I have so many fond memories of our holiday traditions growing up. All 13 cousins’ stockings lining the banister at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The beautiful candlelit service that our church held at 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Our parents’ careful consideration of which gifts to buy for which child. Traveling to Utah to ski with our west coast grandparents.
All of it was wonderful, and I’m grateful to have a childhood full of happy holiday memories. But as my sisters and I have gotten older and dispersed around the country, our old holiday traditions don’t quite fit anymore. Our grandparents hung up their ski poles awhile ago. And as we add new people to our family, we don’t always make it home for the holidays. We may visit a partner’s family or need to stay close to home for work.
This year, Hashtag Bae and I will get to spend the first part of our winter break with my mom and youngest sister skiing in the Rockies. As we prepare for the holidays, I’m considering what new traditions we might start this year to include both the new members of our family and the ones who are far away.
7 New Holiday Traditions to Try This Year
If you’re together…
1. Cook a special meal together.
I’m guessing that in a lot of families, cooking those big holiday meals is usually left to just a few people. But cooking can be such a relational act, and even toddlers are capable of stirring.
Let the people who are usually your family’s designated cooks know that the holiday meal will be a family affair this year. Offer to help plan, shop, and cook the meal, delegating roles to everyone who is able to cook. If someone is really not into cooking, put them on childcare duty or let them DJ the cooking experience.
Here are some fun recipes to try:
2. Complete a puzzle as a group.
It might just be my family, but we love a good puzzle. Completing a puzzle provides a quiet environment to chat and put your analytical brain muscles to work. Add warm drinks and some holiday tunes, and you have a pretty cozy activity.
Looking for a seasonal puzzle? Check out these options here:
3. Review the year in photos.
I know that New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, and that’s technically the time to look back at the past year and ahead to the next one. But New Year’s always feels like such a flurry of activity, sparkles, and parties to me, and I want more time to peacefully contemplate the events of the past year.
With family or friends, consider scrolling through your Instagram profile or any collection of photos from the past year, picking out the snaps that represent the most meaningful moments for you. Have everyone share 5 of their favorites. You might be left awestruck at the number of amazing things that happened this year.
These are some of my favorites:
4. Have everyone share a favorite reading.
Credit for this one goes to my mom! I’m sharing it because I thought it was such a great idea. At a holiday dinner with family or friends, have everyone bring a reading of their choice to share during the meal. It could be a poem, essay, article, or blog post that they’ve read and want to share with everyone.
These readings don’t have to be about the holidays or be sentimental or even happy. This is a great opportunity to learn about what your family and friends find meaningful, what stood out to them so much that they wanted to share it with you.
If you’re apart…
5. Mail stocking stuffers to your loved ones.
My dad did this last week, and I love it! Stockings are a tradition that my family has always maintained, but it has evolved a bit over the years. As an adult, I add things to my parents’ stockings as well.
Since I won’t make it home this year, my dad mailed stocking stuffers to Hashtag Bae and me, and I’m excited to fill our stockings with them once we’re in the mountains.
6. Schedule a Skype or FaceTime session.
It’s always wonderful to see the faces of people you love. I think this is especially meaningful when most of your family is together and one or two people are far away.
If this is the case for your family this holiday season, schedule a Skype or FaceTime session when your far away loved ones will get to talk to everyone who is together. You may even be able to take turns and chat with them individually after you all say hello together.
7. Send a longer letter with your standard holiday card.
For a few of the people that you wish were closer in proximity during the holidays, tuck a personal letter into your holiday card, just letting them know how much you love and appreciate them. It will certainly brighten their day to know that you thought specifically of them as you were preparing your holiday cards for the mail.
I can’t wait to try out some of these new traditions this year. What holiday traditions does your family practice? Have they changed over the years?