The holidays are a time to give thanks, appreciate what you have, and spend time with loved ones. Creating and participating in family traditions can help nurture these sentiments and teach children what's important. Whether they involve inexpensive attractions or memorable holiday meals, family traditions need not cost much, if anything, to leave a lasting impression. Here are 38 classic ideas to bring the family together.
Instead of purchasing a pre-cut tree, visit a Christmas tree farm with the kids and cut down a fresh specimen.
Make popcorn and cranberry garlands for the tree, and ask older family members about other decorating trends from previous generations.
Purchase or make a new Christmas ornament every year. Consider buying them on vacation as a way to remember family trips.
Tie bows and ribbons on the trees and bushes around the house to make a visual impact during the day, when lights don't show up.
Arrange a friendly Christmas-decoration-and-lights competition with the neighbors. Ask friends on nearby streets to vote for the winner.
Wrap large appliance boxes in wrapping paper to decorate the front porch. Fill the boxes with rocks or bricks to keep the "presents" weighted down.
Instead of giving gifts, take a family trip that costs less than what you would have spent on presents.
Arrange for each member of the extended family to draw the name of a sole gift recipient. This tradition is so much cheaper than buying gifts for everyone.
Take a family holiday photo at home or pose with Santa at the mall and present framed photos as gifts.
Collect canned goods from friends, family, and neighbors to donate to the local food bank.
Sponsor a child or family in need for the holiday instead of buying so many gifts for each other.
Bundle up and go Christmas caroling with friends or extended family. Sing for the neighbors or serenade residents in a nursing home or retirement community.
Attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service, or attend the community's annual holiday tree lighting, which is usually free and open to the public.
Attend a high school production of a holiday play, such as "The Christmas Carol," or a local ballet school production of "The Nutcracker." Tickets are much cheaper than professional stagings.
Prepare a meal together on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Let each family member add a favorite dish to the menu, or try making holiday-shaped pancakes.
On Christmas Eve, read a holiday-themed book such as "The Polar Express" or "The Night Before Christmas."
Buy the kids matching pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve (and ask them to pose for a few pictures).
Leave reindeer food (e.g., oatmeal) in the front yard so the animals can find their way.
Hang the kids' stockings at the end of their beds after they fall asleep on Christmas Eve. This will keep them occupied in the morning while parents enjoy a few more minutes of sleep.
Fill balloons with candy, plastic rings, necklaces, coins, etc., on New Year's Eve. Label balloons for each hour of the evening and have children pop them at the appointed time.
Do a progressive New Year's Eve dinner with friends or neighbors. Each house can host one part of the meal (appetizers, salad, main course, dessert), so no one is responsible for the entire evening.