Build New Family Traditions This Holiday Season

Few celebrations across the year bring back vivid memories like those of the holiday season. Peppermint candy canes, baking with family, stringing up lights around the house — all the usual traditions. But sometimes, like too much holiday music, these familiar customs can start to feel a little stale. So why not spice it up a bit?

Try something new this holiday with these merry and bright holiday traditions.

Give Back This Holiday Season

Although it’s easy to make a budget and buy gifts for the family, adding a little variety to the way your family gives back can become quite meaningful for everyone, including those that will receive the gifts you’re giving. Here are some fun, simple ways to give back this holiday season.

Donate Old Toys

If you’re looking to pay it forward, or just hoping to spread a little more holiday cheer, consider donating unused toys to a local charity or shelter. Organizations like Stuffed Animals for Emergencies and the YWCA would be happy to take holiday toy donations. Declutter your house and do a good deed during the holidays.

Join the Christmas Bird Count

Almost a 120-year-old tradition, the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count is one of the most important citizen-based efforts to scientifically gather data on bird populations across North America. Put on your long johns, get the kids out of the house and spend the morning hiking outside and charting the various types of birds in your neck of the woods. Your family will work with expert birders (compilers, as they’re called) that lead the tour and identify those feathered friends for you. Dates range from the middle of December through early January, though the majority of the birders go out on Christmas morning.

Open a Hot Chocolate Stand

If you’ve got kids, bundle up and join them in redecorating that dusty lemonade stand and convert it into one filled with holiday lights and cheer. Fill up a few thermoses with hot chocolate and give away that goodness to passersby on the sidewalk. They’ll remember your kindness, and you’ll add a little generosity to a chilly winter day.

Make a Meal for Charity

You may know of someone whose family would be over the moon if a whole holiday meal were to show up on that special day. Contact your local food pantry to learn of a family to cook for. Before you start cooking, remember to inquire about food restrictions and talk to the family about the food you’ll be preparing to be sure your menu is right for them.

Cook up New Traditions for the Holiday Season

Pairing good times with great food is the perfect way to make new memories. Get the family together and try cooking up these new traditions this year.

Bake Your Own Gingerbread House

Although gingerbread house kits are readily available at any grocery store, there’s nothing like the smell of fresh gingerbread to make the tiny tots eyes all aglow. Use a ruler to trace guides onto parchment paper for how big your pieces should be, then cut them out while the baked dough is still warm. Wait for the pieces to cool off before assembling them using a thick royal icing. Break out the cookie cutters to make your gingerbread house’s inhabitants, and don’t forget to decorate with sprinkles!

Make a New Traditional Meal

Whether it’s regional or based on your ancestry, try making a traditional dish this holiday season. Get the whole family together to make a family-sized portion of potica, lussekatter, Allahabadi cake or bibingka. It’ll bring you closer together and give you something delicious to enjoy for the holidays.

Try New Activities to Make New Holiday Memories

Most memorable holiday experiences come from doing activities with loved ones, like decorating the tree or doing some holiday shopping. We've got a few new traditions you can add to your holiday fun.

Create a Countdown Calendar

Deck the halls a little bit each day and spread out the cheer by crafting a calendar that counts down to the holiday. For each day, add a treat, gift or fun activity for you and your family to enjoy. Build your own calendar using construction paper and glitter for your own personal holiday flair!

Celebrate the Solstice

Turn your eyes towards the skies this season by marking the solstice with a visit to a local planetarium. Or, if you’ve got a telescope and the night skies are clear, taking some time to stargaze can be a fun way to explore the universe with family and friends. Plus, it gives you the perfect excuse to warm up those chilly fingers and toes afterwards with hot cider around the fireplace.

There are so many new and unique ways to deck the halls this holiday season. Traditions don’t need to be fancy or tied to the past. New, positive ideas to make the season bright can help to reframe the way you and your family look at giving. And better still, the connections you’ll make with loved ones while you help spread some joy can last a lifetime.

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