Creating Our Own Holiday Traditions

Last year, many of us had very nontraditional holidays. Separated from friends and family, we had to rethink what our annual activities and customs really meant to us. How important are those same meals, carols, and outings? Do they bring us joy or stress? 

After all of the scrambling and trying to hold onto our “normal” holiday routine, you know what I figured out? All traditions start somewhere. Just because you’ve done something for the past five years doesn’t make it mandatory for the next five. So why not shake things up to create some new memories?

No matter where you are or who you’re with, here are 10 different holiday traditions to consider trying out this season:

1. Hide something for good luck.

Tuck a special ornament or trinket into your tree if you have one or elsewhere around the house. You can go old school with a dill pickle ornament (don’t ask me where that started) or choose another family heirloom everyone will recognize. Whoever finds it gets family bragging rights and has the job of hiding it next year.

2. Have a book exchange party.

How many of us choose “reading more” as our New Year’s resolution? How many of us actually do it? Let’s encourage each other to flip more than a page or two next year by passing along a well-loved book. Number the books and then put all of the numbers in a bowl. The drawer of each number gets the corresponding book.

3. Host a clothing swap instead of a cookie swap.

The holidays are a wonderful time to give back and consider how much you really need versus want. (And you definitely didn’t need that 25th white t-shirt or those heels you swear will stop hurting one day.) Invite some friends over to swap clothing and accessories you don’t use anymore and then donate the rest!

4. Sing your heart out during a holiday-themed karaoke night.

We have a Christmas caroling tradition in our neighborhood, but I get it, not every neighbor wants to hear your best Mariah Carey impression (but I do). Gather some friends for a karaoke showdown of all holiday hits, new and old either at a local bar or at home. You can award prizes for Best Ballad, Best Duet, etc.

5. Have a bonfire in the backyard.

Spend a tech-free night under the stars with those you love. Build a bonfire and enjoy some warm beverages, treats, and stories before bedtime. Make it a smaller affair or invite neighbors and friends to join the fun. If it’s warm enough where you live, pitch a tent! (I’m a big fan of camping close to the refrigerator and indoor plumbing.)

6. Challenge your family to a holiday scavenger hunt.

You know we love a scavenger hunt. So if you have extra people in town, why not turn it into a friendly competition? You decide how big the hunt gets — send everyone racing around the house, neighborhood, or even your town. The winners get a prize and everyone raises a glass to the victors at the end.

7. Explore the traditional dishes of other cultures.

Every culture has a special dish they share around the holidays. Why not experience some of them by swapping out one of your usual menu items for a new recipe or by hosting a potluck? Try the Italian-American Feast of the Seven Fishes or make a batch of tamales together for a taste of Mexico.

8. Settle in for a holiday movie marathon.

When it’s chilly and dark outside, a movie night is the best way to spend the evening. Have everyone choose a favorite holiday film or power through a franchise everyone in your house enjoys. Settle in with snacks and set the timer on those twinkling lights before everyone inevitably falls asleep.

9. Write each other love letters.

More than anything, the holidays are a time to be grateful for family. So why not show each other a bit of extra love? Have everyone write each other a nice note to put in their stockings with words of encouragement, praise or even humor. They can be read aloud or kept private.

10. End the night with a favorite game.

Cards, Scrabble, charades … games bring people together. My family is big on Catan. Have a game night with multiple rounds and try switching up teams.

What are some of your holiday traditions? Share them with us in the comments.

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