Fabulous December Traditions to Nurture Your Family

Laura Markham's picture

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Want more family togetherness and deeper meaning this holiday season? First, just say no to everything that feels obligatory. Then pick a few traditions -- not a whole list. You'll find they gain meaning as you revisit them every year, regardless of whether you celebrate Hanukkah, 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: 30 ideas for Family Traditions to get your creativity flowing and your family smiling.

  1. Write "Appreciations" -- each person in the family puts one on each of their gifts.

  2. Make ornaments. Decorate felt trees with glitter, cut foil stars, make paper snowflakes. Your box of homemade ornaments will be the kids' favorite box to open every year.

  3. Line your walk with luminaria -- paper bags weighted with sand, with a candle in each.

  4. Spread pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed and feed the birds.

  5. Have a cookie-baking party with friends. Or 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.

  6. Make 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.

  7. Use only recycled wrapping paper, brown paper with kids' drawings, or newspaper decorated with stickers. Wrap them all in ribbons galore.

  8. 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.

  9. Celebrate snow! Cut paper snowflakes and tape them to your windows and walls. Save them and add more each winter.

  10. Go gift shopping with each child separately for other family members, but make the point 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. (How? Listen!)

  11. 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.

  12. 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 and carrots out of the bag.

  13. Ask your kids to volunteer with you at a soup kitchen some Saturday. Or buy and wrap mittens and gloves for needy families.

  14. Give your children 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.

  15. Dreidel Showdown Night: Your family will have a "geltload" of fun taking part in an family dreidel tournament. You don't even have to be Jewish!

  16. Go on a nature walk to gather greenery together. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and just enjoy the fresh air.

  17. Read a new holiday book with your kids every night of the season.

  18. Make a menorah together out of clay, spools, or old bolts.

  19. Each year, help each child make a new Christmas ornament with a photo and the year. These will become treasured heirlooms.

  20. Take a walk or drive to admire the holiday lights together.

  21. Buy and wrap mittens and gloves for needy families.

  22. Gather your family and friends and go caroling. Afterwards, gather for hot chocolate and potluck dinner.

  23. Make a treasure map or clues for your kids to follow to find their loot.

  24. Watch a different holiday movie every weekend during the season.

  25. Go ice skating together. Take lessons if you need to.

  26. Deliver Meals on Wheels for homebound folks.

  27. Write a family holiday letter together. 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.

Dr. Laura Markham
Aha! Parenting.com