Don’t let the crazy of 2020 mess up your holidays. Create new Christmas and holiday traditions with these easy and inexpensive ideas!
From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.
“Can you imagine a COVID Christmas?”
“Are we really not getting together for Thanksgiving?”
“The holidays just won’t be the same.”
I’ve heard all those things, more than once, over the past several weeks.
I’m sure you have too.
Many of our holiday traditions won’t be practical or even possible this year, and even when we hold those beloved customs loosely and know we’re making hard choices for good reasons, we still feel sad.
So, this year, when everything is different and uncertain and just plain weird, it’s the perfect time to create new family traditions with your family!
And take note: Some of these traditions will translate to any year, so you truly can start now and continue year after year.
But others are specific for a season when you’re separated from loved ones and family members or unable to get out and about as much as normal.
While I’m hopeful we won’t have another pandemic holiday season, other things can keep us at home.
So maybe keep some of these ideas in your back pocket for the next time family is out of town, money is short, the weather doesn’t cooperate, or someone is sick during the holidays.
Even though things aren’t the same as usual doesn’t mean you can’t experience something special.
20 New Holiday Traditions for Your Family
Give each other homemade gifts.
You don’t have to be super crafty or artistic for this one.
A “homemade Christmas gift” could be anything from a jar of cocoa mix to a personalized playlist to a decorated frame to hold family photos.
Remember to give everyone involved plenty of notice (and you could even start a group Pinterest board or slack channel for sharing ideas).
Get—and play—a new board game or card game each year.
My family loves playing Yahtzee and UNO, but I think we’re about due to add a new game to the mix.
We’ll be adding this tradition in 2020.
Let the kids have a Christmas Eve slumber party under (or near) the Christmas tree.
Or the grownups.
You do you.
Celebrate with a “reverse Advent calendar,” filling up a box with a new item to donate each day.
Simply search “reverse Advent” on Google, and you’ll find plenty of suggested calendars and lists to follow.
Go old-school with a red and green paper countdown chain.
Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason!
This might seem like a little kid activity, but I suspect even older kids or adults appreciate the anticipation built by breaking one ring each day before Christmas.
Get outside! Bundle up and take a walk together after a big meal.
Depending on what’s safe and best for your family and community, this might be a way you can see local friends and family without cramming into one home for the meal.
Meet at the park after eating in your own homes.
Wear layers and bring your own thermos of hot cider or hot chocolate!
Buy a new ornament each year.
This would be a great way to support small businesses.
Shop for your annual Christmas ornaments on Etsy or in local boutiques.
Pick something personal or something that reflects the past year, or simply select something lovely to hang on your tree for years to come.
Take time to journal answers to yearly reflection questions or make an annual time capsule.
I know several families who do this each New Year’s Eve, asking their kids and each other about the most significant parts of the year and what they’re hoping for in the next year.
If you created a time capsule instead, you could start a tradition of opening last year’s or perhaps only open every five years for a bigger surprise and walk down memory lane!
Buy—and read—a new holiday book each year.
Or, collect 25 holiday books from the library and your own collection, wrap them, open and read one each day in December.
Have a gingerbread house contest via Zoom or FaceTime with your friends or family.
Don’t forget the prizes!
Buy a new Christmas mug each year.
Display your collection in a special spot.
Host a virtual movie night with friends and family.
With the free Teleparty extension in your Chrome browser (formerly the Netflix Party extension), the host shares a custom link with each participant.
Then, you all watch the same Christmas movie at the same time, discussing the movie (or whatever you want!) in a chat box while watching.
Teleparty works with Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and HBO. (Amazon Prime has its own free app that does the same thing.)
This Icelandic holiday involves exchanging book gifts, chocolate, and an evening spent reading. Doesn’t that sound lovely? (Read more about it here.)
Put together a puzzle together.
If separated, send same puzzle to each person/family and have a contest to see who can complete it first. The winner must provide a photo as proof!
Watch a holiday movie or special each year.
Some families watch Elf or It’s a Wonderful Life , or Polar Express together each year. Many of us probably watch the Peanuts Christmas special.
My family is a little quirky and since my brother and I were little, we have made time to watch The California Raisins’ Claymation Christmas Special every single year.
Whatever your tastes, it’s fun to have something you watch together each year.
Declutter and donate.
Before adding lots of stuff (aka, gifts) to your house, make room and make a difference while you’re at it.
Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
It’s a classic for a reason!
Put on PJs if you want, take along bags of Christmas cookies, crank up your favorite holiday tunes, and cruise through those neighborhoods that are famously festive! (Or, drive around a new town or neighborhood and try to spot the best-decorated homes.)
Buy—and listen to—a new holiday album each year.
Speaking of tunes…!
It’s always fun to hear our favorite musicians sing or play holiday music, but this could also be a way to support indie or up-and-coming artists as well. Who doesn’t love Christmas music?
Cook (or buy)—and eat, of course!—a special food.
This could be a family favorite (I always make my late mother-in-law’s apple cake for my husband and his family at the holidays, and my mom makes her mother’s pound cake for family gatherings.).
But it could also be a food that reminds you of your family’s heritage or simply something you love eating together. (Popular foods showing up in my informal poll were fondue, tamales, and Chinese food.)
No matter what kind of year you’ve had or what the holidays will look like, you can find a way to give back—and that will enrich your holiday like possibly nothing else can.
Sponsor a family in need with gifts or a meal, purchase gifts for foster children or children whose parents are imprisoned, take breakfast to a fire station on Christmas morning, mail cards to a nursing home, or purchase and hand out holiday care packages to the homeless in your community.
Will you be creating any new traditions this holiday season? If so, share them with us in the comments or over in the Facebook group!
You will love these other great Holiday ideas!