At the holidays, many of us are thinking about traditions and the things we look forward to doing with our families- both immediate and extended. Our desire is to make memories that will last a lifetime. Which is wonderful – but let’s not forget about family traditions we can create all year long as well.
In the spirit of the season, then, it seems a perfect time to rework our Family Traditions Idea List created last year during our Family Traditions series, updated and annotated with notes and links! I used ideas that have been meaningful to our family as well as traditions submitted by readers of An Oregon Cottage.
There are ideas for holiday activities, of course, but you’ll also find daily, weekly, and yearly ideas of things you can do with your family that will create that sense of belonging and security that we all long for. I hope you get some great ideas from this list, and that you are able to create your own special family memories because of it!
- Make a Thanksgiving “thankful tree,” basket or jar to hold papers that everyone has written what they’re thankful for.
- Decorate for Christmas the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving.
- Give special Christmas Eve presents: pajamas & slippers; ornaments; crayons and coloring book; book.
- Cut your own Christmas tree– include cocoa (and a snowball fight if you can!). Decorate it together with music and popcorn.
- Really celebrate advent by reading a book (like The Advent Jesse Tree) or verses and counting down with a special calendar.
- Go out to see a holiday show or movie, and include dinner if you can.
- Make and decorate Christmas cookies (candies, gingerbread houses or men, etc.).
- Use stamps, glitter, and stickers to make simple gift wrap (use brown or white craft paper), cards, and/or tags. Invite others to join you and make it an annual party- much better than a regular old cookie exchange!
- Have special holiday meals (i.e., Christmas Eve is always Fish and Chips).
- Wait until Christmas Eve to put the gifts under the tree to keep the focus on the holiday and not the gifts. Instead, put a fun Christmas Train under the tree instead that the kids can play with.
- Give three gifts to each child on Christmas to represent the gifts from the wise men.
- Attend Christmas Eve services with family and friends.
- Watch a special movie on Christmas Eve (“A Christmas Carol,” “White Christmas,” etc.).
- Read a book about the week before Easter with activities for each day (like A Christ-Centered Easter: Day-By-Day Activities to Celebrate Easter Week).
- Make meringue Easter Story Cookies (truly wonderful- you need to do it at least once with your kids!).
- Make an “Easter Tree” with pussy willow branches and wooden eggs & small rabbits that you put up each year together.
- Eat dinner together – really important!
- Hold hands when your family says the blessing.
- Light candles on the table every night, or at least in the winter.
- Try turning off all the lights and eating only by candlelight during the winter.
- Read aloud classic books the half hour before bedtime (start when they’re young and keep going- think “Little House On The Prairie” all the way up to “Lord of The Rings.”). We read to our kids all the way up into high school and we all loved it!
- Have a weekly cleaning night and play music (loud!) while everybody does their job- end with an ice cream reward.
- Saturday (or Friday) At the Movies– make it the only time it’s OK to eat in front of the TV (we always called it an “indoor picnic”).
- Work through a genre of movies on the movie night (musicals, westerns, old Disney, etc.). Be careful, though, of old musicals- they often have disturbing themes even with the fun music, which we found out the hard way. For example, in Carousel the theme is “a hit feels like a kiss when it comes from someone you love.” Ugh- so creepy and wrong.
- Have a set menu one day of the week- like Saturdays are always pizza.
- Saturday morning sweet cereal (the only time sweet cereal is allowed…).
- Saturday morning big breakfasts (pull out all the stops with pancakes, eggs, etc.).
- Have Sunday Tea: tea with sandwiches and cookies on Sunday afternoons- make sure to bring out the teapots and pretty cups and saucers.
- Friday (or Saturday) date night– kids get a sitter and frozen pizza.
- Have breakfast for dinner.
- “Pioneer Night” (monthly)- turn off everything and eat, play games, and read only by candlelight.
- Have an Apple Day every fall: Pick apples together and make juice, applesauce, or just to eat.
- Get or make donuts on the first day of the school year.
- Take a picture by the door (or in front of the bus or where ever) on the first day of school. Make a scrapbook page when they graduate.
- Have a big family & friends birthday party close to the birthday date (and/or just a small friend one), then a special birthday dinner with just immediate family where the birthday person picks the meal and ends with a Giant Birthday Cookie.
- Stay/camp in the same place each year with extended family.
- Have a weekend snow trip with friends and/or extended family.
- Summer road trips with a trailer or tent camping.
- Ice cream/treat/breakfast out for good grades.
- Celebrate end of a good school year with special dinner in or out and a movie.
- Camp in the summer.
- Take a hike during the first cold rain with dad- mom has popcorn and cocoa waiting.
I’m sharing this at Jennifer Rizzo’s Traditions Party.
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