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By Jennifer Halter
As we head into December, it’s easy to say that we’re kicking off one of the busiest months of the year — holiday parties, school concerts, gift exchanges, travel. As much as we want to feel nothing but joy during this time, the busyness can feel overwhelming. Some may even crave more simplicity and are ready to ditch all the bells and whistles of the modern-day holiday season. But, how? Think back to your own childhood and all the things you were most excited about. What would you like to incorporate into your current holiday bucket list? Here are some ideas to help you create your list of family Christmas traditions.
Gather your family and friends and plan a night to go Christmas caroling. It doesn’t have to be a fancy or formal event. You don’t even have to sing well! Bundle up and head out into your neighborhood and sing your favorite holiday tunes. If you don’t feel comfortable knocking on neighbors’ doors, you can keep it simple and just walk and sing. You’re likely to grab some attention, but most importantly, you’ll be having fun with your group. Another option for this, which would keep you warm and indoors, would be to visit a local nursing home or hospital and go caroling for the residents/patients. Be sure to get permission to do this prior to heading out.
Build a Gingerbread House
Gingerbread house kits have evolved over time to include novelty flavors and popular characters. This year, choose a classic design and decorate using items you used during your childhood, such as simple icing and old-fashioned hard candies. Gather the family and get creative with the basics.
Make Homemade Cards
Make your seasonal greetings stand out with a hand-made creation. Creating your own cards can be the perfect gift for a special loved one. Use cardstock or even heavy construction paper for the card and decorate with materials, such as ribbon or buttons. You can even add your child’s most recent school photo. Include a personal note for the recipient, preferably handwritten.
Drive Around to See Christmas Lights
Grab some hot cocoa and load the family into the car for a nighttime drive to see Christmas lights. Play your favorite holiday songs (and even have your own sing-along!) while you explore your neighborhood and check out the decorative displays. Have each family member choose their favorite display of the night.
Bake Christmas Cookies
Store bought cookies are good, but nothing compares to baking your own treats to enjoy at home or to give as gifts. Ask relatives and friends to share their favorite cookie recipes for you to try and block out some time to bake as a family. Play Christmas music in the background or tell stories about your favorite holiday things while you wait for your creations to come out of the oven.
Find and Cut a Real Christmas Tree
It may be a lot of work, but opting for a real Christmas tree can bring back feelings of nostalgia unlike any others. Head to a tree farm and spend time as a family finding your perfect (or, perfectly imperfect) tree. Once home, you’ll not only be able to enjoy the process of decorating it, but you’ll be able to enjoy the wonderful scent it provides throughout the season.
Make Homemade Ornaments
You can make your own ornaments out of a variety of materials. For younger children, stringing beads onto pipe cleaners or yarn can be simple and fun for them to do. Another idea is to create cinnamon ornaments. Not only are they cute, but they smell amazing! A favorite recipe for this is as follows:
- 1 cup of ground cinnamon’
- ¾ cup of applesauce
- 1 tbsp of ground cloves
- 1 tbsp of ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ cups of white, all-purpose glue
Combine the dry ingredients (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) in a bowl. Once mixed well, add in the applesauce and glue. Mix by hand to form a clay-like dough. Roll out the dough onto wax or parchment paper to approximately ¼ of an inch in thickness. Once rolled out, you can use holiday cookie cutters to cut into ornaments. Once cut, use a toothpick or straw to make a hole at the top of each ornament (this is where you will put yarn or ribbon for hanging). Using a spatula, carefully place the ornaments onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 200 degrees for two to three hours or until the ornaments are dry and hard. Thread yarn or ribbon through the hole in the ornament. You can also add your own embellishments, such as glitter or paint, to your ornament. Please make sure to remind your children that these ornaments are not edible, even if they smell like they could be!
No matter how you choose to celebrate this holiday season, focus on finding joy and making memories that will last a lifetime.
Jennifer Halter (email@example.com) is a contributing writer and the founder of Macaroni Kid in Woodbridge.