Cultivating Family Holiday Traditions
This year, let’s unwrap simplicity and embrace some new, easy holiday traditions.
Every year around this time, our lives become a whirlwind of glittering lights, elaborate decorations, and a checklist of intricate holiday traditions. The neighborhood cookie exchange? Better hit the stores early for those ingredients and carve out a few hours for baking, plus a few more ingredients and hours when you realize that the new recipe you tried is not exactly a winner. Elf on the Shelf? Absolutely, and don’t forget to plan for 20-some nights of intricate shenanigans, plus a couple of easy ones for those lazy nights when you don’t feel like moving him, or early mornings when you realize you forgot.
Don’t get us wrong, those traditions are great… if you enjoy them. While we can all appreciate the desire to make the holidays magical for our loved ones, we shouldn’t be doing so at the cost of our sanity. Traditions are meant to contribute to your joy rather than take away from it. The truth is, Christmas traditions don’t have to be extravagant, complex, expensive, or overly involved to be special. What if this year, we chose simplicity over complexity?
If you’re looking to add a new tradition (or swap out some of your less-than-joy-inducing ones), these simple holiday traditions are some of our favorites. Our only rule? It has to bring joy. It can’t be something we’re doing out of a sense of duty or guilt.
1. Holiday Pajamas
The holiday season invokes a feeling of warmth; a desire to draw near to each other and find some coziness. A fun and stress-free way of leaning into that coziness is to incorporate holiday pajamas into your family’s traditions! While some like to gift their pajamas on Christmas Eve, we think it’s fun to kick off the holiday season with them so they can be worn more often (this year we gifted ours during Thanksgiving).
Pajamas themselves are the epitome of relaxed and un-fussy, so this tradition should be too. Can’t get your hands on a matching set for the whole family? Don’t worry about it! The heart of this tradition is the warmth, comfort, and understated humor of seeing the adults in your household in full-length footie pajamas. Wait, did that ruin it? Okay, they don’t have to be footies. But you know your kids would love it...
2. Neighbor Gift Jars
You wanna know the cool thing about joy? It multiplies as it’s shared. Spending some time as a family putting together some simple gifts for your neighbors is a great way to spread some holiday cheer. They don’t have to be extravagant; it could be as simple as packaging up some holiday cookies or candy. This tradition is fun because everyone gets to pitch in. From planning the contents of the jars to filling them assembly-line style, and then taking turns knocking on doors to deliver them, this is a heartwarming activity for the whole family.
It’s easy to get sucked into the seemingly endless to-do list that the holidays bring with them and lose sight of the more meaningful opportunities this season presents. Making an effort to volunteer as a family can teach important lessons about generosity, gratitude, and service, as well as give back to our communities. It can serve as a reminder of what the holiday season is about and help everyone in your family get into the holiday spirit.
4. Christmas Light Viewing
This simple holiday tradition is a must for our family every year! We load up into the vehicle and drive around town to check out Christmas lights while listening to Christmas music. We each get a travel mug of hot cocoa and a bowl of popcorn and rank our favorite light displays as we make our way through town. It’s affordable, totally relaxed, and something we all really look forward to.
5. Christmas Movie Marathon Day
Sometimes the holiday season is downright exhausting. Why not incorporate a new family tradition that allows us to be a little lazy while still soaking in that festive feeling? Christmas Movie Marathon Day does exactly that! Choose a few of your favorite Christmas movies (depending upon how many are in your family, maybe let each family member choose their favorite) and declare a Christmas Movie Marathon Day. Everyone gets to stay in their pajamas (remember those festive footie pajamas we talked about?), and food can be as simple or complicated as you want. If you’re not interested in spending too much time in the kitchen, a charcuterie board is a great option to sprinkle in some nutrition between the multiple bowls of popcorn your kids will likely consume.
While many of our traditions involve cozying up indoors to avoid the weather, this one embraces it. If you’re lucky enough to live where there is snow, a sledding outing can be a fun way to embrace the season. Even just taking 30 minutes to get outside and play in the snow can lift your mood and create fun memories for your whole family.
7. Holiday Crafting
We realize that crafting isn’t for everyone, but there’s something special about creating during the holidays. Whether you prioritize crafting throughout the season or just choose one special craft to focus on each year, the handmade items that can be passed down from year to year serve as reminders of happy holidays gone by. It doesn’t have to be difficult or intricate. Try something small, like making a family ornament each year. Pinterest has a ton of affordable, simple crafts for all skill levels. Here's a site for example that gives you 20 options!: 20 Handmade Christmas Ornaments Kids Can Make
There will also be crafting and all sorts of fun activities for all already planned out for you at our local Main Street Christmas Festival happening December 5th 4:30 - 8:00 ! We will be hosting Santa Letter Writing! Find all the activities and info here --> West Point Family Christmas Festival
8. Advent Calendars
Do you remember when you were a kid and you felt like Christmas would never finally be here? Anticipation is a key factor in the holiday season for building wonder, magic, and joy, and an Advent calendar leans directly into that. While some advent calendars center on small gifts or surprises each day, we think that what matters the most is building the reliable, predictable act of counting down the days until Christmas each day.
9. Christmas Reading
If you’ve got littles, this one is for you! If you’ve already got a bedtime story routine in place, it’s easy to swap out your regular bedtime books for some holiday-themed ones. This doesn’t mean breaking the bank to add new Christmas books to your stash—your local library has you covered! You’ll find holiday stories for children of all ages. Our local library in West Point (John Stahl Library) even has one planned out for you already happening Monday December 18th at 6:30 pm. Find the event by clicking this link --> Polar Express Story Time
10. Donate old toys
If the idea of extra “stuff” to store post-holidays makes you a little anxious, this tradition might bring you some peace. Encourage each member of your family to take some time to go through their things and find a few items to donate. Make sure the items are still in great shape and will serve their next recipient well. You can donate them as a family, or bag them up and put them by the tree sometime before Christmas and ask an elf, Santa, or some other magical helper to pick them up!
11. Family game tournament
When the weather outside is frightful, it's time to have some indoor fun! Nothing gets the whole family involved like a little friendly competition. Whether your family loves board games, video games, or card games, the holidays are a perfect time to hold a tournament. If you’ve got a serious group of competitors on your hands, you could even go so far as to create a bracket and a trophy that the winner can keep for the year! We even used the holiday pajamas to color coordinate teams (check out the pic below for the rare time we actually got a picture of it)!
Just remember, holiday traditions should be a source of solace and happiness; a constant that grounds us and brings back good memories. Let’s all agree to trade the chaos for calm, extravagance for ease, and make this holiday season truly special with some simple, meaningful traditions. From all of us at Cultivate, we hope you have a great holiday season!
Love and blessings in health,