way and has been making it once a year for her family ever since. With the recommended Krispy Kreme donuts, of course.


4. Travel

The Tradition: Go to your parents, grandparents or some other family members home and sweat it out on an air mattress for a few nights.  

The Tradition With a Twist: Some families plan cruises or weekend getaways to celebrate the holidays together. I know a family who did a weekend at the Biltmore estate in Asheville, N.C. several years ago and still talks about it fondly as a fun Christmas. The trip can happen on the actual holiday, before, or after -- and you may even start a new tradition when you realize a hotel with spa and golf are a lot more fun than being cooped up at grandma's house.


5. Movies

The Tradition: This was one where no one wavered. Everyone loves the timeless classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life and all the others we know so well. Bottom line: Some traditions don't need a twist.

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