Feeling festive? Start Your Own Holiday Traditions

Over the weekend, my children were able to spend some quality time with family engaging in some of our favorite holiday traditions. One in particular–baking and decorating sugar cookies to share with friends– is so ingrained in our family culture, I teasingly refer to it as one of my mom’s “grandmotherly duties”.

The house was warm and smelled of oranges, cinnamon and vanilla, there were some great holiday tunes playing on the stereo, and the kids were happily frosting and decorating those warm cookies.  All just felt right in our little world for those few hours of connecting as a family.

Later on in the evening, as I cuddled up on the couch near a brightly lit Christmas tree and read my son the story of “Santa Mouse”, it occurred to me that this kind of day was just what we all needed. We laughed, reconnected and enjoyed being together as a family. But, it also got me thinking, since every year we all head over grandmas with the kids to carry on the great sugar cookie making tradition, I realized that I haven’t created a new holiday tradition that is just for my little family.

After all, according to Ohio State’s Melinda Hill, “These rituals provide a sense of continuity, understanding, and love that strengthens family closeness. These are also opportunities for families to have “good times” and establish good memories to build upon when times aren’t so good. In a very positive way rituals touch the heart of the family and help members to feel good about themselves and each other. These feelings are carried out though the traditions they participate in.”

In the hopes of creating some happy memories with my family, I set out to come up with our own family traditions. The nice thing about family traditions is that they can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like. We all know there’s no need to add any additional stress or pressure during the holidays! The point is to find some way to create meaning and closeness for your family. It can be very easy…singing songs, making crafts, a service project, attending a ballet or movie… or you can go all out, Clark Griswold style. It’s up to you.

Since we are a creative bunch, we are going to spend an afternoon with glitter, paint and glue–writing letters to  Santa, making art and cards to send out to family, and writing up some holiday poems and stories. We’ll have some goodies to munch on, egg nog to drink, and once it gets dark, we’ll head out to a local garden for a walk through the Christmas lights. Add some music, lights, camera, and a viola! A new tradition is born. There are lots of great ideas out there, you just need one that makes sense for your particular holiday and family style. The best tradition, of course, is to read a holiday bedtime story to the family. After a great family day of togetherness, and as they fall asleep to the sound of your soothing voice, you’ll be very content in the knowledge you’ve created something special and unique for your family.

Below is a list of a few beloved holiday books to read, and some activity and craft books to do together.

The Spirit of Christmas By Nancy Tillman

“Bells jingle, sleds dash through the snow, trees are topped with sparkling stars, and children everywhere dream of candy canes and presents. But the best gift of all–the most magical gift of the season–is when we spend Christmas with those we love.

Once again, this New York Times-bestselling author and artist has created a special, beautiful book that families will want to share year after year. (And readers will want to look for the Spirit of Christmas image that Nancy has hidden on every page).”

The Spirit Of Christmas Book Trailer


 The Polar Express By Chris Van Allsberg

 “For twenty-five years, “The Polar Express “has been a treasured holiday classic. To commemorate this special anniversary, a lavish gift edition has been created. The set includes a CD audio recording read by Liam Neeson, a keepsake “All Aboard” ornament, and a note from author Chris Van Allsburg.
Awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1986, “The Polar Express “has sold more than 7 million copies, become a classic holiday movie, and been translated into stage productions that take place across the United States during the holiday season.”

The Polar Express Trailer

Easy-To-Do Holiday Crafts from Everyday Household Items! By Sharon Dunn Umnik

“Crafts for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day can be found in this comprehensive book, making holiday preparations both easy and fun. Just flip through the pages and choose the craft of the day, with easy-to-follow directions and photographs of finished projects to ensure young craft makers’ success.

With a variety of projects and crafts for every holiday season, hours of enjoyment are sure to be had with this handy book.”


Chocolate Chip Challah: And Other Twists on the Jewish Holiday Table; An Interactive Family Cookbook By Lisa Rauchwerger


“Artist, author, and cook Lisa Rauchwerger serves up mouthwatering meals and memories in her delightful cookbook. Using the Jewish calendar as a framework, both parent and child can cook up tasty treats all year long.

Each easy-to-follow recipe is designed for children 5-11, their families, and their teachers. This interactive text is complete with whimsical, four-color illustrations; an illustrated cooking dictionary; Hebrew vocabulary’ and charming stories related to a particular holiday or food.”