Christmas Activities to Establish as Traditions for Families, Especially those with Young Children
Kid Decorated Christmas Cookies
Activities to Spread through December AND the 12 Days of Christmas
First of all, loving families do not intentionally create stress for its members. So, do not look at the activities on this list as more things to squeeze into an already excessive list of "to do's." If some of the items appeal to you, there are two ways to fit them in and have fun with them.
First, plan for next Christmas in October or September. This may be foreign or uncomfortable to those of us whose style is procrastination, but it really works and you can do it. By stepping outside your normal mode of operation to mark up a calendar with tentative days for doing A,B, and C, you won't be rushing around like the Christmas partridge with its head cut off. Also, if you are sharing custody of your children with the other parent, this planning works very well to fit in everything that you want to share with your children in this holiday season.
The second step is to think about the 12 days of Christmas. This runs from December 25th to January 6th of the new year. I feel, and perhaps you will come to agree, that some of those activities such as baking special cookies or caroling for the neighborhood can be done after Christmas Day and still be part of the Christmas season. Please give these ideas some thought in order to make Christmastime happy and full of pleasant bonding for the family.
Get "The Tree" Together
This can mean a family trip to a local farm, a trip to a lot with cut trees shipped from afar, or pulling out the artificial one and assembling it. For the first 2 options, everyone should be permitted to offer some sort of artistic judgements aboiut the "candidates." This can be an exercise in happy group decision-making. For the last option, depending on the complexity, children may be minimally involved for a brief period of time as mechanic aides.
Christmas Cookie Baking
Decorate the Tree
I strongly feel that a Christmas tree should be the tapestry of a family's history together. It should be full of child-made ornaments, ornaments which reflect special events or interests of members, and meaningful decorations and colors which reflect the family's heritage, beliefs and culture.
I have no use for a "designer tree" which is all color-matched full of fragile, expensive ornaments.
Additionally, I feel that putting these decorations on the Christms tree should be a family bonding event, not a chore for one (probably adult) member. Thus, Christmas music can play in the background as the family puts on decorations. Keep an open mind about shildren's height and reach, and aesthetic tastes for ornament placement. If you feel that you must move one or two of them, be very tactful and gentle. Also, be aware of the attention span of all members and do not turn the decorating activity into an unpleasant time.
Give to the Less Fortunate
In some communities, Christmas is a time at which charities set up a tree inside a bank or store with brief information about children or eterans,etc., who may not be in a position to expect any gifts at all for the holidays. One can choose a name from the tree and return with an age-appropriate gift. There are also Toys for Tots run by the Marine Corps and the ubiquitous Salvation Army bell ringers with their kettles for coin donations. Giving to any or aall of these organizations is a great thing to do as a family. Furthermore, it demonstrates family values of charity and compassion in action.
Make Food Treats Together
We need to eat every day, yes? Even after Christmas Day. Therefore, making cookies is still a great activity after December 25th.
Read a Christmas Story
It is nice to start a tradition of reading aloud the same story about Christmas each year to the young ones. Even though they grow up and teenagers may moan and groan, deep in their hearts, it gives them a sense of bonding and security. However, pick a rather short story --- no reading of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens aloud. In some families this may be the Bible passages about the birth of Christ, and it may occur during your family home Advent observances. For others, it may be a Santa story such as "Twas the Night Before Christmas" or "The Polar Express." Whatever it is, it should reflect some of your feelings about the specialness of Christmas and family.
Work on a Family Jigsaw Puzzle
Choose a puzzle which is appropriate for the youngest member of the family. Set it up on a table which is safe from pets and does not need to be used for other purposes for a week. Anyone walking by can work on solving a little bit more of the puzzle. If you wish to save your opus for posterity, there are glues which can be used to connect it forever.
Choose a Special Menu for a Specific Day in the 12 Days
Some cultures have certain foods which are eaten on December 24th, such as seven fishes. Your family can choose a day and a food for your own tradition. How about pizza every Decenber 27th? Or, chicken pot pie every December 30th? It is totally up to you to develop an easy-to-follow plan for every year.
Play a Board Game Together
Again, choose a game which can be played by your youngest member. Your might be successful with the same game every year or in changing as the youngest matures. Suggestions are: Apples to Apples (TM), Pictionary (TM) , or Parcheesi (TM). The purpose is to have fun together, not to determine the absolute winner of the universe. It is nice to have some non-electronic and interactive fun together.
Whatever you do as a family, may it be pleasant and wonderful!
Photos and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan. Maren cherishes the times she had when her sons were with her and loves all the memories of great Christmases.