We are three kids and 11 years deep into this parenthood gig, but I remember the first Christmas like it was yesterday. I was craving some new traditions for our family, but I was also hoping that whatever we chose would be sustainable for the long haul. We’ve picked up some good traditions along the way, and we dropped those that just didn’t work for us (no shame in that!). So if you are looking to add some fun to your list- take some of our favorite holiday traditions, and make them your own!
21 Holiday Traditions to Start this Year
- Read the “The Autobiography of Santa Claus“– Starting December 1st and finishing on December 24th. The book is exactly 24 chapters, and the story is so great.
- The Elf on the Shelf is a love or hate concept. Most moms I know complain about needing to change the Elf’s spot every day. Or making a mess on behalf of said elf. If you are not a natural prankster, I humbly suggest Christopher Pop-In-Kins ,which is basically elf on the shelf for lazy parents. There’s also his sister Christina (we have both), and we are pretty happy with the low-key fun these elves offer.
- The pickle ornament tradition is so fun. First, buy a pickle ornament (Sur La Table, Cost Plus, and Pier One have them!). Then, hide the pickle on the tree the night before Christmas. The first person (or child) to find the pickle gets to decide who opens their present first on Christmas morning. Only one rule: They can’t choose themselves! This alleviates any possible complaint about “fairness.” Additionally, it helps your kids enjoy the season of giving with an early morning game.
- Make an ornament for your teacher or friend. We love heading down to the pottery studio on fourth street (kids 16 and under get 20% off Tuesday through Thursday!) and let the kids go to town on an ornament. It’s a cheap custom gift that warms even the coldest of hearts.
- Tour the holiday light displays with a thermos of hot chocolate. Our favorites in Santa Rosa are Walnut Court and Christmas Tree Lane.
- Go to a lighted tree event or parade. There are so many great lighted events coming up in the next few days!
- Even if your tree is fake, go to a local tree farm and grab a wreath, some garland, or just some hot chocolate and chill. If you go to one of the many in Sebastopol, stop off at Screaming Mimi’s on the way back.
- Print of this gorgeous Advent Calendar and add some fun treats for your kids!
- Watch your favorite holiday movies (our kids love: Arthur Christmas, Elf, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and mom prefers Love Actually).
- Visit Santa at one of the many Santa sightings in the North Bay (we love the Santa at Montgomery Village because he’s cheap, the cause is good, it’s an open outdoor environment).
- Employ the four gift rule: Want, Need, Wear, Read. Once we added another child to our family, we realized we needed to rein it in on the gift giving. Every year our kids get one thing from each list. (Santa gives them what they “want” and we cover the rest). Some of our favorite “Wear” gifts of the past are Disney princess nightgowns and slippers from Restoration Hardware).
- Go ice skating (at Snoopy’s or at Union Square). If you are looking for some serious out-of-the-norm fun, head on over to Union Square and go ice skating in the middle of San Francisco. Stop at Ghirardelli Square on your way out of the city for a sweet treat! If you can’t imagine driving into the City in holiday traffic, stick with Snoopy’s Ice Arena and enjoy a mug of hot chocolate while the kids skate their hearts out.
- Make a Woodsy ornament. If you have a real tree, cut off the end and make an ornament from it! (If you have a fake tree, you can ask a cut-your-own tree farm for a trimmed sliver. They have those in spades!)
- Make cookies with the kids to leave out for Santa (and then take one for the team and eat them because we all know Santa can’t eat all those treats).
- Go Caroling with a group of friends in McDonald Mansion, and take some mulled wine with you to help get over any stage fright (real or imagined). This is also a good night to host a movie night sleepover for your kids during winter break.
- Sign up as a secret Santa for the holiday season. There are many in need this year, and one great idea is to gather with some close friends to completely fund a family’s Christmas – from the gifts under the tree to the ham in the oven. If that’s too much to conquer, consider adopting a kid through our local volunteer center! The trees are everywhere, too!
- Make Cinnamon Ornaments with your kiddos. This is messy fun, but fun nonetheless. And they make your tree smell divine!
- Make and Doorbell Ditch these sweet treats for your favorite friends right before the holidays. No one will say no to pre-made Cinnamon Buns!
- Host (or ask a friend to host) an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party. It’s a fun way to set the bar low for dressing up. Leave the fancy stuff for your work party!
- Get-offline: This is THIS mama’s favorite new thing to do: DELETE the Facebook and Instagram apps. You can still take plenty of photos, but the impulse to “just check” your social feeds will be in check. Upload all the photos on boxing day if you must, but the kids will thank you for all the focused family time.
- Buy a favorite Christmas book, every year, and pull out the rest for nightly reading.
What is your favorite holiday tradition? Tell us!