12 holiday traditions to try this year

Mon Dec 7 2020

The holidays will be here before we know it – and this year, they’re bound to be different because of the pandemic. On the bright side, it may be a perfect time to give a new holiday tradition a try – in addition to Zoom visits with family.

COVID-19 might keep us from traveling and hosting big gatherings, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have a blue Christmas. From getting crafty to virtually showing off your pipes, here are 12 new holiday traditions to keep the season merry and bright.

1. Create holiday decorations

Whether you want to make your Christmas tree a record of your family’s biggest milestones or spruce up the house for the holidays, decor is a great way to bring the family together.

For example, you might gather your household to make DIY ornaments, cut out paper snowflakes and craft a garland, or make a paper dreidel.

As Tina Williamson suggests, “Think of something that means something special to your family this year.” If you rescued a dog, perhaps your newest family member could appear on the ornament you make.

“Families can get together and hand sew their own Christmas stockings,” Trixi Symonds, founder at Sew a Softie, recommends. “This is a lovely opportunity for all the family to sit together to create, to chat, to share stories, and to bond.”

“Years later, this will be a very cool reminder of some incredible family memories,” Williamson adds.

2. Marvel at the Christmas lights

Gather up your household, grab some festive snacks (candy canes, anyone?), and hop in the car. Drive around the neighborhood and take in the holiday displays. Bonus points: queue up some holiday tunes as a soundtrack for the jaunt.

3. Donate to a good cause

The holidays are the perfect time to donate to a worthy cause and create meaning beyond gifts. Share your plan with your family and decide on a charity to donate goods, money, or time to organize and maximize your impact.

“The holiday season is a big time for giving and people are more likely to open their wallets,” says Jake Hill, CEO of DebtHammer. “So one of the things we do collectively is to choose an educational facility or rehabilitation center to sponsor for the year, then do a big donation drive in December to try and drum up as much support as possible.”

Get your family involved in the process and ask them about charities or causes they want to support, then take a vote. Whether you donate nonperishable food to a local food bank, donate gently used clothing, contribute to a toy drive, or raise funds for your local animal shelter, you’ll feel great knowing you helped make the world a little brighter.

4. Throw a holiday movie marathon

Maybe you usually watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas! or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this time of year. Whether you watch the classics for the millionth time or give Happiest Season a whirl, a holiday movie marathon can make you feel connected from a distance. You can add Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) to Chrome as an extension, download the Houseparty app, or use Gaze to coordinate your virtual long-distance viewing sessions with your family.

5. Do a mystery gift exchange

If there was ever a year to try a mystery gift exchange with your family, this is it. More families are on a budget and the holidays can really disrupt a year of otherwise careful saving, planning, and paying down debt.

So instead of buying and mailing everyone gifts this year, each family member draws one name from a hat and keeps it a secret. That is the only person they’re responsible for getting a gift. Without juggling tens of names to buy gifts for, you can make sure the one gift is more substantial. Everyone gets a present they’ll be excited about, and your wallet can have a little more breathing room.

6. Give a dramatic holiday reading

Sad that you’re missing your nephew’s first Christmas? Send a Zoom or Google Meet invitation to your family and read a classic holiday story. Extra credit if you do a dramatic reading (like a different voice for each character!) and create some ambiance: stream a burning yule log in the background, hang some twinkling lights, and play some holiday tunes gently in the background. You can wear your best ugly sweater and pour some hot cocoa to top it all off. You’ll still miss snuggling your nephew (he’s growing so fast!), but the memory will be sugar-plum sweet.

7. Have a board game tournament

Board games are a great way to bring the family together – and bring out their competitive side. Decide on a game that can be played tournament style, like chess, Jenga, Scrabble, etc., and get a bracket going. It will help keep your family engaged and give everyone something to do while indoors. Don’t forget to pick a prize for the winner!

8. Host a virtual recital or talent show

Instead of going out to holiday recitals and plays, bring the stage to your living room. The show, after all, must go on. Host an online recital or talent show and invite family and friends. It can be as extravagant as you want to be. For example, your cool aunt might recite her original poems, grandma might play the piano, and maybe you’ll show off your inner songbird and sing some carols.

Educator Clare Ford gave this a try recently with her class who wrote and performed their own play. “Wherever their friends and families are in the world, they can enjoy a little Christmas magic from the comfort of their own home by coming to the virtual theater experience,” says Ford.

9. Try the 12 Days of Christmas

Hang up stockings and leave little treats in them each morning leading up to Christmas Day. These can be a couple pieces of chocolate, a candy cane, or even a small trinket. If you have children, they’ll be delighted by the surprise each day and it builds anticipation for the holiday. It’s also a way to make the month feel festive and special.

10. Start a book club

Pick a book for the whole family to read (or listen to) together. Bonus points if it’s holiday themed, but it can be anything your group agrees on. Gather around each night to read or listen to a bit of the book to build excitement for the holidays and give your family something to discuss.

11. Invent a new holiday treat

The holidays are a great time to try out new recipes – and give them your own personal twist. Gather your beloveds and head to the kitchen. Pick a treat to bake – whether it’s gingerbread cookies, truffles, a Swiss roll, or thumbprint cookies – and experiment to make it your family’s signature recipe. That could be as simple as adding extra chocolate chips to your cookies or throwing in a dash of cinnamon in your chocolate cake. If it’s a success, it can be something your family bakes together every year.

Dust off your trusted sugar cookie recipe and get ready to unleash your artistic side. Invite your household to decorate cookies and then have a contest to see who is the star baker in your pod. There are no losers in this game because everyone gets to enjoy the spoils.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays, be safe and be good to each other. We’re wishing you warmth and splendor!