Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Eid al-Fitr, Bodhi Day, or the winter solstice, holiday traditions are a fun way for families to bond and create fond memories. The traditions you and your family choose are limited only by your imagination in the way you carry them out.
Customs for gatherings
Choose a theme such as “my most memorable holiday season” or “the best thing that happened this year,” and ask each person to share a memory. Record the storytelling on video or audiotape, and play it in future years as part of your memory sharing tradition.
Hold a holiday poetry reading. Ask each person to bring copies of favorite seasonal or holiday poems to pass out and read aloud at the gathering.
Rather than exchanging gifts or doing a drawing for a gift exchange, play a “white elephant” game. Each person brings a wrapped gift anyone could use. Have guests draw a numbered slip from “1” thru the number of people participating. Each guest then chooses and opens a gift in numerical order. Participants may choose either a wrapped gift or take an unwrapped gift from another participant. If a player loses her gift, she chooses from either another wrapped gift or takes a gift from someone else. For complete rules and variations, visit a “white elephant” gift exchange website such as www.whiteelephantrules.com.
For twosomes or the whole brood
Escape the holiday hustle and bustle, and enjoy a holiday retreat. Try a cozy cabin in the woods or other scenic setting. Then enjoy your togetherness near a roasting fire, flipping through family photo albums, enjoying holiday music, doing crafts, and other relaxing activities.
Start a holiday countdown. Take a 3” by 3” strip of ribbon and cut 24 paired slits from top to bottom. Thread each pair with narrow ribbon and tie a sucker in each. Beginning December 1, remove a lollipop each day through Christmas Eve, or the eve of the holiday that you’ll celebrate.
Couples often forget to take time for each other during the busy holiday season. Plan an evening for two and reserve a table near a fireplace or other romantic setting. When you return home, light some candles and your tree, listen to holiday or soft music, and exchange a special gift with each other. Then spend the evening reminiscing and sharing your dreams for the future.
Cut your own tree. Take the whole family to a tree farm and make a day of it. Look for the tree that compliments your home or fits your family’s taste.
Pick up a book on holiday customs around the world. Each year choose a different culture or nationality for your theme then decorate and try new customs accordingly.
Make a shopping date with your partner, and assist each other in selecting your holiday attire. Decide in advance on the formality so that you’ll choose outfits that compliment each other and so your evening together remains agreeable.
Just for you
Create a new tradition by scheduling time to pamper yourself. Decorate the bathroom in holiday candles, fragrance, and holly. Enjoy a long bubble bath while giving yourself a full salon treatment. Include a manicure, pedicure, deep hair conditioning, facial mask, and body buffing. Don’t forget to turn on holiday or other relaxing music.
Traditions for all
Fill stockings for your partner, parents, or grandparents to discover. Stuff them with treats, beauty products, postage stamps, lottery tickets and other inexpensive or usable items.
Help a needy family. Deliver a box of groceries or supply the family with gloves and hats. Ask your children to make room for their own new gifts by donating good but unwanted toys. Offer the toys to the needy family to leave from Santa, or wrap them yourself and leave them on the doorstep.
Take a horse drawn carriage ride. Don’t forget blankets and your favorite hot beverage for warming your lips and hands.
Purchase a new tree ornament each year that signifies something important such as your baby’s first Christmas or solstice. If it’s your first season in a new home, find an ornament that represents it.
Make your own wrapping paper. Cut holiday shapes out of sponges, dip in holiday colored paint, and stamp the shapes on brown Kraft paper. Use glitter and glue to add to the festive look.
Don’t continue holiday traditions that have lost their appeal and usefulness, or that create too much stress. Talk to your family or friends who normally share in the tradition, explain your feelings, and ask for input. They may feel the same. If they don’t but the tradition is important to another, try to reach a compromise that meets everyone’s needs.
Don’t overdo it. It’s easy to get carried away with customs. Be selective and choose those that mean the most to you and your family. Most traditions require some investment of time, energy, or money. Taking on too many can cause stress and lead traditions to lose their appeal.
When you select traditions, divide the responsibilities. Women often take sole responsibility for holiday activities and become overwhelmed. They are then unable to enjoy the season. Try not to strive for perfection, and allow men and children to help in the preparation.
Keep these tips in mind, and enjoy your holiday traditions for years to come.