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Thanksgiving through The New year is my FAVORITE time of year. Great food, getting together with friends and family, beautiful fall weather, watching the parades and great football games on TV….I could go on and on! As a child, I loved seeing both sides of my family in a whirlwind of a day and stuffing our bellies with the best food on the planet (my grandmothers made some AMAZING food!) Now that I have children of my own, I love carrying on the traditions I always enjoyed, along with some new ideas that we have started. If you are looking for something new to spice up your holiday season, here is a list of new holiday family traditions to try. It’s never too late to start a new tradition. Pick just one, or a few new ideas… It just might be something that your great grandchildren will do with their families years from now.
1. Have a Sing-Along
Do you have anyone musical in your family? One year, we all gathered around the piano while Aunt Jen played, and sang Christmas carols. OK, it wasn’t the most pleasant sound…but we sang and had a great time! The kids now look forward to the year that we rotate to the house that holds the piano. You can get creative and even print up the words to the songs or get a few of these song booksso everyone can follow along. You don’t need an instrument to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer either! What a fun new tradition to start to look forward to each year!
2. Make Crafts Together
During a holiday, I always bring a craft or two to keep the kids occupied. There are so many cute ideas out there for holiday crafts. Here are a few to get you started:
My kids LOVE doing crafts and these kits below make it super easy! The ones that don’t require any glue or are not messy are a huge plus! Here’s onethat kept my girls busy for HOURS! I got to chat with the adults and the kids were so proud when they were finished! Click below for some ideas from Amazon – make it easy and have them show up at your doorstep – no shopping involved!
3. Do GOOD Together as a Family
When I was in elementary school, a friend of mine went with her mom every year on Thanksgiving to the soup kitchen to serve meals to the homeless. I always admired that! We have real opportunities to teach what being thankful is all about – by showing our children how to be kind to others for no reason. The holidays are the perfect time to find somewhere to volunteer together. Go to a shelter, make blessing bags to hand out to the homeless, make cards and take them to the elderly in a nursing home, shop together for a family that needs adopting. My favorite thing to do this time of year with my kids is to plan a “Random Acts of Kindness” day. This is a day where we think of RAOK to perform in our own neighborhood. Pay for the person behind you at the toll booth or drive thru, pay expiring meters (although sometimes “they” don’t like you doing that so be careful with your kindness!), leave quarters in the toy vending machines at stores so some lucky child can find it and get a free present, pay for someone’s groceries or toy purchase at the store, write inspirational chalk messages on the sidewalk…the list of ideas is endless, but the goal is doing something that will make someone smile. I guarantee this will be a tradition you will want to continue!
4. Get Active Together
OK, so I will admit, sports aren’t *my thing*, but I love the idea of a family getting together and having some good old fashioned active fun outside. Have a family or neighborhood football game or game of capture the flag. Our local city has the Turkey Bowl (a rival high school football game) which was very fun to attend in my earlier years. You can take a family walk or hike, or even get outside and rake, then jump in, the leaves! The family that stays active together has fun together!
5. Have a Bonfire
What better way to enjoy the crisp air? Bonfires are a great way in Autumn and early winter to enjoy each other’s company. After Thanksgiving dinner, why not start a fire and let your belly rest while enjoying some great conversation? And maybe even some smores? Fire pits like thesemake it easy and mess free.
6. Have a Game Night/Day
Who doesn’t love a good board game tournament? (Well, everyone except for a few in my family who do not like playing board games at ALL!) Last year around this time, Pie Facewas all the rage. We brought Pie Face to Thanksgiving last year and coaxed even my mom to play – boy did we all laugh! The kids still talk about that! Why not bring a game to a Holiday party this year? Anyone who wants to play can join in and make new memories. Speak Out or the kids version Watch Ya’ Mouth Family Edition are on our list to try this year. Or maybe you can plan family “Minute to Win It” challenges, or even a good game of charades. Laughing always brings families together. Here are a few other suggestions for family games you can try as well.
7. Start Holiday Decorating Early
I know there are many out there who don’t like to start the Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving is over, but in our family we don’t mind mixing the two. My mom has a small Christmas tree for each childand the kids each get to decorate their tree with ornaments as they see fit. The Harry Children and their cousins look forward to this every Thanksgiving & are SO proud of their tree creations! I know of many families that go tag or cut down their Christmas tree together right on, or after Thanksgiving. There are so many ways to just be together and start your decorating – make it a new tradition to put up the Christmas lights outside together, or string popcorn or cranberries, or any other ways you like to “Deck the Halls”.
8. Celebrate by Giving Thanks
We all know that the true meaning of Thanksgiving is to be thankful for what we have. Why not go a step further and express this in your holiday traditions? You can go around the table and say for what you are thankful, start a family journal where you write each person’s reasons to be grateful and look back on each year’s entries. Or find some fun way to display everyone’s individual reasons for gratitude. I found this amazing example – a tablecloth was decorated each year and then someone embroidered over the artwork and signatures. Check out the result! I wish I had my stuff together enough to something like this!! Whatever method you choose, make sure to focus on the many things we are thankful for this holiday season.
9. A Holiday “Read” or a Prayer Breakfast
When I was a teenager, I had a friend who’s family gathered early on Christmas morning to read specially selected poems, scripture, short stories, prayers and quotes. I LOVED being a part of this and thought it was such a unique tradition. Kids and adults alike can choose their favorite stories to read aloud and say why they chose that passage. Pinterest is full of great prayers and passages you could use for this along with Chicken Soup for the Soulbooks. This tradition would work especially for those who have older children. It’s one that I’d love to get started with my family!
10. Check with your Heritage
There are so many unique holiday traditions you can find from around the world. It might be fun to look into your ethnicity for special holiday customs. My mom’s side of the family is Polish. Before Christmas dinner, we practice a ritual we call Oplatek. The head of the family starts by taking a piece of a special wafer called oplatek and making a wish for the next family member. We go around the table until everyone has had a wish made for him/her. It really is lovely and I’m happy that my family has kept up with such a great custom from our country of origin. This custom comes from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania, so if you are from any of those countries and would like to try the oplatek ceremony, you can get the wafers HERE.What new customs can you research about in your own heritage?
11. Go to the Movies
Sometimes in the midst of the craziness of the holidays, its nice to just take a breather and go check out a movie together as a family. I worked at the movies for my first job. The day after Thanksgiving and Christmas were the two biggest movie days of the year. They’ve always got great flics this time a year! Or better yet, tell everyone to come in their jammies and have a movie night with your family. Have a Polar Expresstheme gathering, or watch Home Alone or other holiday classics. Get creative, but the most important thing is to just be together having fun. And don’t forget how easy it is to buy movie gift cards right on Amazon!
12. Learn the Family Secret Recipes
What better time than the holidays to share family recipes and teach younger generations the secret family recipes? Invite Great Grandma or Aunt Mabel over to teach you how to make some of your family’s favorites. In the past we have done this and had great fun sharing stories and learning from the elders in the family. The rule is though…only the younger ones do the hard work! The only way to really learn is to get hands on instruction – let the elders do the showing and the youngers do the working! We have learned how to make Polish foods such as Chruschikis and Golumpkis and from my dad’s side, German Sauerbraten. (The links are not our family recipes- just wanted to share one if someone was wondering what the foods were). Its so fun to get the family together during the holidays – make sure to learn those sacred family recipes so you can keep them in the family!
I hope that you enjoyed my list and that it has inspired you to try something new this year. I challenge you to look beyond the norm these days of gift giving and consumerism that has seemed to take over such a joyous season. I would love to hear some more ideas for my list so if you have any please join the discussion over on our Facebook page or in the comments. And Harry up and GO start some new family holiday traditions!
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