How to Start a Christmas Tradition

Decorating and hanging stockings is one Christmas tradition you can do with the whole family. See more Christmas pictures.

Time is a precious commodity around the holidays, but while you're making your lists and checking them twice, don't forget that you're doing more than shopping, decorating, wrapping and cooking. You're also helping make memories for your family. Give them a truly amazing gift this year by taking the time to create a few traditions around your house. They don't have to be grand. Sometimes, it's even better if they're not.

Understand Your Family Dynamic


The key to starting a good, lasting Christmas tradition is in discovering the activities that resonate with your family. Remember, your family is unique. Just because your favorite holiday movie involves a family driving out to the country to cut down a Christmas tree doesn't mean that particular activity will work for your brood.

There are lots of potential Christmas traditions you can adopt, but the ones that are likely to stick are those you feel passionate about. If you're happy making a hearty breakfast on Christmas morning, your family will know it. If you begrudge the time you're spending in the kitchen while everyone else is sitting around the fireplace enjoying gift-giving, save the omelets for another day.

Christmas Traditions to Try

The following activities will get you started on your search for the perfect holiday tradition. You'll know you've hit the mark when your family starts looking forward to doing it again next year -- and the year after that:

  • Cook with your children. The sense of smell can conjure strong memories, so use your culinary skill to whip up a few recipes that are reserved for Christmas celebrating.
  • Take time to volunteer. Volunteering helps teach children how to make a positive contribution to the community and reinforces the value of giving service instead of things. It feels good, too.
  • Make holiday crafts. Make something with your family. If you have the time and talent, craft a gingerbread house or a one-of-a-kind ornament. If that's too ambitious, make a popcorn garland to string around the tree. Glitter, glue and string may not seem valuable, but they're priceless when you use them to create a memory. Decorating with homemade crafts will become as much of a tradition as creating them.
  • Read stories to your kids. Reading stories and poems aloud is a great way to interact with your children any time of year. When things start to get hectic around Christmastime, those few quiet moments will probably become the best part of your day, and your best memory of the season.
  • Go caroling. It may seem hokey, but it's also great fun.
  • Take in the Christmas lights. Drive around your community and admire your neighbors' Christmas décor. Take some cocoa and play Christmas songs as you ride along. It's an inexpensive way to celebrate the season and a neat way to take small children out at night without too much hassle. Dress them up in their jammies and make an occasion of it.

Life being what it is, traditions can surprise you sometimes. Just when you're about to pitch those ratty old Christmas stockings you bought a decade ago when money was tight, don't be surprised if your youngest child blurts out that they're his favorite decoration and Christmas just wouldn't be the same without them. Traditions can creep in and make themselves at home where you least expect them, but that's part of the magic of the season.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


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  • Harlean. "Starting a Christmas Tradition." 12/01/06. 9/14/09.
  • Jameson, Noel. "The Importance of Christmas Traditions." 12/03/06. 9/12/09.
  • Kansas State University. "Invite Children into Kitchen - Make Holiday Foods, Memories" 11/21/08. 9/14/09.,_Memories
  • Kononova, Carol. "Christmas Tradition at Our House." 2good2lose. Undated. 9/14/09.
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