Looking back on my family’s holiday traditions, I’m filled with a nostalgic blend of happiness and hazy remembrance. I can’t always remember every detail, but the impression of holidays and family Christmas traditions glide past, all accompanied by starry lights, fragrant evergreen needles, and the constancy of cinnamon in the kitchen. While some family Christmas traditions remain the same year after year, it's never too late to start a new tradition with family and friends. This holiday season, make new memories and start a few fresh family traditions that you’ll look forward to year after year.
Related: 100 Fresh Christmas Decorating Ideas
Baking cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve is a tradition many families hold dear, but cookies are perfect anytime during the holidays. Bake cookies for friends and family and store them in decorative tins—they are tasty gifts to send home with guests and holiday visitors. Make it a family affair, and enlist the kids’ help with baking and decorating gingerbread cookies.
Hang an Annual Ornament
Purchase or let kids craft an ornament each year. You’ll be able to look back on every holiday that your family has spent together, and the tree will be filled with heirlooms that you can pass on to your kids for their future trees.
Have a Book Exchange
Time off work, time with family, time at home—it’s the perfect opportunity to do some December reading. Share the books you’ve loved this year with your family, and host a holiday book swap.
To make way for the presents Santa will bring and help children understand the importance of generosity, donate toys to an organization in your community that is collecting during the holiday season.
Feed Santa’s Reindeer
Everyone knows that Santa loves milk and cookies, but the reindeer could use a snack too. Carrots and celery are a good go-to.
Volunteer as a family at your community’s food bank this season, or find another opportunity in your town to give back together.
Have a Hot Cocoa and S’mores Night
Don’t forget the marshmallows! If it’s a cold December night, light a fire in the chimney, grab a mug of hot chocolate, and make a pile of s’mores in the kitchen.
Open an Advent Calendar
This calendar has numbered flaps that open to reveal surprises each day leading up to the 25th of December. Extend the excitement of the holidays with a little suspense, and let kids look forward to a small gift each night. You can create your own calendar or buy one that is pre-filled with gifts.
Pick Out A Tree
Choosing and decorating a tree for the holidays is one of the most beloved of December traditions. Make a day of it—bundle up and take a trip to a tree farm to find just the right one (and get your fill of hot chocolate along the way).
Plan A Special Holiday Meal
Plan a dinner to celebrate your family’s heritage, or cook up everyone’s favorite dishes for one wonderful, long, leisurely holiday meal that everyone will savor.
Related: Happiest Christmas Menus Ever
See the Holiday Lights
Step one: Bundle up and pile in the car. Step two: Drive around town to look at the houses covered in holiday lights. Step three: Ooh and aah.
Send a Holiday Card
Create a holiday card to share with friends and family. They will love catching up and seeing a photograph of your smiling faces. Save an extra card, and start a holiday card scrapbook. Update it each year—we guarantee that you’ll love revisiting your family’s cards later.
Snap a Family Picture
Start now! In a few years, when you have a stack of treasured photos tracing your family’s holidays, you’ll be thankful you kept up with this tradition. Set up an appointment and have a professional take a photo, or round up the rowdy crew and snap a shot at home when everyone is together.
Throw a Holiday Party
We’re thankful for our loved ones all year long, but it’s the perfect time to let them know. Invite all of your friends, whip up the tastiest holiday recipes you can find, and enjoy the company of friends and family. Host a potluck and ask friends to bring dishes that represent their family’s traditions and cultural heritage. Explore our favorite seasonal recipes and traditions for more ideas to make your holidays the happiest yet.
Wear Matching Pajamas
For the whole family, of course. It’s a photo op waiting to happen.