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Holiday Hacks: Simple Christmas Traditions You Can Start Right Now

Holiday Hacks: Simple Christmas Traditions You Can Start Right NowPart of the fun of the holidays are those little traditions that your family shares. Most people have some sort of traditions around Christmas — usually an activity, a certain food, a movie, a gift-opening “ritual.” Those little traditions are what make the holidays meaningful and memorable — and they’re the things your children will remember for the rest of their lives. Here are a few suggestions for creating or maintaining your own holiday traditions.

Choose a simple way to record holiday memories.

If you have kids, you probably take the same kinds of pictures each year — a traditional photo with Santa or the kids in their pajamas under the tree. If you have a photo tradition like this, consider a holiday photo book that you add to each year. I have a Santa book, with years of pictures of the boys with Santa. It’s fun to look through it and see how the children have grown. There are the usual “smiling while sitting on Santa’s lap” pictures, but I’ve also included more candid shots of the boys showing Santa their Christmas lists or getting hugs from the Big Guy. The album is easy to update with just a couple new photos each year. It’s important to find a simple way for you to record and remember your traditions that doesn’t take more time than the celebrating!

Christmas Simplicity Tip: You probably take the same pictures each year — a photo with Santa or the kids in their pjs under the tree. Consider a holiday photo book you can add to each year. Click To Tweet

Start a Countdown tradition.

Use an Advent calendar to count off the days leading up to Christmas with your children. An Advent calendar can be just about anything — here are a few suggestions.

  • A countdown with a small chocolate candy each day.
  • A little “gift” that gets unwrapped daily, such as a small toy or an ornament for the tree.
  • An envelope listing a family activity, such as movie night, hot cocoa together, or a board game night. 
  • A commercial calendar, either with candy or toys, such as the Lego boxed calendars.
  • A simple paper garland with the days counting down to Christmas — remove a paper ring each day leading up to Christmas Eve.
  • A daily devotion that recalls the Christmas Story can be read along with the Advent calendar to keep the focus on the holiday toward the Reason for the Season.

Make your holiday celebration personal.

Share your love of music by hosting a home holiday sing-along party with simple refreshments. Sing along to holiday classics from your CD collection or use a service like Pandora. If you really love singing Christmas carols, organize a group of carolers to visit elderly neighbors, the nursing home, or a hospital. Love to bake? Host a cookie exchange. Take your family to a candlelight Christmas Eve church service, or drive around town looking at holiday lights while sipping hot cocoa. Make a gingerbread house, or invite an Elf on the Shelf into your home. Whatever you do, keep it personal and close to your heart so that you look forward to it. The goal is to create traditions that really mean something to you.

Christmas Simplicity Tip: The goal of Christmas traditions is to create memories that are personal and meaningful. Choose activities you and your family enjoy, not those that are too much work for not much joy. Click To Tweet

Make a “Signature” contribution to holiday potlucks.

Master a signature dessert or appetizer, then stick with it. My grandmother made chocolate-covered cherries filled with brandy. My mom makes chocolate no-bake cookies. I make snickerdoodles. My college roommate makes some awesome biscotti, a friend of mine makes some amazing stuffed mushrooms, and my neighbor has a stacked artichoke dip that is to die for. If you make it well and love to eat it, even the simplest dish can become a signature must-have. People will forget about the canned green beans as soon as they smell your prize-worthy apple pie.

Simplify your gift-giving by using the “4 Gifts.”

Need a way to keep the holidays from becoming a frenzy of ALL THE GIFTS? The 4-gift tradition helps keep your Christmas season from focusing on materialism and (bonus!) can help you stick to a reasonable gift budget. With the 4-gift tradition, each person gets just four gifts for Christmas:

  1. Something you want,
  2. Something you need,
  3. Something to wear,
  4. Something to read.

Giving just a few gifts can actually help your kids to appreciate what they have instead of always wanting more. It’s a critical lesson in “enough.”

Make up your own traditions.

Don’t be afraid to make up your own traditions. When my sons were babies, I wanted a special way to show them that Christmas isn’t just about Santa and all those gifts, but a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. How does a kid understand a birthday? A birthday cake, of course! Since then, we’ve made Jesus a birthday cake every year for Christmas Day. The kids get to decorate it however they like, and we eat it for dessert at Christmas dinner. We light a candle and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. It’s a simple way to reframe the holiday.

Christmas Simplicity Tip: Choose traditions that remind you of what you're celebrating. We have a birthday cake to celebrate Jesus's birth as our main Christmas dinner dessert. It can't all be about Santa. Click To Tweet

Don’t be afraid to start over.

Got a holiday tradition that’s becoming more work than fun? Ditching a tradition because it’s become too frustrating or too labor-intensive does not negate the memories that are attached. Sometimes traditions start out great but then become more trouble than they’re worth. Traditions are meant to bring joy, not frustration and resentment. Keep the ones you love and let the others go.

Simply Christmas by Sandy Kreps

For more ideas for an easygoing holiday, check out my book, Simply Christmas, with 101 ways to simplify the holidays. 

 

Holiday Hacks: Simple Christmas Traditions You Can Start Right Now

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7 Replies

  1. Megan

    When my kids were younger and into their early teens, we did an activity advent calendar. Sometimes it got things ticked off the list – visit to Santa, get the tree, food bank shop, there was always a new ornament (usually on a busy day) and a new Christmas book on St. Nicholas Day, occasionally a chocolate or Xmas pencil or stickers on days too busy to do a craft etc. This year with the daughter who loved the advent calendar the most away at university I am sending her a photo a day of our Christmas decorations as they go up. We don’t have that many decorations so sometimes it will be Christmas themed – today was a photo ofncandy cane ice cream with the promise that there will be a new tub in freezer when she gets home!

    1. I love this so much, Megan! I did little notes in our Advent calendar too, with activities instead of candy or toys. I absolutely love that you’re sending your daughter photos as you decorate for Christmas — what a wonderful way to keep her involved with the family celebration!

  2. Love this, Sandy. I’m
    Sharing it in The Intentional Motherhood Community on Facebook this Tuesday when the share thread is up.

  3. We always drive by a local light show, have fish pie and watch home alone on xmas eve! Might have to start watching a kids move now though as the kids are getting to that age!

  4. Hi Sandy. I’m visiting from Patty’s Intentional Motherhood Facebook group. I love the topic of your post. I think traditions are so rich and love the ones you’ve suggested. I especially love that you give readers permission to cut the string if a tradition has become a burden.

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