Every family has their own family traditions for the holidays.
But why not try something new and fun once you have your own family?
Growing up we would always have Christmas exactly the same way and I love it and miss it a lot.
In Germany Christmas gets celebrated on Christmas eve.
My family would have smoked salmon (the extra good one) for dinner while traditional Christmas music can be heard on the radio on the background.
When we were younger my grandma took us to church too before dinner.
Everything is cozy with the fire in the fireplace and the fresh Christmas tree in the background that we put up and decorated together a few days before.
My dad would always get a real tree and the house would smell like pine for weeks.
After dinner we would exchange gifts and my grandma would always be over at my parents house for Christmas.
No hanging around on the phone, just good old quality family time and the ultimate coziness while eating homemade Christmas cookies (we would bake them with my mom a few weeks or even months before and store them airtight) – always gets you right into the holiday spirit.
Yes, I really really miss it since I moved to the states.
But since I have my own family now it’s time to start some new meaningful Christmas traditions we can cherish every year for the years we can’t spend with my family.
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These new traditions are perfect for families and a lot of fun for kids.
1. Decorate a Ginger house together
The smell of gingerbread is amazing and putting a house together is so much fun for kids.
Of course it won’t look perfect and there will probably candy be missing because you know – gotta make sure it tastes right – but it will be YOUR Gingerbread house and something your children can look forward to every year.
Gather the family, put on your favorite Pjs and start assembling the gingerbread house with a cup of hot cocoa on the side.
Gingerbread houses are available everywhere as a ready to assemble kit once holiday products are on the shelf.
2. Write a Letter to santa
This letter can include whatever your child would like santa to know including the wish list and decorated with lots of stickers.
Let your child’s imagination run wild.
You can either use your own mailbox where your kid can leave the letter for Santa to read later.
To absolutely make your kids holiday you can write a letter back, take it to the post office addressed as instructed here: USPS Letter from santa and your kid will receive mail from the northpole.
3. Bake Christmas cookies together
With a giant variety of recipes found online you can make delicious cookies for christmas.
I still do this every year and let my daughter “help” when we make them.
Once she gets older this will be so much fun when she can decorate the cookies herself.
My mom always did that with us and it’s a cherished, loving memory for me that always makes me happy just thinking about it.
4. Give cookies to your neighbors
And while you’re at it – make a few extra Christmas cookies, place them in cute bags and gift them to your neighbors.
I will absolutely do this for this year Christmas with traditional German Christmas cookies.
This is a sweet gesture and I am sure it will be appreciated by your neighbors.
5. Sponsor a Child
There are several organizations where you can pay a amount of your choice and sponsor a child for the holiday season.
Your money then will be used to provide Christmas gifts to the children that otherwise won’t have any gifts at all.
This is also a great way to teach your children to be thankful for what they have – a loving family, food in their belly and a home.
One of the organizations you can donate to is Children.org
6. Throw a ugly sweater party
…with a contest who has the absolute ugliest sweater.
This can be a family only thing or you can invite all friends and family over.
This could even be done over Zoom online this year during social distancing.
Everyone gets their sweater and then you have a meeting on Zoom including the ugly sweater contest.
7. Take Christmas photos
Let your whole family dress up nice or in matching family Pajamas and get a professional photo taken.
If you start doing this every year once your kids are born this becomes a sweet memory and you can make a whole collage with photos over the years.
Many photographers have special holiday deals going on and it’s always great to have a cute family photo.
8. Decorate the tree
No matter if you have a real Christmas tree or a fake one – decorating is a lot of fun for kids either way.
Once the tree is up let your kids help you with all the ornaments, lametta and whatever else you usually hang on your tree.
There are also clear ornaments that can be filled with all kinds of things – when your kids are in bed why not sneak a few filled with candy on the tree and see how long it takes them to find them?
9. Make your own tree ornaments
Making your own Ornaments for the Christmas tree is easier than you may think.
Salt dough is a great way to make beautiful and unique ornaments that will last for years.
A super simple recipe can be found here: Salt Dough tutorial
I made one for my parents the first Christmas I had my baby with a footprint and handprint of her.
It was a bit difficult to get a good one but that’s the good thing about salt dough – If it doesn’t look great yet just roll it out again and give it another try.
Making a homemade Christmas tree ornament has a lot of sentimental value for years to come.
10. Take a picture with Santa Claus
This is one of the classic tradition many american families do every year – take their kids to the mall and have a picture with santa.
When they are small many kids are absolutely terrified.
The first year my daughter was asleep on Santa’s lap and the second she started crying instantly.
It is still a nice memory.
11. Decorate your own stockings
You can get some plain burlap Christmas stockings for the whole family, some felt and other crafting supplies and make it a whole family night.
While we got premade stockings last year I still personalized them with our names on it at least.
This is something I definitely want to try out when my kid is a bit older.
12. Have a Christmas Movie marathon
Another fun pre Christmas family night idea.
From the classic Hallmark Christmas movies, “the grinch”, “home alone” or the “Christmas Carol” there are many great movies for the whole family to enjoy.
All you need to do now is agree on the same movie together.
Get comfy and drink your favorite hot chocolate while snuggling your kids and enjoying the new tradition.
You can find a great variety of movies on the big streaming services like Netflix and Hulu or rent them from Amazon.
13. Movie month
Instead of all movies on one night you can also split them up and watch one christmas movie each night of december.
Everyone can choose a favorite movie and the family will watch it together in christmas pajamas while sipping delicious hot chocolate.
14. Look at Christmas Lights
Some neighborhoods go all out when it comes to Christmas lights and decoration.
In a city not too far from us there is one specific street that is known to go all out.
Almost every house will have beautiful displays and they even coordinate their lights to the same music.
Tons of people will drive by with their kids and it’s absolutely magical.
You can either take the drive around the street or get out and walk around.
Here is a video from the street:
Yeah, you can bet I’ll be there this year again with my kid.
15. Decorate the house on Dec. 1st
Or after thanksgiving…I won’t judge.
Get the whole family together and start decorating your house for christmas.
You could even go to the store and shop for a few new items that every family member likes.
16. Start a Christmas playlist
We all know (great and not so great) christmas songs that are playing on the radio year after year.
Let everyone in your family pick one or more songs to add to your personal family christmas songs playlist.
I always feel like the music sets me in the festive mood the most.
17. Make your own advent calendar
This one seems to gain more popularity in the United states.
When I was growing up in Germany a advents calendar was a absolute must have for any kid.
Starting on December first you would traditionally get a calendar filled with 24 small chocolates in Christmas shapes behind little doors and you are allowed to open one every day until the 24th – Christmas Day.
Now you can find all kinds of calendars filled with toys, crafting supplies and even wine or beer for grown ups. (Definitely check out aldi!)
But you can make your own advent calendar pretty easy.
Buy a bunch of small Christmas stockings and decorate them, a few small boxes or small bags and write the numbers from 1-24 on each.
You can fill them with literally everything you can think of that your child or spouse enjoys.
This is also a great gift for friends.
18. Read the original Christmas bible story
With all the gifts and decorations we tend to forget what Christmas is originally all about.
Even if you do not believe in Jesus and God it is a great thing to read the original story to your kids.
19. Hide the Christmas Pickle
This one is a really weird tradition to say the least.
I heard so many people say this is a German tradition but I can assure you nobody in Germany even knows what this Christmas pickle is supposed to be.
Either way it’s a fun activity using holiday decoration for the whole family.
20. Elf on the Shelf
This is a absolute classic.
The elf on the shelf that comes to visit for Christmas time and does silly stuff during the night to be discovered by the kids in the morning.
Your kids will go to bed excited and wondering what the elf will have done the next morning when they wake up.
21. Visit the tree farm
Instead of just picking up a tree make it a family adventure.
Take your kids with you to the tree farm and pick up a new Christmas tree for this year with your whole family.
Having a real tree in your home makes it smell even more like Christmas instead of a plastic Christmas tree.
When I grew up we always had a real tree and it’s just a completely different experience.
22. Make your own hot chocolate bar
This could be a fun activity for your family movie night.
Set up a little side tray or table in your house and create a hot chocolate bar with different bowls and containers that hold all the things your family loves in their hot chocolate.
To make it easier for children you can get the hot chocolate packages so they can just dump that in their mug instead of making a mess with the spoon and the cocoa powder.
Other great ingredients are:
– Cinnamon (stick or powder)
– Mint candy pieces for decoration or candy canes
– Whipped cream
– Chocolate chips
and anything else you can think of.
And don’t forget to add a few sugar cookies to enjoy the hot chocolate with.
23. Christmas bubble bath
This is something I am definitely going to do this year – a super fun Christmas bubble bath for your kids.
You can do this right on Christmas eve and just throw in some green bath water dye (or a few drops of food coloring), add some christmas decoration and some candy canes and voila you got a christmas themed bubble bath.
If you want to take it to the next level you can also try to find a bubble bath for kids that smells like pine cones.
24. Create handmade cards
I love it when we get holiday cards in the mail from friends and family.
They are just something that makes the holiday even more special.
And of course I want them to feel special as well.
So why not make your own handmade christmas cards with your kids?
You can use templates or freestyle with watercolor, stickers and your kids handprint including a sweet little christmas poem or other handwritten holiday wish to get your friends in the christmas spirit.
Make sure you send the cards out late November or early in December so they make it on time before Christmas.
The post office is usually extra busy during that time of the year.
25. Donate to your food bank
Check out what your local food bank is in need of and get a few extra supplies and food to donate.
Helping others in need teaches your kids a valuable life lesson about giving and being generous without expecting anything in return.
If you do have a homeless shelter in your town you can also go there to drop off a few supplies.
Walmart sometimes has fleece blankets on sale for only $2.50 so that is an inexpensive way to just grab a few extra and they also make great small christmas gifts.
26. Leave out cookies and reindeer food
You already know the tradition of leaving a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for santa claus on christmas eve but have you ever made reindeer food for his reindeers as well?
The classic magical reindeer food consists of oats, glitter and sprinkles.
Of course you can also get creative and add your personal touch to it or use completely different ingredients.
Add the reindeer food into a little christmas themed bag and lay it next to the cookies for santa to take to his reindeers.
Alternatively you can also go outside with your kids and sprinkle the reindeer food out on your lawn for the reindeers to eat.
27. Collect pine cones
Once the fall season starts you can start collecting pine cones from the woods around you and let them dry for fun pine cone crafts.
You can let your kids add googly eyes and arms and legs made from pip cleaners or just color them in festive colors for you christmas decoration.
They can also be used as christmas tree decoration.
What holiday tradition will you start this year?
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