Making Your Own Holiday Traditions
The winter holiday season is upon us and it is a time when simple pleasures often mean the most. Sitting by a warm fire with cousins on a cold night. Opening a homemade gift from a child. Savoring the aroma of a delicious holiday bread baking in the oven. Reading a heartfelt, handwritten message from someone you love. Gathering several generations of your family together to sing a holiday song that has special meaning for all of you. These and other simple pleasures can bring you close as a family.
Identifying What Gives Your Life Meaning
Enjoying simple pleasures begins with knowing your values, or what's most important to you and your family. Everyone in your household may have a different idea about this, so it's worth taking time to sit down together and talk about the things that you find most worthwhile. As you explore simple ways to celebrate the holidays, get as many ideas as you can from your family. They'll be more likely to enjoy the simple traditions you come up with together if everyone is involved in the conversation.
Things To Do Together
The holiday season abounds with simple pleasures that everyone in your family can enjoy. Most communities offer festive activities that cost little or nothing, and you can find others in the beauty of the natural world -- the winter sky, the evergreens in a local park, the first frost on a windowpane.
- Take a winter nature walk in your neighborhood. Notice which animals are out and about, which ponds have frozen over, and how many different types of evergreen trees you can spot. The National Audubon Society has chapters in many states and has ideas on outdoor activities to do together as a family.
- Go star-gazing. Make the most of a crisp, clear winter night by looking at constellations, the patterns of stars in the sky. Search for "Star Attractions" on the National Geographic website .
Organize a winter sports outing. Depending on the weather, you might go sledding, ice-skating, or hiking along a trail in a community park.
- Bake a holiday bread or cookies. Make it a family project, with one person choosing the recipe, another shopping for ingredients, and everyone chopping fruit or nuts together. Make an extra loaf or batch to take to an older neighbor or family that could use extra cheer this year.
- Invite relatives to join you for a potluck holiday brunch or buffet instead of a formal sit-down meal. Serve punch; hot mulled cider; or coffee, tea, and hot chocolate instead of more expensive drinks. Just remember that if you've had relatives over for a sit-down meal in the past, they may expect this again. It's thoughtful to let them know well in advance that you plan to do things differently this year.
- Sing songs of the season. Invite relatives and friends to join you in a holiday sing-along and to bring any instruments that they play. Search online for free or low-cost holiday song apps for your computer or smartphone if you need the words, music, or ideas on what to sing. Or take part as a family in a similar event at a house of worship or community center.
- Share holiday memories in a cozy setting. Gather around a fireplace. Linger over a candlelit holiday meal. Pile into a big bed in your pajamas or bathrobes on a holiday morning. The warm setting will help to inspire warm memories that everybody can enjoy.
- Read a holiday story together. Ask a children's librarian for suggestions that might interest your child or teenager. Or try a picture book like Chris Van Allsburg's The Polar Express (Houghton Mifflin, 2009), Eric A. Kimmel's Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (Holiday House, 1994), or Karen Katz's My First Ramadan (Holt, 2007) or My First Chinese New Year (Holt, 2012).
- Go to a free holiday concert, recital, or pageant. Check the calendar of events in your local newspaper or on its website to learn about the options. Talk with your family about these and try the one that sounds most interesting to all of you.
- Take part in a toy, food, or clothing drive. During the holidays, many communities have drives to collect toys, food, or warm clothes for families that need them. Call the mayor's office to find out which organizations sponsor these collection drives in your area.
- Call an animal shelter and find out what pets need at holiday times. If you or your children love animals, your family might like to help abandoned pets at holiday times. Call a local shelter and find out if you could volunteer for a few hours or if the shelter would appreciate gifts of food, chew toys, or similar items.
- Reach out to help others. Ask each family member to research a charity or an aid organization of their choice, dedicated to helping others, and then present their idea at a family dinner or meeting. Listen to each other's ideas, and vote to decide on which philanthropy to help and the amount of your donation.
By enjoying simple pleasures, you'll be sending the message that what's most important at holiday times is being together as a family -- not spending money on costly activities or gifts. This will bring you closer as a family and remind you that, whether your budget is large or small, you will always have many wonderful ways to enjoy each other's company during the holidays