Thursday, December 01, 2011

5 Easy Steps to Making New Holiday Traditions

The holiday season is upon us!! Since we are a family with few traditions for the season, my husband and I decided to start some of our own.

The idea I am going to share with you today originated from Once Upon A Family (OUAF) and their November workshop in the Family Holidays Monthly Workshop kit.  I made some modifications so that it works for us though (instead of it only being tasks that need to be completed anyway, we have included fun things that we want to do as a family). 

Step 1:
Buy an advent calendar that allows you to put a small card in each compartment.  There are lots of choices out there.  You can buy something that hangs on the wall or one that is wooden (like ours).  If you buy a wooden one, it is helpful to find one that has equal sized compartments or at least ones that will fit your card for the activity of the day.  You would be surprised how many I saw that wouldn't work because of different sized compartments. 

Step 2:
Identify 24 family activities that you would like to do before Christmas. To make the season less overwhelming, think of the things that you are doing already and add them to the list.  The OUAF kit suggested including tasks like mailing Christmas cards so that your kids are included in all that you do.  We didn't do that because our kids are too young right now.

Here are our 24 activities: 
  1. Make a hand wreath with everyone's hands.  (And introduce the Advent calendar.)
  2. Christmas coloring - we have a Christmas coloring book that Superman will get to color in.  
  3. Go to Powell's books and pick out a new book. 
  4. Make Christmas cookies
  5. Sing Christmas carols
  6. Go to CHAP and make gifts for Grandparents
  7. Make Paper Chains
  8. Watch personalized video from Santa (from Portable North Pole)
  9. Watch "Charlie Brown Christmas"
  10. Get Christmas tree
  11. Decorate Christmas tree
  12. Go to Zoo Lights
  13. Decorate cookies
  14. Have a picnic dinner by the Christmas tree
  15. Watch "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
  16. Cookies With Santa at Children's Musuem
  17. Decorate Gingerbread house (my husband's employer is putting on this activity)
  18. Watch "Frosty The Snowman"
  19. Go see Christmas lights 
  20. Read "Night Before Christmas" as a family (we will read it other nights, but this will be the first reading of it)
  21. Drink hot chocolate and read books by the fireplace
  22. Go to the snow!
  23. Watch "Santa Claus is Coming To Town"
  24. Put out cookies and milk for Santa
Step 3: 
Identify the days that you want to do each activity.  My brilliant husband created a shared calendar in Google just for this.  We already share our Google calendars with each other so this worked out really well.  Why do this?  Just in case someone gets their hands on the calendar and removes of all the cards, it is a good idea to know when you were planning to do each activity so they can be put back correctly.  It is also nice to have it on your calendar so you don't have to keep opening up the little doors to figure out what you are doing the next day. 

Step 4: 
Write each activity on a card and place it into calendar.  I found little gift tags that fit perfectly.  I took the little string off them, wrote down the activity inside, and placed it in the box.  If you want to get really fancy you can print each activity out with a printer and put them on some nice card stock. 

Step 5:
Implement activities.  Remember to be present when you are doing the activities.  Turn off distractions (ex. phones, computers or tvs) and put any other tasks aside so that you can really focus on spending time with your loved ones.  Feel free to take pictures, but don't let the picture taking become more important than the activity itself (I need this reminder on occasion). 

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While there is some work initially to plan it all out, each consecutive year should be easier.  We will make some tweeks here and there so that the activities are age appropriate.  Also, our goal is to add more activities that involve acts of kindness and service as the kids get older (ex. donating toys, food, clothing or making treats for the folks at the nursing home that don't have family).   However, many of the activities will be done each and every year, creating some fabulous family memories along the way!

What family traditions did you cherish growing up?  Which did you continue with your children?  Do you have any new family traditions?  I would love to hear from you!

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