There are so many fun activities and events surrounding the holidays, which makes it the best time of year to start new holiday traditions. Growing up, my family had and still has many traditions surrounding Christmas, and I always look forward to them each year. Now that I’m married, I still get to continue some of these traditions when I visit my family for Christmas, while others I’ve continued on just with my husband. Looking back, I don’t always remember the gifts I received, but I do remember the special memories that were created surrounding these traditions. Here are some old and new holiday traditions from my family to yours:
1. Tree Decorating
Every year, my family would visit the same Christmas tree farm and cut down our own tree. We would take a hayride to the trees, and once we found our favorite, my older brother would saw the tree while I cheered him on. Some years I would try to saw as well, but normally I would give up after realizing I lacked arm strength and let him do the dirty work. Once we got home, I had the special task to put the first ornament on the tree every year, while my brother always put on the Santa tree topper. Since my brother and I have our own homes, we no longer do this tradition, but I plan to start it up again when I have kids one day.
2. Yearly Ornaments
On our way back from picking out our tree, my family would always stop at a Christmas shop and purchase new ornaments. My parents, brother, and I would get one ornament every year, so that eventually we would have a whole tree of ornaments for when we got married and started a new family (and my parents would also still have ornaments for their own tree). We were allowed to pick out any style of ornament, as long as it was by Christopher Radko so that the tree had a cohesive look. It’s so fun to decorate the tree and look back at my selection of ornaments throughout the years. I can easily tell which ornaments I selected at a young age (lots of animals), as well as which ones I chose when I was trying to be a rebellious teenager and not match my mom’s preferred style of ornaments (those always got hung in the back of the tree)!
3. Family Bingo
After Christmas dinner, my family and extended family will get together for a few games of bingo. My mom picks up gifts ahead of time such as Starbucks gift cards, lip gloss sets, and miniature tool kits for the winners. I get really into the game each year in hopes of winning all the Starbucks gift cards!
4. Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
Growing up and still to this day, my mom bakes homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. These are delicious and make the house smell so good! My mom loves to bake but would only make cinnamon rolls on Christmas day, so I associate these with the holiday.
5. Build a Gingerbread House
I always decorate a gingerbread house for the holidays, but this year the tradition is getting a makeover. My brother is newly engaged, so this Christmas we are having a couple’s gingerbread house building contest. We haven’t fully discussed the rules, but I’m thinking it will be a timed contest, with the possibility of adding any décor found within the pantry, as well as in the kit!
6. Advent Calendar
When I was younger, we would make a paper chain advent calendar with 24 chain links. Starting December 1st, we would take a link off the chain as a visual representation to show how many days until Christmas. While I no longer have a paper chain, I do purchase a chocolate advent calendar each year as an excuse to eat chocolate everyday until Christmas!
7. Christmas in NYC
When I lived in Connecticut, we would take the train into New York City to see the holiday decorations. Our sightseeing list always included Rockefeller center to see the tree, as well as Saks Fifth Avenue (and other department stores) to see the holiday window displays!
8. Family Movie Night
After dinner and a few games of Bingo, my family gets together to watch movies by the fire. In the past, we would watch Christmas movies (normally a Christmas Story which is my Dad’s favorite); however, over the last few years we have extended to other movie genres as well!
9. Zoo Lights
While I spent most of my childhood in Connecticut, I was actually born in Washington State, where I live now. When I was little, we would go and see Zoo Lights at Point Defiance Zoo. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Zoo Lights, Woodland Park Zoo and Point Defiance Zoo in Washington decorate the entire park with Christmas lights! Once it’s dark, you can walk around the zoo, see a few animals, and check out animal light displays. Now that I live in Seattle, I’ve continued this tradition and try to visit Zoo Lights each year.
10. Christmas Pajamas
During the winter months, you can often find me wearing cozy Christmas pajamas as much as possible! I found a pair I’m in love with at J.Crew, and they make a similar version for men that I want to get for my husband. After seeing these pajamas, I’m thinking of starting a new tradition of getting Christmas pajamas each year (preferably matching for those oh so fun photo ops)!
I’m always looking for new ideas to add on each year! What are your favorite holiday traditions?