37 Meaningful December Traditions for Families
Want more family togetherness and deeper meaning this holiday season? The key is simplifying. Nobody can spread joy and good cheer when they're stressed out. Any ambition we have to give our child a perfect holiday will is doomed if we take on too much. So first, just say no to everything that feels obligatory. Then pick a few traditions – not a whole list. Maybe the traditions you have are the ones you want to keep. Maybe you'll add one new one this year. You’ll find they gain meaning as you revisit them every year, regardless of whether you celebrate Chanuka, Kwanza, Christmas, or Solstice.
The key? Relax, don’t expect perfection, and be grateful for every minute of life, no matter how messy. And here’s an early gift to make it easier: 37 ideas for Family Traditions to get your creativity flowing as you think about what would most nurture your soul, and your family's, this winter.
1. Give love with all presents. Help your child write “Appreciations” for each person in the family to go on their gift.
2. Write a winter poem together every year; paste them in a scrapbook. These don't have to be high literature or even rhymes. You'll be amazed how poetic everyone's thoughts sound when you record them: "What I love about winter: The silence of cold nights/candy canes so sweet/making presents for Grandma/snow melting in my mouth."
3. Manage expectations. At the beginning of December, have each child tell you three desires:
*One present for them that is within your means
*One "together" present that you will do with them, like take them to the zoo.
*One "giving" present that your child will feel good about making to gift someone else, like stuffing stockings for kids at a shelter, or making a framed drawing for grandma with his own note to her written on it.
This wonderful tradition gives kids everything they really need, and much to look forward to.
4. Have a Santa's Workshop. Go through each child’s room with them and create a “give-away” box of gently used items to pass on to kids who need them. Have a family session to clean and repair old toys and clothes and take them to donate.
5. Celebrate snow! Cut paper snowflakes and tape them to your windows and walls to lure a snow storm. Save them and add more each winter.
6. Make ornaments. Decorate felt trees with glitter, cut foil stars, make colorful paper chains. Each year, help each child make a new ornament with a photo and the year. Your box of homemade ornaments will be the kids’ favorite box to open every year.
7. Make light in the dark. Line your walk with luminaria -- paper bags weighted with sand, with a candle in each.
8. Get kids giving. Make simple, inexpensive, fun presents together for your kids’ friends and cousins: homemade bubbles, fingerpaints, clay, dress-up boxes, jewelry-making kits, puppet-making kits, candy-making kits, snowglobes.
9. Make playdates special. Invite the
kids' friends over for a holiday card making party. Use construction
paper, stencils and paint, line them with ordinary white paper with
typed or written messages.
10. Give the party everyone looks forward to. Invite ten friends to bring over six dozen of their favorite cookies and some empty containers. Parents drink punch, kids drink hot chocolate, and everyone goes home with a mix of holiday treats from everyone else.
11. Go Green. Use only recycled wrapping paper, brown paper with kids’ drawings, or newspaper decorated with stickers. Wrap them all in ribbons galore.
12. Share your tradition with your friends. Have an annual Chanuka, Kwanzaa, or tree trimming party. Or celebrate the Winter Solstice with a candlelit dinner, a roaring fire, and a night walk under the stars.
13. Connect. Go gift shopping with each child separately for other family members, but make a point of connecting to that child. Take her to lunch, encourage her to try on clothes and buy her something she covets (wrap it and give it later, of course). Make sure your conversation in the car is really special. She'll remember these dates for the rest of her life.
14. Spread sweetness. Invite your kids’ friends over for a pie or cookie baking party. Together, take your goodies to your local soup kitchen, home for the elderly, or to the firehouse where folks are hard at work on the holiday.
15. Be elves. Have a family evening where you make holiday cards, or write them, or make gift-wrap, or wrap gifts together. Put on music and sing while you work. Don't cook that night, have pizza and eggnog.
16. Read a new holiday book with your kids every night of the season.
17. Pay It forward. Buy and wrap mittens and gloves for needy families. Or ask your kids to volunteer with you at a soup kitchen some Saturday. Or give them a set amount to spend and take them to the toy store where they can pick out a gift for a needy child, and let them personally deliver it to a children’s hospital, homeless shelter or charity drop-off point.
18. Dreidel Showdown Night: Your family will have a “geltload” of fun taking part in an annual family dreidel tournament. You don't even have to be Jewish!
19. Bring the yule green inside. Go on a nature walk to gather greenery together. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and just enjoy the fresh air.
20. Enjoy the glitter. Take a walk or drive to admire the holiday lights together.
21. Let there be light! Make a menorah together out of clay, spools, or old bolts. Or make candles.
22. Unplug the TV to avoid the toy ads, and use the time to make holiday decorations or presents for friends and relatives.
23. Have picnic dinner in front of the fireplace or the tree, or just light a lot of candles!
24. Make a gingerbread house together. Don't worry what it looks like. The fun is in the doing!
25. Gather your family and friends and go caroling. Afterwards, gather for hot chocolate and potluck dinner.
26. Make a treasure map or clues for your kids to follow to find their presents.
27. Watch a different holiday movie every weekend during the season.
28. Take a bath by candlelight. Add glowsticks for extra fun.
29. Deliver Meals on Wheels for homebound folks. Have your kids bring homemade cards.
30. Write a family holiday letter together to send out to your community of friends and family. If the idea of paragraphs is daunting, make it in the form of a list of highlights from each family member, or a newspaper or newsletter.
31. Spread cheer! Spread pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed and feed the birds.
32. Go on a moonlit walk and watch your breath mingle and hang in the air.
33. Drive around your neighborhood admiring the holiday lights.
34. Go ice skating together. Take lessons if you need to.
35. Have your kids dictate thank you cards to everyone whose presence enriches their life all year long, and then deliver them.
36. Light an advent wreath. (Candlelight is magical!)
37. Save Christmas cards in a basket. Throughout following year, at mealtime, take the top card and say a prayer or nice things about the family or friend during dinner. That card is then placed on the bottom of the stack and the next night take the next card and do the same.