Not Your Typical Holiday Tradition: Creative Ways to add Festive Fun to the Holidays

I love traditions and grew up with the same special traditions each Christmas: Christmas omelettes with hashbrowns, going to church, opening stockings and gifts, playing cards or games, and then having an evening meal with my gram's chocolate cream pie and lemon meringue pie for dessert.  

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Now things have changed.  I've grown up and have my own family.  We no longer travel for two or three different locations on Christmas day and stay home.  Our Christmases have grown smaller with just one guest.  Growing up it was about doing things together that were special with loved ones, so I wondered how to make the time leading up to the holidays and on the day special with just us.  

I already bake cookies, drink hot chocolate, see Christmas lights, and enjoy favorite Christmas movies.  What else could I do?  Here's what I found and came up with.

Silly Wrapping / Wrapping Party

You could also put on holiday music, bake cookies, and have a wrapping party with a friend or group of friends.  I always liked when everyone was wrapping together at our house.  Sometimes my dad and I or mom and I would wrap gifts together for the other family member and it was nice to do something festive together. 

Give a Gift that Celebrates a Memory

Recently my friend gave her brother a cow bell because he loved the cowbell skit on Saturday Night Live.  My friend remembered how much he loved watching the show, especially that episode and they often joked about it.  She found one and apparently he was ecstatic to receive the gift, ringing the bell, commenting on the show, and loving the handle it had. 

You can even make it a tradition.  My husband and I were considering moving years ago and took a trip out west to Portland, Oregon in February.  It was below zero back home, but drizzly and in the 30s in Portland.  We loved walking around the trails of Forest Park, and admiring the beautiful Japanese gardens at the end of our journey.  We took a bus into downtown and went to get warm and toasty after our adventure.  We love herbal tea and my husband loves coffee, so we made sure to stop at Teavana Tea and Stumptown Coffee.  Now every Christmas I get order him Stumptown Coffee and it reminds us both of that wonderful trip together (sometimes we even splurge on some Teavana Tea.)

A simple gift idea is to give a memorable photo in a frame.  My family gave me a reindeer and frame of me as a kid with a reindeer because I loved it so much growing up and I’d been talking about the memory the past few Christmases.  It was such a great gift to remember something long ago.  I gave my parents a collage frame with pictures of my son for Christmas and they loved it.  You can also hire a photographer (or get gift certificate) to take a family photo.

Bonus: You could add a special note saying the meaning of the gift or have the person guess the memory (but I’d feel bad if the person couldn’t guess it…so I’d only do this if it’s obvious).

Scavenger Hunt for Gifts

Make some clues and hide gifts around the house, or just hide gifts around the house without clues (maybe tell them how many are in each room.)  If you have multiple kids, you could do specific wrapping paper for each child so if two gifts are in the same room, they know which one is which.  This would be fun for kids and adults alike.  Though, I wouldn’t want to make it too hard.  No one wants to work for their presents, just have some light fun.  Think that’s too much for you?  How about hiding just one special gift?  I’m all about adventure and mystery.  Sign me up!

Here are some clue ideas, which helps me because I would not be a good clue writer…You can use these to find one gift or put the next clue on the gift they find.  Basic Puzzle Piece Clues to Cut out or Keep as a Sheet Holiday Clue Sheet Want more? 

This mother talks about how to be successful with this with children (like avoiding meltdowns).  No kid wants to wake up with no presents under the tree, so I’d explain the experience before Christmas and maybe only hide a few the first time so they have some presents under the tree.  Of course every family is different.  I just heard a teen say she was so excited to start this tradition again when her sibling was older because it is so much fun. 

Make Gift Giving a Game

Holiday shopping can be a fun adventure.  Go with friends or on your own to complete the task agreed upon like these examples: 3 gifts for under $20, finish shopping by, only shop local, best deals, best gifts not new etc.  One family tried this and you can read about it here.

You can also play gift giving games like a gag gift, or holiday trivia.  I especially like the gift box swap where friends mail/give gifts to each other with a note and swap out gifts, add their own, and send it on to the next person with their own note.  Really cool idea.  Read more holiday ideas here like traditions from around the world.

Have a Themed Christmas

You can also do a themed Christmas based on clothing and activities. This family did a Victorian Christmas; they dressed up, watched a movie from the time period, and enjoyed a drink and dessert typical of the era.  I would find dressing up the hard part, but you could probably get creative from thrift stores and vintage stores. 

I love this idea but I think I would change it a bit for it to be more feasible for me and my family: pj party, ugly holiday sweater, red and green, costume party, holiday character outfit etc.  The best part would be to take a photo.  Even better, take a photo in the same place with the same pose each year (great if you have kids). 

Create a New Tradition

Did you ever write a letter to yourself as a kid?  What about writing one to yourself and opening it up on Christmas day? You could also write one to a family member as a gift.

This is a neat website because you can have the letter  sent to you years into the future!

Wondering what to write about? How about a self pep talk like this woman did, writing about events you’re excited about now and how they might have gone, or give yourself advice.  I find these fun to read.

You could also try local caroling, do an Advent calendar, or do random acts of kindness like kindness elves alternative.  I liked to take an annual trip with my mom to the Yankee Candle factory, especially the Christmas village.  You can take a trip too. 

Play Party games or cards

I’ve always been someone who loves to play games, card games, board games, party games.  You name, I’ll play it.   Here are some low risk games you can play with friends or family. I like the photo props and guess the Christmas carol on this site

Enjoy a Cocktails/mocktails

I’m all about the eggnog but if you’re looking for other drinks to cozy up with this summer, try these cocktails and mocktails I found. 

Set a Goal with Friends

Try something short and manageable.  Help each other be successful. It could be for the month of December and to complete by New Years like go to gym 3 times, clean the attic, bake cookies, etc.   You could also volunteer alone, together, or as a family.  

What's your favorite holiday tradition growing up or one you currently do?

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