The holidays are a time for family, but sometimes the chaos of the season overwhelms all our best intentions to create special moments with our loved ones. With so much to do (and so little time to do it), it can feel like the holiday season comes and goes before we’re able to get fully on board. Sometimes, it’s all we can do to get the decorations up and the shopping (barely) done!
But there’s a big difference between merely surviving the holidays and actually enjoying them.
One way to bring the magic back into the season is to develop your own special family traditions. And what better place to start than with your grandchildren. They provide endless inspiration and make excellent accomplices.
Tips for Creating Holiday Traditions
Creating family traditions does not have to be a somber affair. In fact, the best approach is to have fun with it. Remember—there are no rules about traditions, no right or wrong way when it comes to making memories. Take a common tradition and make it your own. Or, come up with something completely unique.
Just because it’s called a “tradition” doesn’t mean it has to be traditional.
One thing you may want to keep in mind is how a tradition might evolve as you and your grandchildren get older. A sleepover at your house might be perfect when the grandkids are little, but not quite the right thing when they are teenagers. Decorating gingerbread cookies, however, is something we can all do at any age.
Finally, don’t feel like you have to take on the responsibility of coming up with tradition ideas all on your own. Kids have great imaginations and are rarely at a loss when it comes to thinking up fun games and activities. Ask them for their input, or just pay attention to what sparks their sense of wonder and curiosity. You never know where you might find the perfect idea.
8 Ideas to Get You Started
To get your brainstorming started, here are 8 ideas to inspire you.
1. Give Back
Kids often associate the holidays with receiving gifts, but you can make the season so much more meaningful if you create a tradition of giving back. There are many different kinds of opportunities. You might volunteer at a local shelter or soup kitchen. You could collect donations for food and toy drives. Perhaps you could get involved with a children’s hospital or an animal rescue. Doing things together in the spirit of giving is a wonderful way to create very special bonds.
2. Get Busy in the Kitchen
No matter which holiday you celebrate, food is likely to play an important role in the season. From gingerbread houses and cookies for Santa to latkes and brisket to Yule log cakes, there are endless possibilities to explore in the kitchen. The best part? You don’t have to stick to any specific menu. You can come up with your own collection of holiday recipes. Do your grandchildren have a favorite treat? Make that the centerpiece of the holiday baking extravaganza. And, for a little extra something, you might consider baking an extra big batch and bringing some holiday cheer to the local council on aging or other organization.
3. Connect with Nature
Escape the ceaseless barrage of holiday advertisements by heading outside to commune with the wild things. Depending on where you live, winter can be a tough time of the year for birds and animals. Inspire your grandkids to develop their own relationship with these creatures. Edible garlands of popcorn, cranberries, and dried orange slices are fun to make, beautiful to look at, and a delight for all kinds of wildlife. There are dozens of other recipes for treats that will help sustain your furred and feathered friends while giving you and your grandkids a fun way to learn about and interact with the natural world.
4. See a Show
Holiday-themed or otherwise, a theatre or concert experience is a wonderful way to share the excitement of the season and make long-lasting memories. From classic ballet like the Nutcracker to all the versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to local productions of musicals and holiday pageants, there’s a world of performances that you might enjoy.
Decorating can be a big task, and it’s always more fun with little helpers. Whether you’re decorating for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or some other tradition, there are so many ways that kids can lend a hand. Make a day of it. The event might include an outing or a special dinner. Maybe you watch a favorite holiday movie while transforming your home with lights and seasonal trimmings.
6. Share Holiday Stories
In days of old, the holiday season was a time of stories—old tales and ghost stories and family lore. You can bring this tradition back to life with a library of holiday-themed books to share throughout the season. This is a wonderful tradition that even works over long distances if you can connect with your grandkids via FaceTime or some other video call service. This is also a fun time to tell tales from the family history. Grandkids are especially fond of stories about their parents when they were kids.
7. Go Shopping
While the season is about so much more than buying and giving gifts, spending a day together choosing presents for other family members can be a very special part of the holidays. This is especially fun with younger kids who aren’t able to shop on their own, but still works with older kids as well. If you’re feeling creatively inspired, you might help them craft their gifts. However you approach this kind of tradition, it’s a great way to help your grandkids experience the joy of giving.
The holidays are a wonderful time to make family keepsakes that will be treasured for years to come. There are so many possibilities—Christmas stockings, advent calendars, a special plate for Santa’s cookies, dreidels, candle holders, picture frames. Ornaments of all kids are especially fun because you can build up a collection over the years so that when your grandkids are all grown, they will have ornaments for their own trees.
Remember – It’s All About Spending Time Together
When we think back on holidays past, what we remember most is not the gifts we gave or received. What we remember and hold most dear are our memories of the experiences we shared. Rediscover the magic of the season through your grandchildren’s eyes. Create your own traditions and enjoy the moment. There is no substitute for time spent together, especially at this time of the year.
And enjoy the journey. Some traditions will stick; others will fade. Some will evolve into something new. It’s all fine. You can retire old traditions and start new ones whenever you like. After all, it’s not about following any rules; it’s about sharing the season with the people you love.