Jingle Bell Balk
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32 Holiday Traditions That Are Disappearing

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Jingle Bell Balk
Orlando / Stringer / Hulton Archive / Hulton Archive / Getty Images CC

Jingle Bell Balk

It's just not the same-old holiday spirit these days. And in some ways, that's just fine. After all, who really wants to stand outside on a subzero evening singing carols no one remembers the words to? Or see anyone dangerously drunk at an office party? And does anyone really miss live Christmas trees? (Well, that one we will fight for.) Read on for a tour through time-honored holiday traditions that are finding themselves more and more out of favor. Does this make you happy — or wistful? Ready to start a new tradition this year? Check out 38 Cheap or Free Family Traditions for the Holidays.

Christmas Caroling
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Christmas Caroling

It's rare to see anyone caroling through the neighborhood anymore. Most holiday singing happens in church, at community tree-lightings, at malls, or in schools. No more knocking, singing — and perhaps scoring some hot cocoa for your trouble.

Related: The Most Christmas-y Towns in All 50 States 

Staying Up All Night to Assemble Toys
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Staying Up All Night to Assemble Toys

It's not as prevalent to find parents who stay up till the wee hours to put together a playset or bicycle – or wrap the trove of gifts. Today.com once even offered a guide to survive the task. These days, we can pay people — like, complete strangers — to do that for us. Progress?

Related: 38 Great Gifts to Buy Your Grandkids for Christmas 

Using Fine China
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Using Fine China

A big family gathering served on paper plates? Someone's rolling over in his or her grave. But pulling out the finest china, using the treasured silver, creating a table that shows how much you care … all are holiday traditions that sadly are falling away. Just look to PaperPlateHub.org, which earlier this year rated the 10-best Christmas paper plates for proof.

Dressing for Dinner
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Dressing for Dinner

Along those same lines, you may be serving guests who arrive in jeans, sweatshirts, and leggings. It's a rare family that insists on (and enjoys) putting on a suit and tie or velvet dress for the family's most celebrated meals of the year. And that's kinda sad. (The same goes for church services where appropriate dress is not always observed). An option? Check out Who What Wear for this year's recommended holiday options.

Waiting to Decorate
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Waiting to Decorate

You could hear the groans as holiday décor began arriving in stores long before autumn fully took hold. Waiting to decorate for the December holidays until, well, December seems a thing of the past. And it seems any warm day from Halloween onward will find homeowners stringing lights and setting up elaborate displays. And do not get us started about stores. We congratulate the big guys — such as Nordstrom — that famously wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate their stores. Still need to grab some, last-minute inexpensive decorations to deck your halls? Check out 20 Best Dollar Store Buys for the Holidays.

Songs in Season
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Songs in Season

The same goes for seasonal music. You don't want to be "decking the halls" in October, do you? Sure, there's something to be said for the holiday spirit taking hold — but again, those wall-to-wall holiday music stations really seem to be a case of too much, too soon. SiriusXM, for example, offers 15 commercial-free music channels (from Holly to Country Christmas to Radio Hanukkah) that started as early as Nov. 1.

Hand-Strung Popcorn Garlands
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Hand-Strung Popcorn Garlands

A needle, some thread, freshly popped popcorn, and some fresh cranberries — all the makings of a fun family tradition. Today, hand-strung popcorn garland is a rarity … perhaps as rare as a home that has a needle and thread.

Holiday Cards
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Holiday Cards

Sharing greetings by snail mail — oh, how some beloved traditions have fallen by the wayside. Kudos to those who keep up the tradition and forgo e-greetings. And even more congrats to those who write their own cards out by hand (yes, that is a thing). But in heartening news, it's been reported that millennials like to send cards and could be supporting a revival, so guess we do have to thank them for something.

Real Christmas Trees
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Real Christmas Trees

The American Christmas Tree Association reports that while 77% of U.S. households will celebrate this holiday season with a Christmas tree, a staggering 82% of those displayed will be artificial trees. Despite the fact that we will again be vacuuming up pine needles for months, we're not sure we'll ever join the ranks of those whose tree comes out of a box.

Drunken Office Parties
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Drunken Office Parties

Many elements of office culture have changed over the years — and that's generally a good thing. Among the strides are companies either limiting alcohol intake at holiday functions or hosting a booze-free celebration. The Balance Careers website, for example, offers tips to employers about serving alcohol at company events. We all want to have fun, but no one wants to be red-faced the following day after some highly inappropriate antics – or worse.

Related: 11 Tips to Get You Through the Holidays Without Drinking

The Grab Bag
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The Grab Bag

Remember elementary school days? You had to get a present at a particular price. You threw them in a bag – and when your turn came, rooted around for something that felt good. Some years you got a doll, others you got McDonald's gift certificates. Happiness was in the eye of the beholder. Today, it's all about Secret Santa and shopping for a recipient you know. There are even online sites to help you run your gift program. We miss that sense of adventure.

Big Bulbs
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Big Bulbs

We like big bulbs and we cannot lie … long gone are the days outdoor holiday décor was simple, when just a few people would outline their entryway or roofline with a strand of big outdoor bulbs or just a front-door wreath. Today, it's all about hundreds of twinkling fairy lights, icicle lights, blow-up figures, and competitions. Ah, for those simpler times (and cheaper electricity bills).

Off-the-Rails Eating
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Off-the-Rails Eating

These days, you might find yourself at a holiday cocktail party next to someone wondering how many calories are in that hors d'oeuvre — or which is the lowest-cal cocktail. It's pretty rare that anyone all-out indulges from the first whiff of Thanksgiving turkey all the way through New Year's Day brunch without a second thought as to his or her health. And that, we know, is reflective of today's knowledge of mindful eating, something reinforced by countless sources offering suggestions for healthy holiday eating.

Related: 25 Sneaky Ways to Make the Holidays Healthier 

Advent Calendars (and Their True Meaning)
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Advent Calendars (and Their True Meaning)

Advent is a religious observance of the time leading up to Christmas, a period that has been observed since the fourth century. Advent calendars, on which you open a door each day to reveal a picture, prayer, or sometimes even a little piece of chocolate, have traditionally helped count down the days. As with so much, the original intent has gotten muddled over time and is now simply a way to get more presents — as evidenced by the countless "luxury" editions led by Tiffany's 2019 bauble-filled box, which commands six figures (yes, you read that right).

Neighborhood Potluck
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Neighborhood Potluck

Having a few neighbors over for dinner? The old-school potluck at someone's home seems to be a thing of the past in many regions. People eat out, or host dinner parties. Sad to say, you'll have to save your classic green bean casserole recipe for the next family reunion. Want to bring this tradition back? Check out Jell-O Salad and Other Old-School Potluck Recipes We Secretly Love.

Brick-and-Mortar Shopping
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Brick-and-Mortar Shopping

Earlier this year, CNBC reported that online shopping was outpacing brick-and-mortar shopping — and for many who are short on time (and patience), shopping for the holidays online is a welcome option. But don't you miss having a cup of warm cider handed to you as you browse through a winter wonderland at the local nursery, or making your way up and down Main Street gathering one thoughtful gift after another, all while supporting your local small businesses?

Related: Where to Shop on Small Business Saturday in All 50 States

Printed Catalogs
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Printed Catalogs

Can you remember the giddiness that accompanied the arrival of the Sears Wish Book, a mega-catalog that fueled many a childhood daydream (and letter to Santa)? You would fight with your brothers and sisters over who got to pore over its countless pages. Today, while many companies still do send out catalogs, they are often simply samplings of their wares with notations throughout to find more online.

Single-Minded Community Displays
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Single-Minded Community Displays

Christmas nativity scenes were commonplace for decades. No one gave a second thought to those who might not be observing that holiday. With an expanded appreciation for diversity and inclusivity, community displays have come to embrace many cultures and traditions, recognizing that all faiths do — and deserve to — celebrate their holidays and beliefs. See, change can be good.

Related: 50 Best Christmas Light Displays in America 

Gathering to Light the Menorah
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Gathering to Light the Menorah

With fewer families being together at home on weeknights, some have found it hard to gather to light the menorah during Hanukkah. Fear not — thanks to technology, everyone can be there, as the Arizona Post reports on families that use Skype to share their beloved tradition.

Baking from Scratch
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Baking from Scratch

Pick up a box of cupcakes on the way to the school party? Yes, we've all done it, but let's pause to remember the days of baking at home, often from scratch. Preparing holiday treats — from cookies to favorite seasonal cakes, breads, and pies — can be a time for the family to gather in the kitchen, making not only special dishes but also memories.

Related: The 20 Best Classic Cookie Recipes 

Gifts Made by Hand
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Gifts Made by Hand

"I made it myself" is rarely heard during the holiday season anymore. For many, long gone are the days when your holiday gift list included knitting a scarf for your mom, sewing a shirt for your dad, or crafting a necklace for your sister. For some, those whose skills weren't reflective of their intent, that's OK. For others, here are 12 Ideas for Filling a Christmas Gift Basket on a Budget.

Giving Gifts, Period
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Giving Gifts, Period

In November, People magazine shared a story about people opting to skip gifts altogether, and instead, spending time with family and doing things like making a holiday playlist. Did we know this was now a thing? Want to buck the trend? Check out Hottest Holiday Gifts from Amazon.

Decorating Without Safety in Mind
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Decorating Without Safety in Mind

For years, tinsel was a holiday staple — who knew it was made of lead until the 1970s? How many people climb up rickety ladders to set up their holiday displays anymore? These days, people are more aware of what they're doing and buying, such as surge suppressors to avoid overloading the outlets. This is a welcome change.

Making Lists
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Making Lists

You'd have pages and pages of lists, holiday grocery shopping, holiday gifts, holiday outfits for parties, holiday cards to send. Today, more people wing it — and perhaps that adds to the frantic pace of the season? If you had a list to consult, perhaps you might just enjoy the holidays a bit more.

Believing in Santa Claus
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Believing in Santa Claus

These days, kids seem to lose their innocence so much earlier, and that sometimes extends to believing in Santa Claus. Sure, there was always that fresh kid who said, "Aw, Santa's not real," but today, there seems to be less reason (and ability) to believe.

Related: 16 Holiday Lies We Tell the People We Love 

Holiday Train Sets
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Holiday Train Sets

A tree with winding train tracks underneath or a room or basement filled with a whole holiday train village was the tradition in many a household. Today, it's a nostalgic trip for most, often seen at the local veterans' hall or craft club instead of right at home.

Related: 20 Holiday Markets to Visit Across America 

Work Bonuses and Gifts
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Work Bonuses and Gifts

Did dad come home every year with a "bottle of cheer" or an oversized turkey from the company? Or maybe even a financial bonus? These days, especially on the heels of the Great Recession, companies are thinking twice about grand gestures.

Tipping Generously
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Tipping Generously

Ask anyone who relies on tips if the cash is still flowing, and the answer most likely is no. Those who do tip tend to scrimp — after all, your family comes before the manicurist or trash collector. People more often buy a cheaper gift instead of giving an envelope with cash. But those who have plenty of money do seem to share it. If you are feeling generous this holiday season, check out Town & Country's "Definitive Guide to Tipping During the Holiday Season."

Christmas Light Tour
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Staying on a Budget
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Staying on a Budget

Bankrate.com reported in mid-November that, no surprise here, "Holidays bring spending stress for most Americans." The days of charging it now and paying it off eventually seem to allow everyone to spend beyond their means. And WalletHub reports that The National Retail Federation estimates we'll spend 4% more than last year, so expect a wake-up call with that January bill.

Extra Time Off
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Extra Time Off

Every once and a while you hear of a company that closes down for a week during the holiday season. In a 2017 article that still rings true, Inc.com shared "7 Reasons the Smartest Companies Shut Down for Christmas Week." Among the reasons — improved productivity and the fact that "you'll be loved" — are those that get us daydreaming of what seems like a 1950s-era perk.

Thank-You Notes
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Thank-You Notes

After the holidays, extending the warm feelings with heartfelt thank-you notes puts a lovely finishing touch on the proceedings. Today, we're lucky if we get a text. Sigh. The Observer writes an etiquette guide to sending a thoughtful thank you. Read it, people.