Every custom has to begin somewhere. It’s always wonderful to try something new, whether you have a large family with a lot of Christmas traditions beloved dinner recipes to make, cookies to bake, carols to sing, and ornaments to hang on the tree or a small group with a few cherished customs.
If it’s a huge hit, you may put it on the calendar for next year and look forward to doing it all over again for the next 12 months. Looking back, it’s not so much the presents that families remember as much as it is the Christmas rituals they continue year after year.
Editors and contributors to Good Housekeeping are no exception. They’ve told us about their favorite Christmas rituals and reminisced about their fondest holiday memories. If you’re looking for some ideas, feel free to adapt these to your own family’s traditions and use them in your own annual events.
These ideas are packed with good cheer that will endure the entire holiday season, from counting down the days until Santa arrives to Christmas advent calendar, anyone? to transform the tree into a New Year tree.
Table of Contents
Make a Countdown Schedule
Sure, you may buy an advent calendar focused on your children’s favorite pastimes and watch them delight as each day brings a new treat. Making your own, though, is considerably more enjoyable.
Every year, we stuff an advent calendar for my son with small toys, candy, and messages promising trips to his favorite bakery…Jacquelyn Rodgers explains..
Consider the following-
Dinner on Christmas Eve should be Extravagant
Some families celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a Southern Italian tradition that began as a result of the Roman Catholic prohibition on eating meat on Christmas Eve.
We start with fried smelts with a squeeze of lemon juice and scungilli salad, We’re having baccala, or salted cod, for dinner, as well as roasted shrimp scampi, giant pesto scallops, stuffed squid, and pasta Aglio e olio, This is the only time we’ll ever consume these foods. It’s my all-time favorite dinner!Alyssa Jung says,
Other families may prepare a Polish Virgilia, a Swedish julbord, or just some of their favorite passed-down recipes instead of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but the end effect is the same: food coma. Is it just me, or do your jeans feel a little tight?
End up making the Tree Unique
When it’s better to cut the tree, think of a method to honor a significant event or memory from the previous year.
Adding to our ornament collection is one of my favorite holiday traditions, Previously, ornaments were a present from a good friend or a souvenir from a trip we’d taken.Jeanine Hays says…
We’re putting Black Panther on our Christmas tree this year. Every year, our tree reveals a little bit more about our family and our background, which I adore. Another idea to sneak some bonding time into a busy season is to make handcrafted ornaments together.
On Xmas Morning, everyone Cooks Simultaneously
Opening all those presents really whets one’s hunger. If you can pry the kids away from their new toys for a moment, have them help you make breakfast in the kitchen. (Assign the toasting duties to the children.)
Every year, my family does a large brunch of eggs Benedict, My mom prepares it extremely lemony, just the way we want it, and we spend the entire day in our jammies.Chelsea Frisbie adds..
Since I’ve started hosting holidays, I’ve established my own custom of creating a festive waffle bar breakfast for my family and friends.Nicole Gibbons adds…
Who could refuse such an invitation?
Snap a Photo of Your Relatives
True, we all carry cameras in our pockets and take more shots than ever before but how often do you stop to make sure everyone is dressed up and staring at the camera at the same time?
Because the annual holiday photo is likely only taken once or twice a year, go all out. The sky’s the limit when it comes to costumes, matching clothing, and props!
Send Greeting Cards or Letters
Your holiday cards may be the only piece of mail you send all year, so make them a priority! You can make your own card, send a hilarious greeting card, or simply leave a remark saying you’re thinking of your friends and family.
You can also come up with a creative manner to present the cards you receive.
Early December is the time to Celebrate Sinterklaas
On December 5, Sinterklaas, also known as Saint Nicholas Day, is commemorated by “Sint” leaving a tiny gift, sweet, or poem in the shoes of Dutch children. Gifts are frequently camouflaged as something else.
My husband’s mother is Dutch, and we all celebrate Sinterklaas together, In the past, I’ve gotten gifts that looked like a gigantic bagel, a fish tank, and a wedding cake- I had to dig through layers of genuine cake and frosting to find the gift!Lis Engelhart explains…
Pick a Wacky Tree Topper
The cardinal was the mascot of the university where I met my husband, therefore we put a giant, felt cardinal as our tree topper in my house. You can pick your own tree topper depending on a sentimental value in your family (like the dinosaur topper pictured here, which can be found on Etsy). Or, even better, you can make your own!
Organize a Movie Marathon
Every personality type is represented in a Christmas film. Are you a romantic person? You’re covered with Hallmark Christmas movies. Action? Die Hard or Batman Returns are always options. Do you have children at home?
There are a plethora of Christmas movies to pick from for youngsters.
My family is enamored with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, For our holiday portrait, we all wear sweaters with witty sayings from the movie.April Franzino says…
Have everyone in the family pick a favorite in December, then binge-watch them all over the course of a weekend or watch one a week in the run-up to Christmas. To keep track of movie tropes, you may even create a bingo card.
Choose a Tree with Care
This year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a Norway Spruce what will yours be?
Some tree varieties are known for their scent, others are celebrated for their shape, sturdiness, or needle retention. But choosing a real tree helps support a farm and a trip to go get one is always a fun family outing.
Elf on the Shelf Can Help You Spread Some Magic
Surely, by December, your feeds will be brimming with elves who get up to mischief at night. But, whether you go with an Elf on the Shelf or find another technique to bring enchantment into the house such as hiding and “discovering” a Santa Key that lets Santa in on Christmas Eve keep children wondering about the nature of Santa’s magic.
Make Contact With Santa Claus
A letter to Santa Claus in the North Pole is perhaps the greatest (and most long-lasting) way to contact him. Of course, in this digital age, you can also communicate via an app.
Santa’s Magic Phone allows kids to get a voicemail from him, while Capture the Magic allows you to take a picture of him in your living room by your tree. Portable North Pole allows Santa to send a personalized video message, and Santa’s Magic Phone allows you to take a picture of him in your living room by your tree. You’ll get a useful reminder to stay on the “nice” list in either case.
Begin Assembling a Holiday-Themed Collection
Several people collect Spode, Lenox, or Nikko Christmas dinnerware. Others prefer designer collections, such as Christopher Radko‘s ornaments or Annalee‘s ornaments.
Your family might choose to make an intricate ceramic Christmas village or collect something en masse, such as nutcrackers, porcelain trees, or antique Coca-Cola polar bears. Whichever you choose, you’ll have a blast searching for the ideal piece to add to your collections year after year.
Play a Game of Hide-and-Seek throughout the Holidays
My mother conceals a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree for the family to uncover, It took us two days to uncover it last year because she hid it so effectively among her 40 years’ worth of ornaments!Sarah Lyall-Neal explains…
The roots of the Christmas pickle custom are unknown, but glass gherkin ornaments have been hung on American Christmas trees since the late 1800s, according to experts.
On Christmas Eve, Everyone should Open one Present
My parents used to let my brother and me pick one item each to open on Christmas Eve when we were kids, It’s one of my greatest holiday memories, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my own children.Monique Valeris recalls…
But Don’t Forget to Save Room for Dessert!
You must leave something sweet for Santa, whether it’s a family cookie recipe or seasonal cupcakes — with plenty of pieces set aside for you, of course.
My birthday is December 25, therefore I always enjoy a boûche de noel in the evening and open my ‘birthday‘ presents afterward,Elizabeth Angell adds…
Put on a Pair of Christmas Jammies that Match
Holiday PJs that match or coordinate, as seen in many a family portrait and song, add an extra pop to Christmas images.
My mom still gets way too enthusiastic to surprise us with matching PJs. (This isn’t the first time an adult has told us this!)Blake Bakkila adds..
To Hasten Santa’s Arrival, read the Storey Aloud
Choose a line from The Polar Express or A Christmas Carol’s Fezziwig scene that will send sugarplums dancing through everyone’s minds, then dog-ear the pages for a yearly re-read.
My father used to recite ‘The Night Before Christmas‘ to us on Christmas Eve when we were youngsters, After that, test your children to see if they can recall all of the reindeer’s names.Caroline Picard recalls…
Establish Gift-Giving Guidelines
When it comes to giving gifts to your extended family, the wackier the rules, the better. Whether you do a Yankee Swap, Secret Santa, or any other form of gag gift grab bag, the wackier the rules, the better.
We do a white elephant, where half of us bring joke things and the other half gives lovely gifts. This started by accident, but it’s resulted in a lot better competition!Lindsey Murray explains…
Show Your Appreciation
It may be too much to ask overstimulated children to sit and write thank-you notes when they’d rather be playing with their new toys (but it would be significant if they could).
However, it’s not difficult to ensure that everyone takes a moment before dinner to express gratitude for the wonderful holiday and year they’ve had.
Enjoy a Match Until Late evening with Your Friends
Arrange a board game session, or make your own holiday variations on popular games like Pin the Nose on the Rudolph. Keep track of who in the family comes out on top, and that individual becomes the Champion of Christmas… until next year.
Prepare for the New Year’s Eve Celebrations
Even if you don’t officially convert your tree into a New Year Tree — replacing the Christmas ornaments with ones meant to ring in the new — you can still keep one eye on December 31.
Get prepared for resolutions, the ceremonial eating of 12 grapes (which some cultures do, one for every month, for luck), and chasing the old year out the door or window.
Till Then, Stay Tuned for the Jingle Bells…..