‘Tis the Season for New Christmas Family Traditions

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Recently, my husband and I started our own little family...

...and I've been thinking a lot about establishing new traditions, particularly around the holidays. Christmas has always been a magical time of year for me, and it’s important I recreate that feeling for my children. In search for new ideas, I asked my friends and family about their own family traditions. For those of you who are looking to do the same, I’ve compiled a list of ideas to help you bring in the holiday cheer for years to come.

Elf on a Shelf

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One of my best friends told me she started this tradition with her 2.5-year-old son this year and so far it’s been a hit. Admittedly, I don’t have any personal experience with this one, but I want to try it in a couple of years when my son is a little older. The Elf on a Shelf kit includes the physical Scout Elf and a book that will help bring the story to life. The possibilities are endless as there is no limit to how creative you can get with staging your Elf.

Your family will “adopt” a Scout Elf the day after Thanksgiving and give it a name. The Elf receives its Christmas magic and can fly to the North Pole each night to report back to Santa Claus on whether your child is on the Naughty or Nice list. Every morning, the Elf returns to your family and sits in a different place to watch the fun – there is no touching or the Elf loses his magic. Part of the fun is watching your children wake up and run around the house in search of their Elf every morning. If this idea sounds exhausting to you, I’ve found a cheat sheet for you here.

Start a Holiday Book Collection

Collect timeless Christmas books over the years and save them for the holidays to keep the stories fresh. After Thanksgiving read them every night to your children in the days leading up to Christmas. A good list for starters can be found here. Better yet, add a personalized Christmas book to the collection with your child as the star character. This book stash can easily be turned into a family heirloom and be cherished by future generations to come.

Trim the Tree as a Family

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These days I look forward to trimming the tree with my family more than opening gifts on Christmas day. It’s my favorite night of the year and officially puts me in the holiday spirit. We play our holiday music list, open a bottle of red wine and decorate the tree together. Save a holiday playlist to your Spotify or iTunes account and watch it grow over the years. And if wine isn’t your thing then this skinny eggnog recipe looks like a tasty beverage to have in hand while decorating the tree!

Start an Ornament Collection

Collecting Christmas ornaments is a tradition my father started for our family when we were little and I continue to cherish to this day. Whether it signifies a special event like a wedding, anniversary or birth of a child it’s a special way to give meaning to your tree. Buy Christmas ornaments as travel souvenirs or better yet, DIY with your kids. I just purchased an ornament from Etsy this year to signify our growing family. Other memorable ornaments can be found here, here, and here.

Give Back as a Family

I think one of the best values we can teach our children is how to be empathetic towards others. The holidays are an opportune time to engage our children and show them how important it is to give back. Some ideas include Adopt-a-Child and/or volunteering together at your local soup kitchen or senior living community. Ask your children to make donations and pick out toys or clothing they don’t need anymore. Lastly, your family could craft a holiday care package for troops stationed abroad.

Give the Gift of Experience

Last year, my husband and I skipped material gifts and instead planned a special date night. Our son had recently been born and we had just moved apartments, so we went for a little R&R and indulged in a nice sushi dinner followed by an hour and a half long couples massage. It was so nice to reserve the time to reconnect after the shock of having a newborn and moving within a two-month time span. We plan to do this again this year and hang our tickets/reservation on the tree as a nice reminder of what’s to come.

Polar Express Train Ride

Recreate the magic from the movie, “The Polar Express,” and take your children on a “trip” to the North Pole. In this interactive event, families are encouraged to wear their pajamas and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies while watching the entertainment onboard. Make this a yearly tradition and something your children look forward to year after year. Locate your local event here.

Matching Family Pajamas

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My sister-in-law is the queen of family traditions so when searching for ideas she was one of the first people I asked. On Christmas Eve, her family will open one gift together, which will be matching family pajamas to wear on Christmas morning. As cheesy as it is, I love this idea for two reasons: 1) matching pajamas will create memorable photos and 2) these moments will only create more laughs, as the kids get older. This is another tradition I plan to introduce this year, and I bought my family pajamas here. More economical options are available here.

Santa Footprints

After your children go to bed on Christmas Eve, leave a trail of Santa’s footprints from the fireplace or front door to the living room. Every year, the kids will wake up on Christmas day and run to the tree to see if Santa brought them gifts!

Cook a Special Breakfast Brunch on Christmas Morning

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On Christmas morning, after the family has opened their gifts, invite everyone into the kitchen in their matching pajamas for a group cooking session. We’ve found some great recipes here and here. Dole out the necessary tasks then sit back and sip on your mimosa. Who says supervisors don’t contribute?!